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? Here are our tips on how to promote cycling and bicycle culture.
Just Do It
One of the best ways to encourage cycling is simply to turn up at work on time each day, looking happy.
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.
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!
Make life easier for your yourself and your colleagues by reading more about what to wear when cycling to work.
Share Your Routes
The number one reason people give for not cycling is fear of traffic.
You can help curtail their fears and commute with confidence by pointing 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.
You can also direct them to websites that can help them plan their route to work such as www.cyclemaps.org.uk, which has PDFs of cycle maps across the UK, and www.cyclestreets.net, which plots bike-friendly routes.
Sharing the road with motorists is the biggest deterrent to cycling so this is one of the best ways of encouraging cycling to work.
Explain How Cycling Training Can Help
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 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.
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.
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.
That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park either; you will exert yourself. This is all the more true if the commute is more than a couple of miles, but if you demonstrate and explain the massive health benefits of cycling daily, it’s a no-brainer!
Explain What Bikes Cost
Bikes are inexpensive, but 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 costs the same kind of money as a computer, with the same price-performance implications, you are part of the way there.
Help Them Save 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.
Alternatively, fill out this form and we’ll invite your employer to Cyclescheme for you!
Top Shop Advice
Direct your colleagues to a good local bike shop and they'll buy a bike that’s fit for purpose.
Catalogue shops don't offer 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.
Head over here to find a Cyclescheme retailer near you.
Cycling facilities at work such as secure bike storage and showers are not essential for cycle commuting, but they make it more tempting.
Why not ask your HR department to install them?
The more employees who want these facilities, the more likely you'll get them. You could set up a Bicycle User Group to press for better cycling provision at work.
Promote 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. It aims to get as many people as possible to try cycling to work for one day, to highlight the benefits of cycling to work.
If you’ve managed to get someone to see the light and they’re preparing to embark on their first week of cycle commuting, here’s how you can make sure they’re ready.
Check Their Bike is Road-Ready
More than half of all UK households own at least one bicycle, so the odds are good that your colleague will have something to ride. Most bikes are not well looked after, however, and have soft tyres, a poorly lubricated chain, and a saddle that's set far too low.
All these things make cycling hard work.
Offer to check their bike over. You can do this in your lunch hour at work if it's not convenient to do so at the weekend; you'll need a pump, a multitool and some oil.
Give the bike a basic safety check, too.
Pump up the tyres to the pressure stamped on the sidewall. Make sure the saddle is level and set high enough. With the cranks in line with the seat tube, your colleague's leg should be fully extended with the heel on the pedal. There will then be a slight bend at the knee when pedalling normally, with the ball of the foot over the pedal.
If your colleague doesn't have a bike or it's not serviceable in the time available, perhaps you could lend one? This has the advantage that the bike will be better quality and better looked after. Just remember to adjust the fit, principally saddle height, to suit your colleague. Maybe you've got other items you could loan for the day, such as cycle clips, lights, or a helmet?
Help Them Research their Route
If your colleague is not a regular cyclist, make sure they're not biting off more than they can chew. Half an hour each way is ample for someone's first ride to work. That's probably about five or six miles maximum, and less is better yet. If they live further away than that, suggest they park and ride or take the train part way.
Cycle to Work Together
If you live relatively close to your colleague or can arrange to meet at a specific point part way, you could cycle to work together. You are then on hand to navigate, deal with any minor mechanical problems, and offer advice on road positioning.
If you're meeting part way, you'll obviously want to swap mobile numbers in advance in case either one of you is delayed or goes to the wrong meeting place.
When you're riding along together, you might think that it's best if you lead. It's not. Let your colleague lead while you ride a bike length or half a bike length behind. This enables you to watch your colleague at all times and to call out any instructions. You will automatically ride at your colleague's pace, which will probably be slower than yours.
If your colleague has little experience of riding in traffic, you should ride further out than them from the side of the road. They should be at least 50cm from the kerb, while you are a bike-width further out. You might even want to take the lane. This means traffic has to come around you and can’t cut in too close to your colleague, who might veer or wobble or simply be freaked out by cars passing too close. It also means that you won't run into your colleague if they stop unexpectedly.
If your colleague is okay with traffic, you can ride directly behind. This gives your colleague the opportunity to look behind to check for traffic, without you in the way. It’s not essential, since you’re covering the job of traffic observer anyway, but it’s good practice.
On quieter roads or cyclepaths, there may be scope to cycle side by side. It's perfectly legal and gives you the chance to chat. You should be the rider on the outside, closest to the centre of the road. When you need to ride in single file, you brake and drop back. This stops you accidentally clipping wheels, which is a possibility if you accelerate and cut in.
Once you arrive at work, get the kettle on and don't stint on the biscuits. You've both earned them!
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