How to encourage cycling to work

The payback for employers is unequivocal but how do employers encourage cycling to work. Malcolm Martin, provides some hints and tips.

Are showers, tax breaks for expensive bikes and bike lockers really necessary? I think not. Here are some of my thoughts:

Ethos

The increasing trend to cycling owes much to the Wiggins factor. But in some ways that is unhelpful. No-one needs a multi-thousand pound bike for commuting. Decent used bikes are available on eBay for around £100. In Holland lycra is rare, or at least not prevalent. If we are to encourage commuting to work then we have to move away from the concept that cycle-commuting is only for sports men and women, or that it is somehow elitist.

Workwear

Wearing a suit is a big barrier for me and if, as an employer you expect it then it is a barrier for your employees too. Commuting cyclists don’t need lycra, but suit jackets crammed under cycling wear and creases in trouser knees are features that employees in professional work can do without. In most workplaces suits are no longer de rigueur. There are many smart alternatives that will not be destroyed on a commute to work. It may be worth reviewing your dress code.

Clothes lockers

Alternatively, and if you have the space to provide it, clothes lockers and changing facilities can deal with any lycra to worsted changing challenge.

Cycle maps

In Lancaster you can commute to the City Centre, off the road (or mainly off the road) from any suburban direction. There are also off the road cycle routes from the Park and Ride into Lancaster and along the Bay Gateway into Morecambe. Additionally there is a cycle route between Morecambe and Lancaster. See here for a map. Search the internet for other locations.

Cycle to work scheme

For employees there is a tax break on the purchase of a new bike, reducing the purchase cost substantially. No employee buying a new bike to commute to work should ignore it. Nonetheless it applies to new bikes, involves paperwork for you as an employer and employees as purchasers. Hence not all employers adopt a scheme. In addition it applies only to employees, self employed people and business owners are excluded, it seems.

Showers

Any reasonably fit person cycling a few undulating miles into work in our temperate climate is not likely to need a shower. The concept that an employer has to provide showers in order to encourage their employees to cycle to work is, in my view, expensive nonsense. By all means provide them if you have a budget but changing facilities and clothes lockers are a better start.

Cycle lockers

These can cost more than the bikes they store. There may be cycle lockers in Holland, but I have not seen them. What I have seen are thousands of cycles locked up at railway stations and elsewhere. Do bikes in Holland get stolen? Yes they do. Do the Dutch care? I suspect mostly not. Why? Because they don’t have expensive bikes.

Back to ethos. Bike lockers encourage the idea that bikes have to cost thousands in order to be used. Leave those to the elite sportsperson. Few commuters can justify them. You might provide some cycle “hoops” instead.

Set an example

When seniors in an organisation cycle to work (Cameron and Johnson spring to mind) others in the organisation feel empowered to do so too.

Look for the payback

If you believe in the benefits, chances are your employees will.

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice.

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