Leaving the car at home and cycling to work has never been more popular. The environmental advantages are obvious. However, what provisions does an environment or facilities manager need to have in place to support these initiatives? Dave Howell reports.

For environment and facilities managers, their duty of care for all employees means paying close attention to health and wellbeing. Both of these components have come into sharp focus over the last few years, as working environments have come under the spotlight. New working space design whether through new builds or refurbishments has been shown to influence the health of employees.

Promoting a proactive strategy for improved health is an area where practical action can be taken and one tried and tested method is to advocate cycling across the business or organisation. According to the latest research from the London School of Economics (LSE), cycling has a huge positive influence — regular cyclists take one less sick day per year than non-cyclists. This equates to a saving of £128 million a year in reduced absenteeism.

The LSE concluded: “The private sector also has an opportunity to play a significant role, not only through supporting initiatives such as public mass-participation rides and cycle hire schemes, but also by encouraging employees to cycle more. It has been demonstrated that a workforce which cycles can make an increased contribution to the financial and physical health of British businesses.”

Car-sharing has become popular, but as can be seen, cycle schemes can have a positive impact on a range of business issues and are therefore an important component of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that managers are tasked with supporting.

Environment matters

The focus on health and wellbeing are the core factors behind the development of cycle to work schemes, but as Thomas Ridgley, Senior Environmental Consultant at NatWest Mentor says, wider benefits can also be obtained: “Educating a workforce about bicycles, and other low carbon forms of transport, could well contribute to reduced environmental impact for the business.”

Ridgley continued: “Grey fleet, personal vehicles used for business mileage, represent a huge portion of ‘commercial’ vehicles on the road — estimated to be circa three times the number of company cars — if employees can be persuaded through education to choose a more efficient personal vehicle (or indeed company car) and then cycle to work instead then the reduction in environmental impact would be significant. There is also an argument that a workforce who actively chooses a low carbon method of transportation are likely to be more interested in saving energy and reducing carbon around the workplace too.”

Environment and facilities managers need to consider a number of issues, from security, to the management of cycle paths and supporting services such as changing rooms and even showers. Taken together however, there is little doubt that developing a cycle scheme can have many positive impacts on a business’s or organisation’s environmental impact, and benefit staff, which in turn delivers commercial advantages to their employers. Research suggests that moving to cycling to work can reduce an individual’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 0.3% . When larger organisations with extensive workforces are considered, the cumulative positive impact on CSR is significant. Managers should certainly be championing these schemes.

Bike to work

In a study of 2000 working UK adults, more than half of those who cycle to work said they arrive refreshed after their commute. Just 1 in 10 car and bus users claimed the same thing and that figure dropped to 1 in 20 for train and tube passengers.

Almost a quarter of cyclists (24%) also reported feeling motivated after their typical commute, scoring higher than any other common form of commuting, including walking. This is double the proportion of bus passengers (12%) who claimed that their commute improved their motivation levels, and triple the proportion of drivers (8%) and four times the proportion of train and tube users (6%).

For overall impact on mood, commuting on two wheels came up trumps again with more than half (53%) of cyclists saying that riding into work improved how they felt. Walking was next best as a mood enhancer (38%), followed by motorbike (33%), bus (18%), car (14%) and finally train or tube (9%).

“Aviva’s Bike for Work scheme provides our people with savings on the cost of a new bike and we also encourage our customers to cycle to work to help them live well for longer. It’s a team game at Aviva, where cycling is on the radar of corporate responsibility (CR), HR, Property and Facilities as well as sponsorship areas,” said David Schofield, group Head of Corporate Responsibility at Aviva.

“We know cycling to work has a number of benefits, whether it’s keeping down the cost of commuting, improving people’s health and wellbeing or helping to preserve the environment. For example, NICE (the National Institute for health and Care Excellence in the UK) recognises that the physical health benefits of cycling include a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

“Interestingly, in 2015 Aviva conducted research in the UK which found that there was a gender gap forming when it comes to those who cycle to work, with 18% of men surveyed using their bike to commute compared to just 9% of women.

“At Aviva we want to make sure that everything we do is full of good thinking for our customers. To help everyone get back in the saddle we’ve developed a range of online cycling resources for people to use, from health tips and nutritional advice to tips on getting the most from your bike.

“We hope businesses will continue to encourage and enable cycling as a great way to look after their people and customers, as well as tackle the big environmental issues of our time.

“As a keen cyclist myself I know the personal benefits of getting on my bike, and having secure bike parking, showers and local cycle friendly infrastructure make a big difference to turning good will to action (especially on a wet Monday morning!).

“Something I’ve particularly learnt about developing bicycle services within organisations is that there are few more popular and hotly debated postings on our social forum than ones about cycling. So why not start by asking your people and customers what would get them on their bike?”

Last reviewed 28 July 2016