The month of May is Bike to Work month across Canada: a time when employers, cycling groups, and local governments encourage workers to try riding a bike over other forms of transit. May 17 is Bike to Work Day, and places a special emphasis for cycling as transit. While there are many commuting options with their own pros and cons, cycling is a method with many underappreciated benefits for all workplaces.
There is no shortage of studies across Canada and beyond that tout the merits of cycling for individuals: better physical health, better mental health, a better connection to community, and a stronger sense of how their cities are laid out. Additionally, a city with well-planned cycling routes can get employees to work faster than public transit or even driving. There’s also the financial benefit: the cost of a bicycle (including the maintenance and associated costs) is dramatically lower than owning a car or even using public transit. Although the physical exertion required may be a barrier for some, the new generation of electric bicycles (both fully electric and hybrid pedal/electric drive) are making cycling much more accessible for people of all levels of ability. Even though there are these many benefits, barriers to cycling still exist, and while it varies from place-to-place, appropriate infrastructure often tops the list.
So we see employees can benefit from cycling, but what’s in it for employers? A lot, as it turns out:
- Healthier and happier employees, which results in less sick days and better productivity
- Potentially shorter commute times, which means punctual employees and more flexibility around work hours, as well as more time saved for your staff to enjoy themselves
- Cost savings for employees, which raises their disposable income without needing a raise
- Reductions in parking needs and a subsequent drop in employer overhead
Any responsible employer also cares about their community and municipality, and cycling has additional benefits in that area, too. Cyclists are shown to have a higher contribution to local economies because of the nature of their travel. The environmental benefits are obvious: cycling has a minimal negative impact on the air and ecology. It’s fair to say that an organization that enables its staff to commute by bike is a more considerate and positive member of the community.
Understanding these many benefits, there are several ways that employers can support biking to work. On-site infrastructure and facilities are one way, which can be as simple as having secure bike parking and showers for your staff. You can also pick work sites and offices with a fuller appreciation for transit options: select or build your workplaces where they can be easily accessed by bikes and public transit. Furthermore, employers (and especially large employers) can work with local city planners to advocate for better infrastructure like bike lanes. As the backbone of economies, employers certainly can ask for infrastructure that makes it easier and more effective for residents to work.
You can’t expect that all your employees can commute by bike, and certainly not all the time—we’re all at the mercy of Canada’s weather. But by fostering a cycling-friendly workplace and making sure you provide the necessities that your staff need for biking, you can see a large shift in the satisfaction and productivity of your workforce. Being Bike to Work month, and with the warmest months of the year ahead of us, there’s no better time to start exploring the ways you can make your workplace bike-friendly.