South Yorkshire public health and activity chiefs have praised local businesses promoting cycling to work, and are asking more local bosses to welcome cycle commuters as if they were le Tour stage winners.
Local authorities reckon there are 20-30 employers in South Yorkshire who are doing their best to encourage cycling to work, and aim to at least treble that number this year.
Employers and employees across the region are being asked to sign up for the free ‘Love to Ride - Cycle September’ programme this summer, which aims to engage at least 100 local workplaces and over 1,000 individuals in a friendly prize-winning competition to ride the most miles in September, and for regular cyclists to encourage seldom-cycling colleagues to give it a go.
“It’s proven that the healthier you are, the more productive you are, and the less likely you are to be off work poorly,” said Sheffield’s head of Public Health Greg Fell, who cycles 12 miles a day as part of his journey to work. “When people are concerned about the quality of our air it’s the right thing for employers to do, but there’s also a real business bottom line in encouraging people to cycle to work. It saves money, is cheaper, and it’s often quicker. I gave up my gym membership when I started cycling to work, and that saving pays for my family holiday.”
Council transport officers say funding for cycling schemes is easier to justify when cycling numbers increase, as they have in South Yorkshire over recent years. Funding for the ‘Cycle September’ programme came from a £7.5m Access Fund for Sustainable Travel grant from the government, the largest awarded in the country this year.
Jo Pearce, Sheffield Council’s head of Physical Activity and Sport, has been cycling to work for seven years, and says it’s safe, fun and practical. “Being inactive is such a terrible thing for people, so I think building activity into your working day is the key,” she said. “I’m working and I’ve got a little girl, and it’s hard to fit in going to the gym. So I take my daughter to nursery and then bike into work, which is a far less stressful journey for us than driving, and it’s great for me and my little girl to start our day in an active way.”
“It’s very simple: the more people cycle, the more people cycle,” said Rosie Frazer of Love to Ride. “If there are more cyclists out and about, it makes drivers more aware of them, it makes the roads safer and less congested for everyone, and people thinking about riding a bike say: ‘Well if she or he can do it, so can I!’”
Cycle September is part of South Yorkshire’s Inmotion! programme of Sustainable Travel initiatives, and is also part of the MoveMore campaign to make Sheffield the UK’s most active city by 2020.
“More local businesses are encouraging staff to cycle to work,” said Andy Picken of MoveMore. “Small and medium sized businesses particularly are seeing cycling as a way to reduce absenteeism while improving productivity at the same time.” He cited a recent study by HR Magazine that showed 89% of bosses reckoned cyclists had more energy at work.
Over 50 businesses have already signed up to Cycle September, with participants and companies competing for prizes including cinema tickets, meals at local restaurants, bikes and accessories. West Yorkshire are taking part too, so the competitive element will also pitch Sheffield, Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley against Leeds, Wakefield, Bradford and Huddersfield.
“I visit Leeds and I’m pretty sure there are a lot more cyclists here, so I’d urge all local cyclists to sign up,” said Jo Pearce. “It’ll lead to a healthier and happier South Yorkshire.”
For more information and to register, see: lovetoride.net/southyorkshire