A few months ago I visited a plush suburban office block not far from my home city of Birmingham. My hosts proudly boasted of their becoming a ‘top cycle location’ yet the more they talked the less convinced I became. The more I observed an almost complete absence of cyclists, the more it felt that their formal achievement represented little more than a box ticked and a dubious plaque awarded. When Introduced to other members of staff as the MD for Urban Cycles their look of bemusement followed by comments like "I had a bike when I was a kid" or "Where's your lycra" spoke volumes I did not want to hear.
Only a few days later I found myself sitting in a very different office space. The home of a small start up with barely enough room to swing the proverbial cat. Despite no shower facilities and bikes parked on top of filing cabinets there clearly existed a strong cycling culture, a fact evidenced when the CEO recalled the number of sick days his team had taken in the past year. 2. Turning to an administrator I enquired, “Hi Dawn have you cycled long”. With a sheepish grin and a nod across three desks Dawn declares, “No it’s Mike’s fault, I’m not a cyclist but he got me into it”. Suddenly the lack of plaque on the wall feels like an achievement!
All of the above left me wondering what exactly does make for a great cycling location. So here’s five key traits I observe in locations I would (entirely subjectively) term to be great places for cyclists. Feel free to share yours.
They Celebrate Ordinary Goodness
Most of us change our behaviors fairly regularly. Despite what we might wish to believe we are not the people we were ten years ago.
One of the biggest contributors to such change is the influence of others. Remember how the UK saw a huge peek in cyclingonce the humanity of Wiggins lifted our eyes to the glorious skies of 2012. Remember how your love of books began watching your mum loose herself in a good read. Remember how you watched your good friend play with his kids in a way you haven’t for years and immediately you began redrafting your diary.
Truth is we’re all open to influence and that can be a very good thing.
Good cycling locations inspire change by highlighting the goodness of cycling and the wonder of some of your ordinary heroes.
Allow space for cyclists to tell their story.
Be sure that the cyclists you have are not inconvenienced explicitly or implicitly for their positive travel choices.
Make sure your company ride gets a high profile across your comms.
Talk loudly across multiple channels about the good that cyclists bring to your business; improved productivity, fewer sick days, punctual arrival; you know the drill.
Consider asking some of your more experienced cyclists to host an introductory group.
They Remove The Pain
Doing the right thing shouldn’t feel tough if it does you might end up with a holy elite but the masses will be way to busy with the sins of easier options. Take time to walk through your facility endeavoring to observe everything from a cyclist perspective.
How easy is it to get to good bike parking?
Is the bike parking suitably secure?
Are a pump and tools available should your people need to make a few adjustments?
Can your people get changed before walking through their workspace?
Is there a suitable place for outer layers to hang and dry if they’re dripping wet?
Is there a good water fountain near the bike parking?
Is your work space registered with tax free salary sacrifice schemes like cyclescheme?
Do you have a constructive dialogue with the local authority regarding cycling infrastructure around your locations?
Whether in HR or FM there’s a lot of talk about the good that a cycling workforce brings but all to often little talk about rewarding that good or enabling its contagion. Cycling often looks like a miracle cure we are strangely happy to leave on the Pharmacists shelf.
“Why should business reward people for their choice of travel?” might seem a logical question but it would in fact be the wrong question. The end game is not to indulge goodness but to create more of it. We hear amazing stories of companies who offer breakfast, servicing and repairs free of charge and on a regular basis or even increased annual leave. These companies aren’t daft, they are prudent, their spend isn’t a luxury it’s an investment bringing consistently great returns.
Remember that as congestion grows and travel becomes more expensive cycling is a priority choice for an increasing number of professionals. Rewarding cyclists with focused employee benefits is in fact about retaining the best talent you can.
They Don’t Bang On About Safety
Traveling by car remains statistically one of the most dangerous mobility choices you can possibly make. Despite this fact you’ll rarely see a car showroom affirming the safety of its latest fleet as it’s primary method of advertising. In fact most cars are sold on their completely nonfactual ability to enhance your sex appeal. Why then do cyclists bang on and on about high vis and helmets? Of course these things matter but if the comms for your Cycle To Work day sound more like a public safety campaign don’t be surprised when sign up is low.
They Make It Social
Whether its a group spin class, an evening ride or a women only maintenance class there’s a lot to be said for the sociable side of cycling. In the era of Facebook friends and Twitter followers the one thing you can be sure of is that the presence of others is more relevant than ever.