Poor facilities in Birmingham offices deter cyclists from getting back in the saddle

Rob Groves

Fewer than one in 10 office workers across Birmingham and the Midlands cycle to work because companies fail to provide facilities such as showers and secure storage, the British Council for Offices (BCO) has revealed.

The BCO’s latest research found that just 7% of workers in the region cycle to their workplaces.

The research comes after the Government published its £1.2bn Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy to double the number of people cycling by 2025.

In Birmingham, commuting accounts for 33.1% of all bicycle journeys undertaken, a Bike Life survey undertaken by Sustrans found.

The BCO report concluded that better quality facilities at workplaces would encourage more cyclists. Nationally, one in 10 offices offer no facilities at all while less than half provide covered secure storage.

Rob Groves, of property developer Argent and chairman of the BCO Midlands and East Anglia committee, said: “The Department for Transport has publicised its aims to double the number of cyclists on the roads. Against this ambitious backdrop, progress is being made and we have seen a substantial increase in cycling trips over the last few years.

“Having said that, much more must be done especially when it comes to the facilities office workers are provided with. The environmental and health benefits of cycling are well documented, so it is a mode of transport that must be encouraged.

“We have reached a tipping point now. Facilitating for cyclists is no longer an afterthought for designers and employers, but instead is now at the forefront of the planning stages. Now it is time for the workplaces to evolve too.”

As cycling becomes more widespread, workplaces now need to provide facilities which can cope with the rising demand, he added.

Neil Webster, director of Remit Consulting, author of the BCO report, said: “As cycling continues to rise in popularity, ostensibly the most pressing issue for businesses will be finding the space for bikes, lockers and storage. However, our research shows that the focus needs to be on the quality of the facilities offered, not just the quantity.

“Alongside safe storage and showers, there is a clear demand for towels, hairdryers and complementary toiletries. This kind of service provision may not just encourage existing employees to cycle to work, it could also act as a market differentiator for prospective employees, and even have a positive impact on lettability.”

The report also highlighted that workers opt for cycling due to its health benefits, enjoyment and because it’s a cheap form of transport. Driving remains the most used form of transport with 60% of workers across the country opting to get behind the wheel.

The length of the commute and the time it would take to travel to work by bike, dangerous roads and poor cycling routes were reasons given for a lack of cyclists.

The government wants cycling and walking to become the norm by 2040 and will target funding and innovative ways to encourage people on to a bike or to use their own two feet for shorter journeys. Plans include specific objectives to double cycling, reduce cycling accidents and increase the proportion of five to 10 year-olds walking to school to 55% by 2025.

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