Becoming a cycle-friendly employer

It makes sense for employers to welcome people who cycle to work

Becoming a cycle-friendly employer

Becoming a cycle-friendly employer makes sense. Encouraging cycling helps tackle the business costs of congestion, reduces an organisation's impact on the local and wider environment and even attracts some tax incentives. What's more, it's likely that levels of absenteeism will drop.

Many UK towns and cities have a traffic problem - too many cars, poor air quality, congested streets and limited car-parking spaces. This is particularly bad during rush hours, with mass migration of people to and from their workplaces.

This costs businesses time and money: staff are delayed because of traffic jams; company car-parking spaces are in short supply and mileage costs are rising. Cycling, however, is often faster than driving - particularly over short distances and when the roads are packed. It's easier for cyclists to bypass traffic jams, for instance, and they don't need much space at all to park once they arrive at work.

Encouraging employees to cycle to work and on business can result in a healthier, more productive workforce too. It is a known fact that cyclists tend to take fewer days off sick and save a company money.

There are a number of ways in which an employer can become cycle-friendly. In particular, they can:

  • Enter a workplace challenge
  • Offer a range of tax incentives
  • Introduce a ‘green’ travel plan
  • Make a fleet of ‘pool’ bikes available
  • Support a workplace ‘Bicycle Users’ Group’ (BUG)
  • Provide washing, changing and drying facilities
  • Provide safe, secure and convenient cycle parking facilities

The next few pages tell you more about all of the above ...

For Cycling UK's formal policy on cycle commuting and cycle-friendly employers, see our campaigns briefing. This briefing includes facts and figures, along with a range of background information.

Workplace challenges

Workplace challenges provide an engaging and successful way of promoting cycling at a workplace. They often involve organisations competing against each other to see who can get most people cycle-commuting. The results are impressive.

See the first National Workplace Cycle Challenge from Cycling UK, Cyclescheme and Love to Ride (2015), for example.

Tax incentives

These include:

  • Mileage allowance - this is currently 20p a mile for staff using their own cycles whilst on business. As cyclists don't have to buy petrol, their mileage cost of is substantially lower than driving (45p a mile). This makes cycling a real, cost-efficient alternative, particularly over short distances, or in conjunction with travel by public transport for longer journeys. 
  • The loan of cycles/safety equipment/ (e.g. helmets, reflective clothing, child seats etc);
  • The Cycle to Work Scheme, which allows employers to rent cycles for commuting purposes to staff, who then pay less tax.

Our guide to tax incentives goes into more detail.

Travel plans

These consist of a collection of practical measures to reduce car use for commuting journeys and for business travel. The Essential Guide to Travel Planning, from the Department for Transport, is a useful resource.

Pool bikes

A fleet of cycles, allowing employees to book out a machine for any kind of journey is a good way of building up a cycling culture at a workplace. It offers staff an efficient, cost effective and convenient transport option, especially for local meetings, travel between sites or lunchtime errands.

Strict health and safety requirements do apply to the provision of pool bikes. Cycle training for staff, insurance and liability issues are discussed in Transport for London's  Pool Bikes for Business, a guide which offers much useful advice.

Showers, lockers and drying facilities

Showers help make some people much happier about cycling to work, especially during the summer. Many workplaces already offer showering facilities for their workforce in general, and they also benefit people who jog, go to the gym or exercise during their lunch breaks.

Lockers are useful for storing cycling clothes during the day and in the winter, having somewhere to dry them out after a rainy trip, is extremely welcome. This facility may be nothing more complex than a dedicated cupboard, with hanging rails and an efficient dehumidifier.

Bicycle User Groups (BUGs)

Supporting an active BUG, or a group of employees who share an interest in cycling, will help an organisation  provide well for  cyclists.  In a large organisation, a BUG might meet regularly to discuss cycling issues; in a smaller workforce, an email list or dedicated noticeboard might suffice.

Some BUGs have stated aims, such as making the workplace more cycle-friendly; others are primarily for socialising or company on the ride home.

BUGs can:

  • Recommend traffic-free or quiet routes to and from work;
  • Provide tips on repairs and maintenance
  • Help novice cyclists by acting as 'bike buddies' on their journey to and from work
  • Order and supply leaflets/maps etc
  • Meet with management to talk about cycling
  • Organise rides, events, presentations etc

For more, see our guide to setting up and running a BUG.

Cycle parking

Secure and convenient cycle parking at workplaces makes all the difference – and accommodating several cycles is much less costly than providing space for just one car.

Ideally, cycle parking should be near the premises, easy to reach, covered, secure and well designed. If there is nowhere outside to build a shelter, there may be somewhere indoors that could be converted into lockable bike storage. Wall hooks are good space-savers (inside or outside).

Transport for London has published a good guide to workplace cycle parking.

The NHS - Britain's biggest employer

If you work in the health sector, promoting cycling to staff and the people seeking its services, makes a contribution to boosting the levels of physical activity. It also helps reduce the risks associated with driving to work - the NHS generates around 5% of all journeys.

Liability fears

Some employers' are reluctant to promote cycling actively because they - or more probably their Health and Safety advisers - are worried about liability issues. 

Firstly and most importantly, cycling is not an unduly risky activity - a point we back up in our briefing on Road Safety and Cycling

Secondly, Cycling UK argues that it is not the employer who's putting people at the risk by promoting cycling; instead, the threat comes from hostile road conditions (e.g. bad driving, poor infrastructure etc). In fact, by encouraging cycling rather than driving, employers are making road conditions safer because cyclists do very little harm to other road users.

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