The health benefits of walking or cycling to work are proven. Public Health Agency guidance shows that 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week cuts the risk of developing serious illnesses by up to half. Your business and staff will benefit from establishing a culture where walking and cycling into work becomes part of an everyday routine.
Cycling to work
There are practical measures which you can take to increase cycling journeys among your staff. Carrying out a staff survey can help you to prioritise what measures you need to take.
Investing in secure and sheltered cycle parking can make a big difference to employees' choice to cycle to work. Bicycle theft is common in Northern Ireland especially from on-street cycle stands and in areas with poor security monitoring. Making a bicycle shelter available in an off-street location will make cycling more attractive to your staff. Many businesses in Northern Ireland have invested in lockable bicycle cages for additional security.
Providing additional facilities such as showers, changing rooms and lockers can also encourage longer journeys. You should also consider whether high-profile bicycle parking outside your premises can attract customers.
Pushing for improved cycle routes around your premises and on regular routes to work can also make cycling more attractive. In leased or shared business centres talk to the landowner about improvements which your business needs. Larger businesses with their own premises may invest in dedicated cycling routes within their grounds.
Safety is a major barrier to cycling to work, particularly in areas of Northern Ireland where cycling infrastructure is poor or non-existent. Contact the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and your local district council about improving cycling infrastructure in the area, or to discuss issues that arise with roads and junctions around your workplace.
Cycling training can be provided to help staff gain confidence - find out about Bikeability cycle training. Promoting cycling to work can include regular cycling events, taking parts in external 'cycle to work' competitions with other businesses and getting involved with events like Bike Week.
As an employer, you are entitled to lend your employees bicycles and related equipment tax-free. Providing cycle parking is also tax-exempt. Alternatively, the Cycle to Work scheme offers a way to dramatically cut the cost of cycles to employees. Typical savings are between 30 and 50 per cent - find out more about the Cycle to Work scheme.
You should also consider setting up a bicycle users' group (BUG). A BUG enables employees to swap knowledge about things like the safest routes to work, and to give ongoing feedback on improvement which may be needed.
Walking to work
The option of walking to work may be cheaper than other transport but some crucial barriers remain. Assessing certain factors in your workplace travel plan can help to make it more attractive to staff.
- Well-lit routes - is the lighting around your building and nearby streets adequate? Report problems to the landowner, your council or DfI if staff don't feel safe due to dark sections of their walking routes.
- Route planning - building in walking as part of a longer journey eg from a public transport hub to your premises will be more attractive with a direct route. Help your staff to see the options with route maps and push for local infrastructure improvements eg safer crossings on busy junctions and new traffic-free bridges over local rivers or roads.
Travelwise NI provides support and advice to Northern Ireland businesses on promoting walking and cycling.