Cycling and the Workplace meeting
Luke Harper, Head of British Cycling Partnership at HSBC UK
Jason Gill, Professor of Cardiometabolic Health, University of Glasgow
HSBC is partnering with British Cycling on an 8-year project to inspire 2 million people to ride. The project, which will look at all aspects of cycling, aims to deliver a broad range of benefits to society, impact all parts of the cycling community, and change lifestyles.
The focus will be on families, children, females, first-time riders. Activities under the project include, 14 Let’s Ride city centre cycling festivals across the UK this summer; launch of an interactive Ready Set Ride toolkit, which will be delivered online and through schools; and the Birmingham Bike Bank, a loan scheme involving 2500 bikes each year.
The project will also seek to convene business networks of large employers in cities across Britain. HSBC itself has increased increase employee engagement in cycling with an App for its 34,000 UK staff. 20% of HSBC staff are participating in cycling in some way.
Cycling is associated with lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. People who cycle have fewer days of sickness absence, lower stress and higher quality of life. Employers gain various benefits from supporting their employees in cycling to work. 87% of those surveyed recently by British Cycling said that cycling to work helps them to perform better, and 53% said good facilities at work are a big factor in choice of employment.
There is huge potential for more people to enjoy the benefits of cycling – 28% of the UK adult population, over 14m people, currently cycle less than once a month and would like to cycle more regularly.
However, existing evidence about the barriers to cycling and about its benefits is limited. This means that the extent to which pragmatic cycling interventions could have a sustained impact on our health (and productivity) is unclear. More detailed clinical trials are needed.
HSBC and British Cycling have therefore engaged Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities on the Cycle Nation Project (CNP), a comprehensive research programme. CNP has 3 aims – to produce sustainable long-term increases in the number of people cycling; to deliver sustainable long-term increases in the number of cycling journeys made across the UK; and to provide causal evidence of the extent to which increased cycling improves health, well-being and productivity outcomes.
The CNP will review what we already know, seek to understand the current context and identify specific barriers, and design interventions to address the barriers. The project will have 4 phases – development; feasibility and pilot trials; largescale long-term trials; and roll-out and implementation, including development of a toolbox which can be shared with major employers.
Research will be undertaken on barriers to cycling. These occur at many levels, some individual, some environmental. Investing in infrastructure is cost-effective, but is expensive and takes time, and is insufficient on its own. Integrated packages of interventions targeting individuals and the social environment and infrastructure are likely to be most effective. Improved infrastructure combined with behaviour change delivers the greatest benefits.
More research is also needed on the most effective individual and social level interventions to complement infrastructure investment. There are many potential areas of intervention, including one-to-one counselling, skills training, renovation of cycle paths, traffic calming measures, cycle hire schemes, improved investment and funding, education, major events, improved local facilities, cycle networks and policy and legislation (eg speed limits). A systematic approach to identify and characterise all previous interventions undertaken to increase cycling participation is being undertaken.
The goal of CNP is to develop an integrated, multi-competent cycling intervention programme. Phase 2 will assess the feasibility of delivery, uptake, acceptability and impact of various interventions on cycling levels over the short-term.
Phase 3 will test procedures for measurement of health, economic and productivity outcomes.
The ambition is to provide a gold standard for use in a national roll-out of the CNP in other settings, to inform policy decisions
Martin Merryweather, Strategy Director, British Cycling – State of Cycling Survey
British Cycling membership recently reached 150,000 for the first time. The membership was surveyed in January to gain the views of cyclists on safety, leadership and commuting. Employers were seen as generally doing a good job on encouraging and enabling riding to work, but more can be done. Areas with most scope for improvement include flexible hours, workplace champions, route support and cycle hire.
Employers can benefit from providing good facilities. 87% of those surveyed said that cycling to work helps them to perform better, and 53% said good facilities at work for cycling is a big factor in their choice of employment.
James Palser, Cycling Friendly Employer (CFE) Scheme, from Cycling UK
The CFE Accreditation Scheme rewards companies who “make their workplaces awe-inspiring through cycling”. It is the UK provider of the EU CFE scheme. CFE is a crucial tool for engaging with businesses, and will increase the chances of growing a cycling culture and promoting good practice.
THE CFE accreditation, which recognises employers who support their employees with great cycle-friendly facilities, operates in 13 EU countries. It assesses company information and communication for employees, incentives for involving employees in cycling, measures to increase the number of employees who cycle, provision of tools for bike maintenance, bike parking facilities for employees onsite, and provision of bike parking for customers.
A digital self-assessment tool enables companies to determine if they are eligible for accreditation. CFE then conducts an audit, awards Gold/Silver/ Bronze ranking, provides a development or improvement plan, and offers ongoing advice and events.
The cost of the process depends on size of business, and number of sites involved. Discounts are provided for public sector and non-profit organisations.
Sam Robinson, Love to Ride
Love to Ride’s mission is to get more people cycling. It has been running for 12 years and gets the majority of its funding from DfT. It has a strong focus on behavioural change and on greater diversity, including getting more women out riding.
Love to Ride has seen a significant positive shift from business on collaboration over the last couple of years. Business now appreciates the benefits it can derive from supporting cycling and enable employees to cycle to work. LTR have also seen much wider appreciation of the health benefits of cycling, particularly regarding mental health.
Comments and Q&A
Although more women are cycling, there is still much room for improvement. Women comprise about 20% of cyclists in the UK – in the Netherlands more women cycle than men.
There is still insufficient secure parking for bikes, especially in older buildings.
Planning policy does not consider cycling adequately, and not enough development projects require sufficient parking space for cyclists.
There is a gap between comment about the importance of infrastructure for cycling, and action to deliver it.
Teachers should be more involved in encouraging children to ride and giving them guidance on safety and other issues.
Employees should be encouraged and enabled to lobby more for good cycling facilities.
It is key to communicate the benefits of people cycling to work to employers as well as employees.
Thanks to Chris Strutt for compiling this report