Cycling to work is great already. Imagine what it would be like if the cycling facilities were better: better parking, showers, lockers… Or maybe your employer would be happy to pay you a (tax deductible) 20p mileage rate for cycling during work hours? Wishing for these things as an individual is unlikely to secure them. Asking for them with the backing of your cycling colleagues shows a real, untapped demand. That’s why it’s worth forming a Bicycle User Group (BUG).
A BUG is simply a group of cyclists at a workplace or institution. It promotes cycle commuting by lobbying for better facilities, sharing concerns and ideas with management, and by helping out new and potential cyclists. We’ve looked before at encouraging colleagues to cycle. Forming a BUG is the next step.
A Bicycle User Group’s role isn’t to bug management but to work with them to make cycle commuting more practical and appealing. If more employees cycle where you work, everybody wins. The new cyclists will become healthier, roughly halving their risk of heart disease and cancer and taking fewer days off sick than their sedentary colleagues. Management will get more punctual employees (http://road.cc/content/news/215010-cycle-commuters-most-likely-get-work-‘-time-and-ready-go’) who don’t require expensive car parking spaces; GlaxoSmithKline in West London reckon it costs them £2,000 per year to maintain a single car parking space. Even the employees who don’t cycle will see some benefit: there will be fewer cars jamming up their commute and less competition for those expensive car parking spaces when they arrive.
If your employer is already signed up to Cyclescheme (if they aren't you can invite them join for free here), they’re favourably disposed towards cycling already. So telling them you’re planning to set up a BUG should be a matter of pushing on an open door.
Do you need to revolutionise your commute?
Finding fellow cyclists
You need to announce that you’re forming a BUG, and to arrange somewhere to meet to get things rolling – perhaps a local pub after work or a cycling-friendly cafe at lunchtime. (Tell the venue you’re coming.) But even a meeting room at work should be sufficient.
When you tell the HR department about forming a BUG, they may be prepared to pass on an email or flyer from you about the formation meeting to colleagues who have got bikes through Cyclescheme. Either way, be sure to attach flyers to bikes parked at work. You may also be able use the workplace intranet or staff room message board.
Meetings, real and digital
Lots of people spend hours in meetings already, so keep your initial meeting social and fairly short. Get everyone’s contact details. Explain briefly what you’d like to achieve, then establish a cycling wish-list. You can do the latter at the meeting, by asking for ideas and a show of hands, or you can do it later by setting up a SurveyMonkey page – it’s dead easy.
Once you’ve established some achievable objectives – for example, covered cycle parking or the installation of showers – try to recruit some volunteers with useful skills so you’re not doing everything yourself. You might have someone who can do a bit of design for leafleting or creating a membership card; someone else might have contacts with a local cycling group; someone might have IT skills, and so on. Your volunteers can help you research the costs and benefits of your proposals to persuade your employer.
Physical meetings probably don’t need to take place more than once a month, if that. A cycling focus – e.g. riding to a pub for an hour after work – will prevent the meeting feeling like ‘work’. In between meetings, keep in touch digitally. These days that’s simplest if you set up a Facebook page for general information and perhaps a WhatsApp group for instant messaging.
Don’t think only in terms of what you can ask for from you employer. What can you and the BUG do in terms of getting more bums on bikes where you work? Can you negotiate a discount for card-carrying BUG members at a local bike shop? Could you offer ‘buddy rides’, where someone from the BUG cycles in to work guiding a new or prospective cycle commuter? Can you obtain cycling maps of your town from your local council cycling officer or from Sustrans, to give out to new cycle commuters and put on the office noticeboard? If you have monthly meetings, why not include speakers from inside or outside the BUG to give them focus? A local cycle campaigner could talk about what improvements they’re calling for in your town. A competent mechanic could give a talk – with bike and tools – on basic maintenance.
The bigger picture
Linking your BUG to one or more cycling organisations provides additional benefits. You’ll get access to expert information for a start, and BUG members may be able to get things like third-party insurance, legal advice, and cycle training at free or reduced rates.
Individual BUG members can take out British Cycling Ride Membership for £37 per year. If you live in London and 10 or more BUG members wish to join the London Cycling Campaign, they can each get a 50% discount, making membership £25 each. And for £75, the entire BUG can be affiliated to Cycling UK.
Drivers don’t wear special clothes or have to fit accessories to stay dry or see in the dark. Cyclists don’t have to either – if the bike is practical enough.
There are plenty of beginner’s errors to avoid when riding to work. Here are ten of the most common.
Any bike can be a capable commuter, but if it wasn’t designed with transport in mind you will need to make some modifications…