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2 in 5 office workers woud cycle commute if facilities improved

Secure parking, showers and somewhere to dry clothes are all important for an active commute

Four in ten office workers would commute by bike — if their workspace offered better facilities, a survey has found.

New research published by the British Council for Offices found that if the cycling targets set by the government are to be reached, businesses need to take the lead in making it easier for employees.

16 per cent of office workers said they were discouraged from the active commute by poor facilities.

83 per cent of offices had some form of bike parking, but less than half was covered and secure. 45 per cent have no showers, something that was important to a quarter of respondents.

According to Bikebiz, Remit Consulting director Neil Webster 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, 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 complimentary 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.”

It’s not a new problem; in April we reported how a study of workplaces in London’s City and West End has found that cycle commuters lack showers, places to dry their kit and safe bike storage, with its authors urging employers to make better provision for those who choose to get to work by bike.

Researchers from ESCP Business School in northwest London were commissioned to carry out a study of provision for cyclists at work premises in the capital by real estate firm Evans Randall Investors.

They found that most of the 61 businesses surveyed had failed to meet the boom in cycling to work that has helped fuel a 133 per cent rise in the number of trips made by bicycle in the capital from 2000-15, according to TfL, before the opening of two new Cycle Superhighways last year.

According to the survey, only one in five workplaces provided a room where cyclists could dry their kit and fewer still had somewhere to hang up suits and other workwear overnight. On average, offices provided one shower per 240 workers.

Where cycle storage was provided, 60 per cent of them were reported to be full or almost full every day.

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21 comments

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Cyc-lok | 6 years ago
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Here at Cyc-lok Ltd. we are hoping to give cyclists the peace of mind to park their bike and belongings securely at work.  You can even use your current RFID staff card to get access and it is multiuser so available for everyone (even if you're a fair weather cyclist cycling a couple of times a year!) check out our website to learn some more and contact me with any questions;-) Louise

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Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
1 like

I'm dressed in as little as possible on the commute with a selection of clothes I've left in my drawers to change into when I get there. I have to use the car once a week as I've got to do the school pickup and then over to grandparents 20 miles away, so I can take all my dirty stuff and swap for a clean selection on that day. Some days it's pissing it down or I'm just not feeling great so it'll be car again. 

I don't get the commuters that are dressed like it's raining in the middle of winter all year round. Some of these people must be drenched in sweat. As I've said, full lycra and no layers when possible and keeping the heart rate under 120 keeps me fairly sweat free by the time I get to work. 

As for the 4/10, I don't believe that. Most of the lazy bastards where I work barely move from their desks even at breaks. 4/10 just getting any exercise by having a walk at dinnertime would be amazing. Most people talk a good exercise but never do anything. 

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Awavey | 6 years ago
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the problem is to ride on the roads to most places of work, you have to usually ride at a pace that tends to mean you get warm and sticky at the best of times, and downright ugh the rest, no-one wants to sit in an office all day still feeling warm and sticky or ugh. hence most people believe they need showers for cycling, and remember lots of these people are going to be riding in voluminous hi viz jackets and jeans, even on the warmest days of the year. Personally I find work showers more ugh to deal with so actually although our place has them I dont use them, and have enough dry shower/baby wipes I can just about cope if Ive melted on a ride in, but certainly wearing breathable cycling gear helps you cool down alot, but that was something I learnt how to do over time, a newbie would always assume you bike, you need a shower.

the biggest issue I think is secure bike parking, and having lots more of it, our cycle racks are full, be less full if the Brompton users actually folded up their bikes and took them with them, so Im sure people look at our rack and think well theres nowhere to leave the bike...and then do the oh yeah I need a shower etc etc.

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broomie | 6 years ago
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Our parents when they cycled to work did not have showers nice though they are to have. For over 40 years I cycled to work and its a "squaddie" wash shirt off!  Yes some peeps embarassed but get over it!

In essence cycling to work is about planning. I see folks with mega rucksacks with ALL their work clothes in them... why?

At work leave a pair of shoes, trousers skirts jackets etc (think of the space you save at home).

 

All you need is fresh top daily ( and come on even that is peer pressure see -what did your mum and dad do?).

 

Oh and leave a lock at work no point lugging that to and from home and work.

 

Musty cycle gear is an issue but I tend to fin you can seek out an old cleaning cupboard, server room or the like! Where i alst worked we hada home drying wire thing which did teh trick in the corner as there were about 20% cyclists in office.

 

Oh and lastly lots of old papers to stuff in your cycle shoes when they are totally drenched.

 

Paul

 

 

 

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srchar replied to broomie | 6 years ago
1 like
broomie wrote:

Our parents when they cycled to work did not have showers nice though they are to have.

It was considerably easier for our parents to get well-paid jobs that would support a family close to there they lived.  My mum and dad walked to work within a mile of our house.

Can we add stupidly long commutes to the ever-growing list of societal ills caused by crazy housing costs?

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Chuck | 6 years ago
3 likes

I have a very hard time believing that 2 in 5 people would start cyling to work once showers and lockers were provided. Lack of facilities might well be on the list of things that discourage people but I suspect fear and laziness are much bigger ones. I wonder what questions the survey actually asked though? 

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Richard D | 6 years ago
2 likes

"Secure parking, showers and somewhere to dry clothes are all important for an active commute".

My workplace has all three, plus lockers, a track pump and quite a few cycle lanes leading to or past the building where about 300 of us work.

And three people commute by bike.  That number might double on days with glorious weather, but that's the limit.  So where are the other 114 bike commuters that this survey suggests I should be seeing in the bike shed each morning?

As I step in through the doors in the morning, most of my colleagues say "you're very brave to ride a bike on the roads, I wouldn't do it".  Nobody has ever asked about the bike shed, showers or storage.

So my anecdotal evidence is that facilities at the end of the ride are only a tiny factor in determining whether people will cycle to work.  The real issue is road safety - or the perceived lack of it. So everyone carries on driving, no matter that it is the preponderance of cars on the road that makes riding a bike too frightening for most.

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ConcordeCX replied to Richard D | 6 years ago
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Richard D wrote:

"Secure parking, showers and somewhere to dry clothes are all important for an active commute".

My workplace has all three, plus lockers, a track pump and quite a few cycle lanes leading to or past the building where about 300 of us work.

And three people commute by bike.  That number might double on days with glorious weather, but that's the limit.  So where are the other 114 bike commuters that this survey suggests I should be seeing in the bike shed each morning?

As I step in through the doors in the morning, most of my colleagues say "you're very brave to ride a bike on the roads, I wouldn't do it".  Nobody has ever asked about the bike shed, showers or storage.

So my anecdotal evidence is that facilities at the end of the ride are only a tiny factor in determining whether people will cycle to work.  The real issue is road safety - or the perceived lack of it. So everyone carries on driving, no matter that it is the preponderance of cars on the road that makes riding a bike too frightening for most.

i suspect it's more a matter of local culture. I work in an office building in Central London with about 1000 other people. We have secure garage cycle parking and overflow into an interior courtyard, space for several hundred bikes, and it's almost always full. We have a relatively limited number of lockers which are heavily oversubscribed, and four showers, which I never have to queue for because people stagger their start times. It works very well on the whole, but the place does have a particularly bikey culture in a very bikey part of town.

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jhsmith87 | 6 years ago
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Gym style lockers please. I'm 30 & have commuted for half my life to see friends & go to uni/work. I can count the amount of times I have showered at my destination on one hand. 

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cczmark | 6 years ago
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I worked at a company where there are cycle lockers and a shower, plus local cycle routes leading to the building. Only 3 or 4 frequent cyclists, a very high proportion of employees live within 3 miles and drive.

When they also use the lift to go from the ground floor to the 2nd floor there clearly needs to be some element of stick as well as a carrot.....

Agree with the previous poster that it is the perceived and actual danger to cyclists that puts people off.

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Mungecrundle | 6 years ago
1 like

No, most of them would just find another "good" reason not to cycle.

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Simon E | 6 years ago
2 likes

The biggest obstacle by far is the perceived danger of riding on the road.

While it's true that lots of employers could do more to help their employees, lots of people seem to want the moon on a stick. Take your own microfibre travel towel. Buy a compact hairdryer that is kept in a locker. Excuses, excuses. And I struggle to believe that many offices have nowhere to hang clothes overnight.

IME showers etc are not a dealbreaker, a strip wash is fine if you don't participate in the drag race between traffic lights or indulge in SCR (Silly Commuter Racing) on the way to work. Although I recognise that others may feel differently. My biggest beef is with the lack of drying facilities for wet days.

burtthebike wrote:

Build it and they will come.

Very true.

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srchar | 6 years ago
1 like

Increasing cycle parking provision is going to take legislation. My preference would be minimum ratios of cycle spaces per employee or cycle parking to car parking.

I work for a large bank in Canary Wharf.  They display posters around the office telling us all both how green the company is and how much they care about employee welfare.  However, the cycle parking waiting list stretches into years.  The cycle parking itself consists of a few tens of spaces, for three thousand staff.  There are more cars parked in the basement than bikes.  Car parking spaces are only available to those of a certain pay grade or above, so they are seen as a status symbol.

The showers are nice, but they should be for £10 a month.  Which I don't mind, since you also get a towel and toiletries.  However, recently, they have introduced a rule that you can't leave kit in lockers during the day, nor work clothes in them overnight.  There's nowhere else to leave kit.

Basically, they've made it a pain in the arse to cycle commute any distance by limiting access to secure parking and storage.  Bimbling in wearing normal clothes on a bike you're happy to leave locked up outside is fine if you live a few miles away, but many don't.  You can't ride 20km in the current heat in a reasonable time without working up a sweat.

This corporate hypocrisy will only go away with legislation. So, I'm not holding my breath.

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burtthebike | 6 years ago
4 likes

This is hardly news and has been known for many years.

At one company I worked, they grudgingly installed one shower, claiming that no-one would use it.  Within weeks there were queues of people.  Build it and they will come.

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madcarew replied to burtthebike | 6 years ago
2 likes
burtthebike wrote:

This is hardly news and has been known for many years.

At one company I worked, they grudgingly installed one shower, claiming that no-one would use it.  Within weeks there were queues of people.  Build it and they will come.

What Mr Di2 said (On a side note, is he the love child of R2D2 and C3PO?).

I managed a business in Norfolk with a staff of 18. 2 rode to work, and we thought that being only 10 miles from Norwich we might encourage others to cycle as well. When we looked in to the cost of shower facilities the cost was quite frankly ridiculous. It was well over 20 grand, and the health and safety requirements and ongoing costs of those made it completely pointless (it would have been cheaper to provide a taxi ride to work for those 2 cyclists every day). However, there are often options, and we arranged for them to be able to use the showers at the golf club next door so long as they were there before 7.30 am.

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congokid | 6 years ago
2 likes

I've been commuting by bike to work since the mid-80s and on only a couple of occasions have I needed to use a shower at work, and that was because I was having a new bathroom fitted at home (it was also one of the few places I've worked over the years that had showers). Storage lockers and changing space would be nice, but in my book showers are absolutely not essential. Do people in countries with a high cycling modal share require showers after every bicycle trip to work, school, or back home? Somehow I doubt it.

What is necessary however is secure parking space for bicycles. For many newbie cycling commuters, having their nice new shiny bike nicked is very likely to be a deal breaker and entail a swift return to PT.

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fizrar6 replied to congokid | 6 years ago
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congokid wrote:

I've been commuting by bike to work since the mid-80s and on only a couple of occasions have I needed to use a shower at work, and that was because I was having a new bathroom fitted at home (it was also one of the few places I've worked over the years that had showers). Storage lockers and changing space would be nice, but in my book showers are absolutely not essential. Do people in countries with a high cycling modal share require showers after every bicycle trip to work, school, or back home? Somehow I doubt it.

Totally agree with you. People have an obsession that everytime you use a bike you must have a shower. Would they take a shower after running for a bus? Use some deoderant !!!

The greatest hindrance to taking a bike must be a sucure place to leave it and somewhere to dry your cycling clothes if they get wet.

As for the idea about complimentary toiletaries.......get real.

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davel replied to fizrar6 | 6 years ago
0 likes
fizrar6 wrote:
congokid wrote:

I've been commuting by bike to work since the mid-80s and on only a couple of occasions have I needed to use a shower at work, and that was because I was having a new bathroom fitted at home (it was also one of the few places I've worked over the years that had showers). Storage lockers and changing space would be nice, but in my book showers are absolutely not essential. Do people in countries with a high cycling modal share require showers after every bicycle trip to work, school, or back home? Somehow I doubt it.

Totally agree with you. People have an obsession that everytime you use a bike you must have a shower. Would they take a shower after running for a bus? Use some deoderant !!!

The greatest hindrance to taking a bike must be a sucure place to leave it and somewhere to dry your cycling clothes if they get wet.

As for the idea about complimentary toiletaries.......get real.

It's expectations: not everyone shares your experiences or motivations for cycling to work. For the last decade I've done a head-officey job and half-decent bike storage and lockers/changing rooms have been a given.

The provision of showers means I can commute from further away - mine have ranged from 24 down to my current 16 miles each way, and they've become the backbone of my training routine (using dead commute time as training was key to me to step up to doing ironmans). If I was doing that distance at a non-sweaty pootle it would take too long to be worthwhile, so it's become a deal-breaker (I've turned down a second interview at a place that didn't have showers on that basis).

And the place with the 24-mile commute had an on-site gym with free towels and toiletries. There are some fantastic employers and facilities out there, and they use them to appeal to the type of employees they want.

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IanMunro | 6 years ago
6 likes

"Four in ten office workers would commute by bike — if their workspace offered better facilities, a survey has found."

They're kidding themselves.

Plenty of places have good facilities - they have no where remotely near that number of people cycling to work.

That's not to say there's massive room for improvement though!

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HLaB replied to IanMunro | 6 years ago
1 like
IanMunro wrote:

"Four in ten office workers would commute by bike — if their workspace offered better facilities, a survey has found."

They're kidding themselves.

Plenty of places have good facilities - they have no where remotely near that number of people cycling to work.

That's not to say there's massive room for improvement though!

Agree 100% Don't you just love stated preference surveys.  Ask someone if they want something and they say yes but come to actually pay for/ do it, they don't  3

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CXR94Di2 | 6 years ago
2 likes

The main hurdle with businesses, is the shower facilities. The paperwork for regulations is onerous. My wifes business looked into providing showers for the 2 staff who cycled. Apart from converting a room for the installation, they then had to have regular checks for health and safety to ensure it passed. Too much for cost for 2 staff. If rules were relaxed a little it might help

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