On Your Bike: Could You Cycle to the Office?
With so much emphasis on sustainable measures, going green and reducing the carbon footprint of our daily lives, ever new and innovative schemes are springing up to help us conserve energy. In most cases, these ideas often have the added and immediate benefit of helping us to save cash – a welcome relief in today’s rocky economy and high cost of living.
One such idea is the Cycle to Work scheme – a government initiative that was introduced as part of the Green Transport Plan and enables employers to loan bicycles and associated equipment, such as helmets, as a tax-free benefit to employees.
The advantages are obvious. As well as being a healthier alternative to driving or using public transport, cyclists will save massive amounts of money by side-stepping expensive fuel pumps, public transport and car parking costs. It helps to cut down on rush-hour congestion and who knows – could even help to reduce road rage too!
Then of course, the more people that get out on their bike rather than starting their car will help to cut down carbon emissions, and collectively we can work towards making our environment a more sustainable one.
In an ideal world it sounds perfect. But we all know that life doesn’t quite work out so easily.
Firstly, the ability to cycle to work is only available to a select few – namely those that live within a few miles of the office, and that don’t have to negotiate motorways or busy A-roads to get there.
Then there’s the British weather – that old chestnut – which routinely stands in the way of every good intention. While the lure of cheaper journeys and a greener environment will get a lot of people out of bed an hour earlier to cycle to work, opening the curtains to driving rain, sleet or thick fog will no doubt put even the most seasoned cyclist off.
Safety is a key issue – and while our UK cities might be welcoming more and more cyclists onto its streets, bikes are still in the minority, and too many car or van drivers still struggle to deal with those two-wheeled people-powered devices. Stories continually pepper news sites about accidents and set-tos involving angry cyclists and indignant drivers – such as this incident filmed by a cyclist in Bexley, and another in Manchester (footage on BBC news website).
Similarly for anyone that has tried to cycle to work in rural Britain, the daunting draft of a lorry whistling past at 60mph or an impatient commuter on narrow country lanes could – and does – send some cyclists back to their cars.
Another key issue is facilities in the workplace. Ever-increasing numbers of London offices are installing showers and secure cycle storage units to encourage their tenants and employees to cycle to work, but some aren’t so lucky. Who wants to cycle to work without the promise of a hot shower at the end of the journey?
There are plenty of pros and cons – for many, the cost-savings are a huge advantage and prove to outweigh the negatives. With the help of government schemes such as Cycle to Work – backed up by heavyweight companies such as Halfords – cycling to the office is becoming more accessible, albeit slowly.
Do you cycle to the office? What are the main pros and cons in your view? Leave your thoughts in the comment box below.