NHS workers are even more amazing by bike

Last year's staff bike breakfast at NELFT
Last year's staff bike breakfast at NELFT
Workers at an NHS trust covering London and Essex are setting a shining example by using bikes for community health visits as well as commuting

This year’s Bike Week focuses on health and wellbeing, and we’ve also been highlighting the benefits for staff and employers of cycling to work as people return to offices. The nation’s key workers, of course, have been keeping going throughout the pandemic, and we spoke to one NHS trust that has taken cycling to heart.

NELFT NHS Foundation Trust provides a range of community and mental health services across north east London and Essex, and has been encouraging staff not only to cycle to work, but to cycle for work – for example when carrying out home visits, or journeying between the trust’s sites.

Anita Anderson is the trust’s travel plan co-ordinator, based at the Jane Atkinson Health and Wellbeing Centre in Walthamstow, and a great advocate for cycling. “We have a really diverse range of cyclists in NELFT from a variety of backgrounds, ages, ethnic groups and occupations,” she says. “We work with staff to encourage them to cycle and to do as much as we can to remove the barriers that might put them off.” The trust set up a Bicycle User Group (BUG) last year and celebrated Cycle to Work day with a bike breakfast for staff.

Through Brompton’s crowd-funded Wheels for Heroes scheme, NELFT staff are able to hire a folding bike for a month free of charge, and then at half-price (£15 a month) for 90 days, so they can “try before they buy”.

It was a little scary to start cycling to work. But my confidence soon improved... I would advise anyone who has a bike to give it a go, even one or two days a week

Gareth, clinical lead, NELFT

“If people have never embraced cycling, the Bromptons are great because it allows them to use multi-modal transport,” Anita says. “They have the security of knowing they can fold the bike up and catch the bus or train if they need to.

“We want to encourage that flexibility – some people might not have an easy commute to work by bike but our message is that even if they drive to work, it doesn’t mean they have to drive for work.”

Through a dockless e-bike provider, NELFT has a fleet of seven branded bikes for staff to use in their day-to-day work. “Our staff really like having the branding – it shows that you are doing a journey for work, which can make other road users more considerate, and you can also easily spot colleagues out and about.”

Unfortunately, the current hire provider’s service is soon coming to an end, so NELFT is on the lookout for a new fleet of e-bikes to keep its healthcare workers moving.

NELFT staff member Gareth

In the meantime, the trust is motivating more staff to get pedalling by highlighting “cycling stars” who feature on posters around the site. One is Gareth, a clinical lead in the integrated community team. “I’m not really a road cyclist, preferring off-road, so it was a little scary to start cycling to work,” he says. “But my confidence soon improved and I have also found many routes with little cycling on main roads, using canal towpaths and cycle lanes. I would advise anyone who has a bike to give it a go, even one or two days a week.”

Another is Norman, a physiotherapist, who has been cycling for three years. “I wanted to improve my general fitness and carry out follow-up visits in the community,” he says. “I started off using a normal bike, but then developed ‘trigger finger’ in my right thumb. I changed to an e-bike – problem solved!

"Cycling reduces the risk of traffic fines as well as your carbon footprint. Finding parking in Waltham Forest is challenging at the best of times!”

For more on how to encourage staff to cycle to work, catch up on our Bike Week LinkedIn Live session, and see our Cycle Friendly Employer pages.