More than 90 South Yorkshire employers have already signed up to potentially save thousands of pounds a year by encouraging staff to try cycling to work between now and the end of September.
Employers and employees can win prizes including bikes, cinema tickets, holidays, free maintenance sessions and even cycling artworks by taking part in South Yorkshire’s free ‘Love to Ride: Cycle September’ scheme.
The scheme aims to engage at least 100 local workplaces and over 1,000 individuals in a friendly competition to ride the most miles in September, for regular cyclists to encourage seldom-cycling colleagues to give it a go, and for Sheffield and South Yorkshire to try and beat Leeds and West Yorkshire, who are also taking part.
“It’s proven that the healthier you are, the more productive you are, and the less likely you are to be off work poorly,” said Sheffield’s head of Public Health Greg Fell, who cycles 12 miles a day as part of his journey to work.
“When people are concerned about the quality of our air it’s the right thing for employers to do, but there’s also a real business bottom line in encouraging people to cycle to work.
“It saves money, is cheaper, and it’s often quicker. I gave up my gym membership when I started cycling to work, and that saving pays for my family holiday.”
Council transport officers say funding for cycling schemes is easier to justify when cycling numbers increase, as they have in Sheffield over recent years. Funding for the ‘Cycle September’ programme came from a £7.5m Access Fund for Sustainable Travel grant from the government, the largest awarded in the country this year.
Jo Pearce, Sheffield Council’s head of physical activity and sport, has been cycling to work for seven years, and says it’s safe, fun and practical.
“Building activity into your working day is the key,” she said. “I’m working and I’ve got a little girl, and it’s hard to fit in going to the gym. So I take my daughter to nursery and then bike into work, which is a far less stressful journey for us than driving, and it’s great for me and my little girl to start our day in an active way.”
Local authorities reckon there are 20-30 employers in South Yorkshire who are doing their best to encourage cycling to work, and are on their way to their initial target to at least treble that number this year, with 96 employers signed up for Cycle September so far, and over 870 individual cyclists.
“We’re already seeing local companies with anything from 10-100 per cent of staff cycling regularly, and think a lot more local organisations would see a lot of benefits from following their example,” said Sheffield Council senior transport planner Paul Sullivan.
“Small and medium sized businesses particularly are seeing cycling as a way to reduce absenteeism while improving productivity at the same time,” said Andy Picken of MoveMore. He cited a recent study by HR Magazine that showed 89 per cent of bosses reckoned cyclists had more energy at work.
Some companies even reward cyclists by giving vouchers for local bike shops every time they commute by cycle, or by offering regular free ‘cyclists breakfasts.’
Studies have shown that staff switching from driving to cycling save a company £2,000 a year by reducing the need for a car parking space.
“It’s very simple: the more people cycle, the more people cycle,” said Rosie Frazer of Love to Ride.
“If there are more cyclists out and about, it makes drivers more aware of them, it makes the roads safer and less congested for everyone, and people thinking about riding a bike say: ‘Well if she or he can do it, so can I!’”
“I visit Leeds and I’m pretty sure there are a lot more cyclists here, so I’d urge all local cyclists to sign up,” said Jo Pearce. “It’ll lead to a healthier and happier South Yorkshire.”
For more information and to register, see: lovetoride.net/southyorkshire