How em­ploy­ers can con­trib­ute to a more bike-friendly cul­ture

Malta Independent - - BUSINESS & FINANCE -

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.

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