It's Cycle to Work Day on 3rd September. Here are some suggestions for persuading colleagues to swap the car, train or bus for a bike for the day.
Cycle to Work Day aims to get 1,000,000 people regularly commuting to work by bike by 2021, initially by getting them to commit to ride to work on one day. This year that day is Thursday 3rd September. Cycling to work is easy, practical and enjoyable, as you already know. The easiest way to persuade someone else of that – someone like a work colleague – is to get them to try it.
We all like to share our love cycling, but there's more to it than it. More cycling colleagues means you'll have a louder voice if you ask for facilities at work such as cycle parking, lockers, or showers. Cyclists are healthier and take fewer days off sick, so the more cyclists there are where you work, the less chance you'll have to cover for someone else.
Challenge your friends
Your colleagues won't take part if they don't know about Cycle to Work Day, so the first step is to invite them to take part. It takes only a minute or two: visit the website cycletoworkday.org, click 'Challenge your friends', and then fill in your name and their email address. (You can invite multiple friends.) One more click lets you share the invitation via Twitter or Facebook.
Your friends will then receive an email asking them to get involved by pledging the number of miles that they will cycle to work on 3rd September. They'll also be told about the prizes they can win: there are five bikes up for grabs. After inviting your friends online, you can follow up with some informal, face-to-face persuasion. Emphasise that it's just one day. Sell the benefits – for example, cycle commuting is a great way to get in shape without changing diet.
Challenge your employer
Colleagues are more likely to take part if your employer is on board, because then it's something the company is doing rather than just something that you and a few others are doing. The cycletoworkday.org website has a button you can click to 'Challenge your employer'. Fill in the details and your employer will get an email asking them to advertise the day, to consider putting on a 'bike breakfast' for everyone who cycles in on 3rd September, and to consider getting involved in other cycle to work activities.
Check your buddy's bike
Nearly half of the UK population has access to a bike. Many of these bikes aren't used regularly, so your colleague's might need a little attention before it's ready to ride. It doesn't need to be perfect, just comfortable, relatively efficient, and safe. If your colleague is reluctant to go to the bike shop to get it fixed, you could offer to do some simple maintenance. The following checks can be performed in about 15 minutes, so could easily be done in a lunch hour if they bring the bike in the week before. You'll need a multitool, a pump, and some oil.
No bike? No problem
Your colleague doesn't have to own a bike to take part in Cycle to Work Day. They could hire a bike. This is cheap and easy in London, where the Santander Cycles ('Boris bikes') cost just £2 for a 24-hour hire. Similar public bike hire schemes operate in Belfast, Glasgow, and also Dumfries, Lincoln, Liverpool, Northampton, Oxford, Reading, and Southport, which can be found here. Bikes can be hired from shops or other businesses in much of the rest of the country too.
If bike hire isn't an option, maybe your colleague could borrow a bike for the day? They're sure to know someone who owns a bike. If you've got more than one bike, perhaps you could lend one of yours – assuming it fits them okay.
Fear of traffic is one of the biggest barriers to cycling. Cyclists who are relatively inexperienced do not like it one bit. Longer term solutions include cycle-friendly infrastructure and attitudes, an overhaul of the justice system, and cycle training. On Cycle to Work Day, it's best simply to direct your colleague to the quietest cycle route available. They'll enjoy the ride more and be more likely to repeat the experience in future.If you're not sure of the quietest route yourself, use the Cyclestreets online route planner. Just type in the start point and the destination and then click on 'Quietest route'. On-the-go Cyclestreets instructions are available using the free smartphone app, which exists for iPhone, Android, Blackberry 10, Windows Phone, and mobile web (HTML5). Click the 'Mobile' link on the website.
Your colleague doesn't have to cycle the whole distance from home to work. They can pledge whatever distance they wish. If they only fancy cycling a couple of miles, they could drive part way with their bike or take their bike on the train.
Why not make their Cycle to Work Day commute a more sociable experience by joining them from wherever they set off, then cycling in with them? You could pick up other colleagues along the way, or agree one start point that's convenient for everyone – a park-and-ride, perhaps. Be sure to ride at a pace that's comfortable for the slowest cyclist present by riding at the back with that cyclist.