In a couple of months, it's Cycle to Work Day. Here's how you can help a colleague start cycling to work. You'll benefit too!
Cycle to Work Day on 14 September has a simple aim: to get as many people as possible to try commuting by bike. Don't let this day pass you by because you already cycle to work. You can still 'pledge' commuting miles to be in with a chance of winning prizes. And you can also help colleagues try commuting on two wheels.
More people commuting by bike is a good thing. It's good for individuals, because it makes them healthier and wealthier. It's good for employers, because regular cycle commuters don't get stuck in traffic jams and take less time off sick. It's good for you too, and not just because you'll get a warm glow. More cyclists where you work means more demand for cycling facilities, such as lockers, showers and cycle parking, plus fewer cars to contend with on your commute. Everybody wins.
Can you fix it? (Yes, you can!)
Around 27million Brits have access to a bike, so there's a good chance your colleague has one stashed away in a garage or shed. The problem is that that bike may be languishing unloved with flat tyres and a rasping chain. Why not offer to take a look at it one weekend? If you've got the skills and tools, you could fix it for the price of any parts. You'll find guides to most common repairs in the Community section of this website. The 'repair' may be as simple as pumping up the tyres and oiling the chain, although you should at least check the brakes and steering.
If the repair is beyond you, you may still be able to diagnose what's wrong and to point your colleague to a good bike shop. If your colleague doesn't have access to a bike but does know how to cycle, they could hire a bike. That's easy in London and feasible in many other places. You could even loan your colleague a bike of your own for the day, assuming you've got a spare and you're confident they'll look after it.
Show them the way
A pleasant route to work can be the difference between a commute that's fun or frightening. So route choice is critical. The nicest cycle routes – ones that would be impossible or impractical by car – are ones your colleague may know nothing about. Show them.
Plot the route you would take between their home and work. You might be able to do this using your own cycling knowledge of the area. If you need more information, use cyclestreets.net or download the free Cyclestreets app. You can plot three route options between two points: fastest, balanced, or quietest. Quietest and balanced are the better options for new cyclists; fastest will use the most direct roads, regardless of traffic flow. Google Maps and its associated mobile app also have a cycling option and are worth trying, although Cyclestreets normally yields better results.
You can give your colleague a copy of the route to try out themselves one weekend before Cycle to Work Day – or better yet, you could do a dry run with them. Software-created routes are a great starting point but they often need tweaking slightly; they're not a substitute for cycling expertise. You might see a better shortcut or be able to advise on how to negotiate or avoid a particular junction. After this dry run, your colleague can then tackle Cycle to Work Day with confidence.
Be a bike buddy
The next step up from showing your colleague the best way to work is to do the ride with them for real. Turn up at their house that Wednesday morning and cycle in with them. This lets you skip the 'show the way' step, if either of you is pushed for time at weekends, and also means that you are on hand to give directions and cycling-in-traffic advice, as well as solve any problems with the bike.
If your colleague is a confident cyclist, you can take the lead. They simply follow you, doing as you do. If they're not a confident cyclist, it's better if you ride half a bike length or so behind. That way you won't accidentally ride away from them. You can keep and eye on them and provide verbal instructions. Ensure they ride at least 50cm out from the kerb, while you ride further out into the road – taking the lane where necessary. This means traffic has to come wide around you and can’t easily cut up your colleague, who might be freaked out by cars passing too close. Don't forget that you can ride side-by-side in many situations. (When you need to single out, it's you that drops back.)
If a group of you from work all meet up to ride in together, put a more experienced cyclist at the front and at the rear of the group. Pace the ride to the slowest cyclist, regrouping as necessary, so that eveyone enjoys their journey.
What employers & retailers can do
Cycle to Work Day isn't just for employees. Employers can pledge their support and promise to promote the event to their staff, to run a Cycle to Work Day event, and to offer a coffee and a croissant to all staff who cycle in that day. A healthier, more punctual workforce is worth having. Additionally, employers who enable their staff to get a bike through Cyclescheme will make savings on National Insurance contributions too.
Retailers can also pledge their support by offering free bike health checks. More than 500 retailers did so in the two weeks leading up to Cycle to Work Day last year. A bike health check is like an MOT: you inspect the bike in your workshop and make recommendations for any necessary work. Customers who get this work carried out still pay for that; it's only the assessemnent that's free. It's worth doing: anyone who uses their health-checked bike for a Cycle to Work Day is a potential repeat customer.