How businesses in Wales can benefit from cycling

During Bike Week, Cycling UK's engagement officer in Wales Gwenda Owen considers some of the ways lockdown and Covid 19 have changed cycling in Wales.

It’s Bike Week in Wales as it is across the UK but it’s not like any Bike Week we’ve seen before, we’d ordinarily be organising rides and events. Our colleagues in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland have all faced the same challenges. 

This year in Wales we had started planning a big bike breakfast at Ride My Bike Café in Cardiff with some of the first businesses and organisations in Wales to become accredited Cycle Friendly Employers, the scheme which enables employers to Integrate cycling into their business in a positive and simple way. We were looking forward to hearing Swansea University share their learning from going through the process of accreditation with businesses and other organisations who may not yet be quite as enthused as they are of the benefits of creating a cycling culture at work. However, that is all on hold.

In Wales, the schools remain closed and we are not allowed to travel further than a few miles. Those of us who can continue to work from home and universities and business premises remain largely unoccupied.

Despite these drastic changes to all our lives, throughout lockdown cycling has remained a live topic. Many of us who ordinarily cycle have been using it to retain some semblance of normality in our lives. But it’s not just the usual suspects who have been cycling during lockdown.

A combination no doubt of; the quiet roads, the spare time, the urge to make the most of that once a day permitted exercise and the sun, have seen an unprecedented number of people new and returning to cycling.

As we start to plan for shops, businesses, and schools to reopen there has been a quick realisation that our towns and cities wont work if we return to ‘normal’ ways of travelling capacity on public transport will be limited and with 30% of households in Cardiff for example not having access to a car something needed to be done.

Recognising this the Welsh Government invited all Local Authorities to bid for funds for temporary infrastructure to allow safe distancing for walking and cycling. Deputy Minister Lee Waters said "For the sake of the air we all breathe, the world’s climate and public health, we need to try and lock in this shift and avoid returning to pre-Covid travel patterns."

We rallied our supporters into action and Local Authorities across Wales were urged to take action and by the deadline of 21 May all 22 had submitted bids and many are consulting on ideas to make space for walking and cycling.

As the capital city, it is probably unsurprising that Cardiff had already started to develop plans as to how the city would reopen ‘to allow Cardiff to get back on its feet and rebuild for the future’.

Working with a wide range of stakeholders they have produced the Cardiff Recovery Strategy  and the way people travel into and around the city is a key part of the plan. The strategy says: "Local business operators have expressed a desire to take advantage of some of the behavioural and working practice changes, by retaining the positive elements highlighted by the impact of Covid-19. These include; increased opportunities for home working; an improved environment (such as, air quality & use of open spaces) reduced commuter transport demand; more use of cycling and improved cycle facilities and improved safe walking opportunities."

As well as recognising the benefits to employees and visitors gained by being able to access the city centre by bike and foot, this recognise that it is good for the economy.

Benefits for businesses 

Evidence shows that cycling is good for business! Healthier and happier employees tend to be more productive, for many a commute by car is a stressful experience and being an employer who is seen to be supporting their workforce and their local community by helping reduce congestion and pollution has to be a good thing. 

The business case for cycling has never been stronger, improving the conditions for your employees to cycle can bring benefits not only to your business, but to your town or city as a whole. Research has shown that active commuters take fewer sick days, are more productive in work and in the current climate, cycling will allow your employees to return to work in a socially distanced way, leaving public transport for those who need to use it. We also know that cyclists and pedestrians will visit a High Street more times each month than people who drive there, and that cycle parking can deliver a far higher return on investment for businesses than car parking can.

In Cardiff, 2/3 of residents agree that more cycling would make their area a better place to live and work so not only can it benefit business, but it also has your employees backing.

It's really exciting at the moment having conversations with people across Wales about the potential for some positive gains for cycling to come out of this current crisis. So if you to want to have a conversation about cycling and find out more about our Cycle Friendly Employer Scheme then get in touch.  If you’re not quite sure where to start or want to know what else you can do to make it easier for your staff to cycle to work, Cycling UK has a range of ways we can support you and your colleagues.

Look forward to hearing from you!