What companies are doing to encourage bicycle use.
Our love affair with the car has sadly been tainted by congestion, smog and road rage. Much vehicle use is down to people going to and from work, so employers are coming under pressure to help reduce our dependency on motor vehicles. One way of doing this is to encourage staff to cycle to work. What are companies doing to encourage the trend - and what should they be doing?
The Nottingham headquarters of Boots plc recently won a £33,000 grant from the Department of Transport for easing congestion, with cycling one of the many options encouraged. With the grant, Boots has improved shower and bike shed facilities. Currently, 400 of its 5,500 Nottingham staff ride to work and Boots hope to increase this by 50% by the year 2000. Explains Sandra Rosa, corporate affairs manager, 'It's about recognising that we must do as much as possible to help staff travel to work in an environmentally-friendly way.'
As might be expected, that doyen of corporate greenery, the Body Shop, is also active in this area. The company has a link with Raleigh whereby staff can buy a bike and repay the cost over ten months. Explains spokesperson Simon Hame: 'Last time over 300 people bought bikes - this time round Raleigh have dedicated an officer to deal solely with Body Shop enquiries.' And, while there are carrots, there are also sticks - such as the 'no car day' on which staff who travel in alone by car will be penalised.
BAA, which operates in some of the most congested corners of this asphalted isle, are likewise taking steps to curb car use - in this case sinking large sums into public - and alternative - transport. The lion's share of this is swallowed up by the high-speed Heathrow rail link, but bike owners are paid 16p a mile to cycle and drivers who give up their parking permits are paid £200. Moreover BAA persuaded 100 car-devoted volunteers to get on their bikes for a six-month trial; with the trial over, 70 continue to cycle.
The public sector has also been busy. At Barnet General Hospital, a green commuter plan has been developed. As Sue McLellan, the operations manager of Barnet General Hospital Trust, explains, 'We've tried to make bike use attractive to staff by offering a grant of £60 towards purchase. If take-up's sufficient, we'll provide changing facilities and secure areas.'
Maybe percentages are what it comes down to. According to Neil Verlander of Friends of the Earth, '75% of all journeys are under five miles - that makes them ideal for cycling'. In Denmark 18% of all journeys are made by bike, and in Holland, the figure stands at a remarkable 27%. The figure for the UK, meanwhile, is under 2%. We can't be that different to our continental brethren: perhaps a push in the right direction is all we need.