Pictures: Cycle schemes are helping to create a fitter generation

The Floow, the 200th company to sign up to South Yorkshire's Love to Ride scheme
The Floow, the 200th company to sign up to South Yorkshire's Love to Ride scheme

Studies show how cycling to work helps staff and companies... by increasing the reliability of employees and taking away the stress on journeys

‘Now is the time for change’, says Kathryn Close. Working in a city centre where a yellow bike is liable to turn up expectantly on almost any street corner, Kathryn has seen how the 1970s ‘City on the Move’ will be moving in future.

“It’s becoming much more normal for people to cycle now, and I don’t think it’s sensible for businesses to ignore that.”

Kathryn works for global engineering and management consultants Mott MacDonald, where the number of staff in the 150-strong Sheffield office regularly cycling to work has climbed to 18.5 per cent since an office move last year, according to travel planner Kathryn’s surveys. Now the sun has arrived, her cycle commuting colleagues reckon there will soon be one in five staff cycling in to work.

This is unprecedented in Sheffield, where for years the University of Sheffield has been rightly proud of its investment in getting almost 10 per cent of staff regularly riding to work, a figure comparable to companies taking advantage of the millions of pounds of cycling investment in London. Now, with the arrival of the ofo share bike scheme and the rise of e-bikes, one in 10 staff cycling to work is nothing unusual in the Outdoor (and hilly) City.

South Yorkshire’s free Love to Ride cycling scheme has now clocked up its 200th local company aiming to get more staff cycling to work.

“For us, cycling is good for the wellbeing of the people in the company,” said Rebecca Bell of The Floow, who became the 200th Love to Ride organisation last week.

“Many of our 100 plus staff cycle but we want to encourage more. For the health benefits and from the perspectives of reducing traffic and improving the environment, it makes sense for us to encourage our team members to take part.”

The Floow, whose new Sheffield base is just off The Wicker, use smartphone telematics to help companies and local authorities across the world monitor traffic movements. “We’re very interested in how people travel, and how different road users work together, and want to make travel safer for everybody,” said Rebecca.

The Love to Ride scheme is part of South Yorkshire’s inmotion! programme of Sustainable Travel initiatives funded by a £7.5m grant from the government.

Organisers are asking all pro-cycling local companies to join the free scheme, which encourages commuter and leisure cycling with prizes like holidays and bikes on offer to people and companies who sign up and log their miles. In Sheffield, Love to Ride companies will also be offered loan trials of e-bikes later in the year.

“Cyclists are fitter, healthier and generally happier people,” said Kathryn Close. “And if people feel better, they’re more likely to be productive. There are lots of studies showing how cycling to work helps staff and companies. It increases reliability and takes away stress on journeys, for example. We have a woman here who now uses an e-bike which means she knows she can get to her children on time after work, which makes a difference.”

After the success at their Sheffield office, Kathryn and colleagues will be passing on their findings to Sheffield’s Chamber of Commerce to help local companies increase cycling staff, and will be advising Mott MacDonald offices around the world.

“We’re being seen as a flagship,” said Darren Burrows, who now manages the company’s Sheffield ‘Bicycle User Group’ – a mailing list so staff and management can liaise on cycling issues.

“We feel what we’re doing is helping the city by reducing congestion and creating a healthier population,” said Kathryn. “Cycling is wonderful, and the more people who access it the better.”

Tips for Cycling Companies

- Consult with staff about what they need to help them cycle more

- South Yorkshire’s Inmotion! team can help with surveys and travel planning for staff

- Senior management supporting and encouraging cycling is crucial

- Secure parking for modern bikes under threat from thieves

- Washing, drying and kit storage facilities to make life easier for cycling and non-cycling staff

- Incentives like salary sacrifice bike buying schemes, or winning prizes on the Love to Ride programme.