How employers can contribute to a more bike-friendly culture
Cycling to work is an idea that, to some, has remained just that – an idea, probably because it is still seen as an inferior mode of commuting. Many people have now warmed to the concept of cycling and have made cycling to work part of their daily routine. But a lot of people need to even consider it as an option.
“It is important to consider cycling as a system of mobility in its own right,” says Bernhard Hensink, secretary-general of the European Cyclists’ Federation, whose mission is ‘to encourage more people to cycle more’.
“The enormous potential that cycling can bring to environmental sustainability should not be overlooked. There is high evidence for the numerous advantages of cycling for society, the environment and the economy, namely opportunities for job creation, massive improvements to urban air quality and encouraging the development of new technologies,” he said.
Promoting cycling as an alternative mobility option and making this part of the wider transport and commuting infrastructure requires a holistic strategy driven by the government. This prospect can therefore be an ideal opportunity for government and employers to collaborate and define a winwin strategy for everyone: employees, employers and society at large.
This strategy needs to consider the “hardware” such as cycling infrastructure, good road surfacing, proper cycle lanes, cycling paths, bicycle docks and bicycle charging stations that will support the eventual growth in popularity of ebikes.
However, employers and business organisation too can play a central role by encouraging their people to start cycling to work as an alternative. Apart the infrastructure, we should also be discussing the ‘software’ namely those measures that result in a favourable climate for cycling such as fiscal incentives for citizens who commute by bike, based on the amount of tracked mileage they register, incentives to transport operators who introduce initiatives that support sustainable intermodality and tax-cuts and other forms of grants to employers who encourage their employees with the right environment and infrastructure within their company or organisation.
One company encouraging cycling is GPC, a Valletta-based company specialising in private label services in sanitary ware and installation material for major EU distributers and retailers. Three of its employees – 27-year-old Mina, who is Egyptian, 35-year-old Laurent, who is French and 40-year-old Tommaso – are dedicated cyclists who commute to work on a daily basis.
“What we have in common is the spirit to demonstrate that this way of commuting is possible, feasible and significantly smarter than using other means of transport. We are not Maltese but we feel very much at home and we hope that our cycling to work can inspire others to consider trying out this option, especially during the current Bike2Work campaign,” says Tommaso, who calculated that his choice to cycle to work is saving him over €4,000 a year.
Local software company RS2 Software plc is another company with a number of bikefriendly measures already in place. Maria Attard, Marketing Manager and Executive Assistant to the CEO, says: “RS2 Software supports sports initiatives to make sure that our employees lead a healthier lifestyle. In fact, besides the frequent use of our company gym, we also subsidise their participation fees at popular sports initiatives such as charity walks and bike rides, and the company has also invested in a safe and dedicated area in our underground garage where employees can keep their bicycles and we have also installed showers for added convenience.”
Companies can start by identifying a space they can use to provide a safe and secure parking area for employees’ bicycles whilst providing storage where they can keep their helmets and other gear. They can also provide support by actively encourage employees to commute by bike, introducing reward schemes for those who opt for more environment-friendly means of transport which in turn helps the company reduce its carbon footprint.
Offering facilities such as access to places in which to clean up and change clothes, installing a shower and converting a utility closet into a bike-friendly area with lockers can also encourage employees to start cycling to work. Other incentives would be financial bonuses and allowing employees who cycle to work the possibility of leaving a bit earlier for their journey home and thus avoid the rush-hour traffic.