Regular cycle commuting makes you happier, healthier and wealthier. On that basis, you'd think it would be easy to convince colleagues to give it a try. It isn't. They will imagine that cycling is dangerous, inconvenient, and exhausting. Missionary zeal will not win them over. What might?
1. Just do it
One of the best advertisements for cycle commuting is simply to turn up at work on time each day, looking happy. That's easy. Cycling has predictable journey times, because cyclists don't get stuck in traffic like car drivers and are not subject to public transport delays. Cycling is fun too. It gives a real sense of freedom and the exercise helps burn off stress. It's no wonder that, according to US-based advocacy group Bike Portland, cyclists are the happiest commuters.
2. Don't be a bike geek
'Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes,' wrote Henry Thoreau. He was right. If people can't identify with you and what you're doing, they're unlikely to even conceive of doing it themselves. Lycra is comfortable on the bike but compared to office wear it's weird. It makes cycling look like sport rather than transport. You don't have to dress like the casual Danes at www.copenhagencyclechic.com, but it's a good idea not to arrive at your desk in lycra, dishevelled and dripping with sweat. Most people don't want to start the working day like that!
3. Share your routes
The number one reason people give for not cycling is fear of traffic. Point out the quieter route options available – routes through backstreets, parks, cycle paths and canal towpaths. Your colleagues may be unaware of these, even in their home town or city. Direct them to websites such as www.cyclemaps.org.uk, which has PDFs of cycle maps across the UK, and www.cyclestreets.net, which plots bike-friendly routes for you. Or offer to show them yourself.
4. Explain training
We say 'it's like riding a bike' because you never forget. Riding a bike in traffic is a different skill, however, and anyone who hasn't cycled for years might have forgotten that – or never have learned. A refresher course on cycling skills would be useful for anyone returning to cycling. National standards cycle training, under the Bikeability brand, has come a long way from the days of 'cycling proficiency', and it's not just for kids. Instructors are listed online at www.dft.gov.uk/bikeability/. Costs range from nothing, if subsidised by the local authority, up to £30 per hour.
5. Show how easy it is
'You must be fit!' That's one of the comments you'll hear if you cycle to work regularly. The assumption is that cycling is hard work. It isn't. Cycling is the most efficient form for human-powered movement. It's no more strenuous than walking and you go four or five times as fast. Cycling is hard only if you turn it into a race, or if you ride a cheap and nasty bike with the saddle set too low, the tyres too soft and the chain rusted up. Offer your colleagues a spin around the block or car park on your bike so they can feel the difference.
6. Explain what bikes cost
Bikes are inexpensive, not cheap. People assume that they can go down to a chain store and pick up a bike for £100. What they're actually buying is a bicycle-shaped object that will be used a few times and abandoned. It's a false economy. A £500 bike that's used regularly will be much better value in the long term. If you can get your colleagues to understand that a bike cost the same kind of money as a computer, with the same price-performance implications, you're part way there.
7. Save them money
Your colleagues might still balk at paying £300 or £500 or £1,000 for a bike. No problem. If you're reading this, there's a good chance that your employer is already signed up to Cyclescheme, enabling employees to purchase bikes through salary sacrifice. That spreads the cost and gives savings of 32% or more, making better quality bikes a more appealing purchase. If your employer doesn't know about Cyclescheme, talk to the HR department and point them at this website!
8. Top shop advice
Direct your colleagues to a good local bike shop and they'll end up with bikes that are fit for purpose. Catalogue shops don't this customer care; their aim is to stack them high and sell them cheap. A local bike shop wants repeat business. Since more than 1,850 local shops are signed up to Cyclescheme, you colleagues can still save money while buying better bikes.
9. Facilitate it
Cycling facilities at work such as secure bike storage and showers are not essential for cycle commuting but they make it a more tempting prospect. Why not ask your HR department to install them? The more employees who want facilities, the more likely you'll get them. You could set up a Bicycle User Group to press for better cycling provision at work.
10. Cycle to Work Day
It's not easy to convince someone to become a regular cycle commuter overnight. But they might try it once – and if they do, they might carry on. That's the thought behind Cycle to Work Day on 14th September. It aims to get as many people as possible to try cycling to work for one day, to highlight the benefits of commuting by bike.
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