Cycling to work is growing in popularity, but as end-of-route specialist Justin Sires tells Sara Bean, too many are put off by the lack of good end-of-route facilities
A major study published last year in the British Medical Journal found that cycling to work could halve the risk of cancer and heart disease. The five-year study of 250,000 UK commuters stated that “cycle commuting was associated with a lower risk of CVD, cancer, and ‘all cause’ mortality”. Those who combine cycling with other forms of transport, such as rail travel, in their daily commute also enjoy health benefits.
To help encourage people to take up cycling in this country, the Department for Transport published a £1.2 billion cycling and walking investment strategy in April last year. The aim is to improve the cycling infrastructure and expand cycle routes to ensure “more people have access to safe, attractive routes for cycling and walking by 2040”.
At present, one to two per cent of all trips in the UK are made by bike, according to sustainable transport charity, Sustrans. However, the popularity of cycling to work is increasing in the major conurbations. Figures from Transport for London (TfL) show that 25 per cent of all rush-hour road users are cyclists, while in Birmingham, where currently three per cent of residents cycle to and from work, there are ambitious plans to increase that figure. These include the creation of cycle super-highways on two of the major roads, the A38 and A34.
One important consideration when encouraging more people to cycle is parking space. Deloitte’s London Office Crane Survey Summer 2017 revealed that 14,000 bike spaces are being built in office schemes currently under construction in the capital. However, cyclists also need changing facilities, which is where many offices fall short. Research commissioned by the British Council for Offices and carried out by Neil Webster of Remit Consulting revealed that of the 83 per cent of workplaces in the UK that offered some form of bike storage, less than half (47 per cent) was covered and secure.
Even basic facilities for cyclists were lacking. Less than half of these facilities included showers – something which a quarter of workers said was essential if they were to consider commuting by bike. The research also emphasised the quality of the facilities, not just the quantity. People look for things like towels, hairdryers and complimentary toiletries alongside showers and lockers. According to the report authors: “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.”
FIVE AT HEART
In May of this year, Five at Heart, which designs and creates bespoke bicycle storage and changing room facilities in the UK, Europe, North America and South East Asia, launched a rating tool for tenants to gauge end-of-route facilities. The firm, previously known as PFL Spaces, has acquired a host of cycling-friendly property developers and estate teams as clients, and wanted a way for their occupiers and end users to rate the type and quality of the facilities offered to cyclists.
Says Sires, co-founder and Head of Europe: “The cycle heart rating is very much about the fact that we can make people aware of whether their facilities are certified and usable for tenants, and what more they could do to enhance it. Sometimes property managers are unaware of how they could improve these kinds of facilities – or they might have some great features, but they want to market it better.
“We provide this free rating tool to estimate the quality of end-of-route facilities, as our ethos is ‘if you build it they will come’. This means getting better outcomes and helping owners advertise they have a really good space.”
The tool allows a cyclist to rate an end-to-end office cycle facility against five key criteria. The first is the route – the path of travel. The next two are about bike space and changing facilities. The fourth concerns the experience – convenience, communication and culture. The last is about that extra something, the X factor that raises it above the norm. Those that make the grade are listed on Five at Heart’s website, offering the only international rating system for cycling facilities.