Cycling Friendly: how cycling facilities can make a difference

Cyclescheme, 08.08.2011

Cycling Friendly: how cycling facilities can make a difference

GE Hamble recently invested in a whole host of cycling facilities for their staff following their highly succesful Cycle to Work scheme. We caught up with HR Leader, Ivan Sparks, to talk about the positive effect cycling has had on the workforce.

Cycling to work is important. We are increasingly being made aware of the dangers of pollution, over-crowding on public transport, lack of exercise, financial cuts and global warming (amongst a plethora of other issues facing everyone in the UK, and the rest of the world, today), so it’s hardly surprising that something as simple as cycling to work is a popular way of doing our bit for the greater good.

Too often, much of the press we are subjected to takes a negative look at how all these problems just keep getting worse, and often neglect the positive action that is being taken. They focus on dwindling (or rising, depending on the topic) statistics that seem that bit more insurmountable each day.

There are, of course, always stories worth shouting about, and in this months’ newsletter we wanted to showcase the success one of our clients, GE Aviation, have had when they stepped up to the plate and embraced cycling to work as a viable and beneficial programme.

Running a cycle to work scheme is a great way to for companies to demonstrate their commitment to CSR practices – employee welfare, community responsibility and environmental commitments – as well as a great way to save money for both the participants themselves, and the companies that provide them. For many employers, setting up a Cycle to Work scheme is easy and they are lucky enough to have all the facilities they need to cater for the sudden influx of cyclists through their doors each morning. For others, the change can be a little harder to manage. The prospect of shelling out to pay for shower facilities, lockers, changing rooms and the like can sometimes ring alarm bells – but there needn’t be such a kneejerk reaction.

Ivan Sparks (HR Leader at GE, Hamble) and his team very kindly invited Cyclescheme to come and see first-hand their recent investment into cycling facilities, and to talk about how their Cycle to Work scheme has had a positive impact on their employees’ wellbeing.

When asked what impact the Cycle to Work scheme has had on employees at GE, Ivan enthused, “the Cycle to work scheme has been warmly welcomed by GE colleagues,” a statement proven by the fact that 130 employees (15% of their workforce) took part in the scheme, “feedback has been very positive and has resulted in colleagues becoming involved in other cycling related activities.”

As the scheme grew in popularity it became evident that there was definitely a cycling buzz in the air. Taking a proactive, and refreshingly forward-thinking, approach GE decided to embrace this modal shift in behavior and address what else they could do for those who were now cycling to work.

“The scheme has had such a positive impact we have invested in new shower and changing facilities for colleagues and are now installing new bike storage facilities,” explained Ivan. An extravagant step, you might think, but the initial costs for installing facilities like these can often be offset against numerous benefits, and can quickly pale in comparison to the advantages of being a cycle-friendly employer.

“GE aims to be an employer of choice in employee wellbeing,” Ivan revealed – and they have certainly taken this role on with a fantastic level of enthusiasm and commitment.

“We believe that by investing in cycling activities we have fitter, healthier colleagues, improved commitment and will be helping to protect the environment through lower emissions and reduced traffic congestion,” Ivan continued to explain.

As is often the case, the more you put in, the more you get out. Ivan and his team found that as they devoted more time to encouraging the positive behavior their Cycle to Work scheme was instilling, more and more people got involved and soon enough it wasn’t just about getting on a bike to commute, it begun to encourage positive behavior outside of the workplace too, as Ivan remarked, “participation in charity cycle rides has been a great way for colleagues at different hierarchical levels and from different departments to interact and work together.”

When asked what advice he would give to other employers considering running a Cycle to Work scheme and installing cycling facilities, Ivan commented that, “employers should fully consider such benefits when they consider whether to grant the relatively low investment required to support cycling”. Sage advice, we think.

GE’s story is truly inspiring, and a shining example of how cycling to work needn’t be just about savings and getting your hands on the latest bikes but how, with a little work from both employers and employees alike, we can all work together towards a better working and living environment for us all.

Hopefully we’ll hear more stories like this hitting the headlines soon.

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