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In recent research 55% of people questioned said they felt employers failed to encourage cycling to work. This might smack of a desire for paternalism, but should employers encourage cycling? If so, what are the advantages?

Heart attacks

or rather reduced risk of having them. Heart attacks are bad news for employers (not to mention the employee). They typically affect key workers in areas where there is already work pressure. If the employee survives, you will most probably be facing months of absence and, unlike pregnancy, you won’t get any notice. Employees who cycle to work (20 miles a week) reduce their risk of a heart attack by 50%.

Stress resilience

It is well established that people who are physically fit cope better with stress and, if you are in a competitive business, that is exactly what you want them to do.

Less short term absence

Vigorous exercise greatly reduces the risk of flu, a major cause of short term absence for employees. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that 100 cases of flu per 1,000 people could be prevented just by them engaging in vigorous exercise.

Greater profitability

Sustrans ( a cycling charity) suggests that employers who encourage cycling increase their profitability.

So, how can you encourage cycling?

Provide permission       

Cyclists arriving at work by bike can feel prejudice  from employers and peers – an unwanted suggestion, perhaps, that they are an “eco-warrior”. Cameron and Johnson have led the way in changing the image and probably Le Tour de France this July will help too. And if the boss cycles to work that could also be very effective in improving the perception of cyclists.

Help employees to buy a bike

Employees who buy a new bike to cycle to work can save roughly a third on the purchase through a tax break.

Compete as an employer

Join a local competition

Review dress codes

Professional firms may struggle with this but, as “dress down days” demonstrate, not everyone needs to wear a suit, or not all the time.

Provide secure cycle parking at work

Employees who have a decent bike don’t want it stolen.

Provide lockers

Cyclists might not need a shower but they could need to change – perhaps into that de rigeur suit.

Lobby for better roads

Many local roads are atrocious for cyclists.. It increases their risk and discourages the nervous cyclist. It also increases the need for padded shorts and hence the need to change clothes.

Provide shower facilities

Yes, of course, if you have the resources.