The UK lags behind other European countries when it comes to how many of us cycle to work but this is changing rapidly as employers do more to encourage it.
This transformation is part of a larger trend of disruption by mobile solutions that are being used in new ways to tackle the issue of urban congestion and increasing difficulty for commuters. It also comes at a time when more people than ever are turning the trip to work into part of a healthy lifestyle. Perfect storm? Planets aligning? You can choose your own metaphor but the fact is that the familiar morning/afternoon work commute is being shaken up like never before.
In the case of cycling to work, there are a number of positives for employers that encourage their workers to make the switch to two wheels, starting with the health benefits.
It’s no secret that even a modest amount of regular activity can result in lower rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Even light exercise has a positive impact on mental health as well and can translate into better moods and attitudes towards a sometimes challenging workday. A healthier workforce has more energy and performs at a higher level while absenteeism drops. What’s not to like?
These are the kinds of changes that directly impact the bottom line of any business, but larger employers have the most to gain. Encouraging staff to bike to work not only means a more productive workforce, but allows for other changes that can also bring savings and more efficiency.Just ask BMW. At their massive global HQ in Munich, even small changes can deliver huge results. A healthier, more active staff that takes fewer days off due to illness and reduced congestion in the area around their office complex are great but they’re targeting other benefits of getting a modest portion of their employees to use bikes to get to work.
"We have 40,000 employees in Munich," says a BMW executive. "If only ten percent of them change their bikes, we could close two parking garages."
We’re not sure exactly how much you save by not having to operate two parking garages, but let’s assume that it’s well worth the effort of making life easier for those who cycle to work. And what if, during early planning stages before a corporate base was built, a business started with the intention of getting ten percent of their workforce to bike to work? How much could they save by not even building two parking garages?
Saving space or being able to repurpose space dedicated to parking is a common reason given for promoting corporate cycling schemes. With real estate at a premium in many locations, it’s obviously much cheaper to accommodate a hundred bikes than a hundred cars. That’s why so many companies are making easy bike path access, secure areas to leave bikes and even shower facilities part of their plans instead of expensive parking areas that are only occupied for forty or so hours a week.
But it’s not just financial self-interest that’s driving the trend towards more employers promoting biking to work. Many large companies view cycling programmes as part of good corporate citizenship and a way to promote green policies while reducing their carbon footprint. It’s simply one of the ways that businesses can live up to their responsibility to help their communities.
Government has a role to play in creating a favourable tax environment for business that promote the adoption of cycling to work. In the UK, bikes are eligible for mileage-related expenses for tax purposes. The Cycle to Work Scheme has been hugely successful as well.
As bikes become a standard fixture in every office park and business complex, we’re excited to see just how many commuters turn to two wheels as employers recognise what they stand to gain by making the switch easier. Believe it or not, we’ve already reached the point where businesses are paying employees to cycle to work so we can’t wait to find out what’ next!
If you want to read more about the growth of e-bikes more generally, take a look at this post on our blog.