Q: My company is moving from its town centre office to the countryside. This has left us wondering what to do at lunch as many of us tend to idle away our time by nipping to the nearby shops on foot.
When I looked up the new office on an OS map, I saw loads of bridleways nearby so I decided to keep an old bike there for lunchtime rides. Then a friend of a friend gave me some old bikes that they were getting rid of, so I had three bikes in reasonable nick.
I approached the company directors and asked if it would be possible to keep some bikes at the new offices for anyone to use for free. They thought it was a great idea and have supported me in getting the bikes ready. They have insisted that a company liability disclaimer be drawn up for all to sign before they can use the bikes but that seems fair enough.
So, shortly new members of the freshly formed 'Whersteads Wobbly Wheelers' should be wobbling into the countryside in search of nearby pubs (there are a few) for lunchtime enjoyment.
Can you think of any suggestions to get my fellow workers involved or other concerns I need to be aware of?
A: Peter, it's great that you are taking the initiative to make the most of your new surroundings and that your employer is supportive. It sounds like you're almost there and all you need to do is advertise some rides to suitable places of refreshment.
To avoid wasting prec ious lunchtimes, I would suggest you check out beforehand that new riders fit the bikes you have, are comfortable and confident. You might want to check out the condition of the bridleways too as these vary so much and might be tricky for a novice cyclist. Don't be too ambitious at first until you know everyone's abilities. If they all have a great time, then other colleagues are bound to want to come along.
I recommend you read the free publication Pool Bikes for Business - a practical guide to setting up a workplace bike pool published for Transport for London. This includes an example form to be signed by each bike user which should satisfy your directors. You can order it online from Life Cycle UK - see'Resource Centre'.
You may also have the beginnings of a Bicycle User Group (or BUG as they are known). A BUG brings employees and management together to encourage cycling and resolve any deterrents, but is also a self-help group. You don't say how accessible the new workplace is to reach by its employees, or how many there are, but with the right encouragement there is almost certainly going to be a number who could commute by bike. Given the move, it would only be fair for the company to provide suitable cycle parking and showers, the latter also encouraging longer lunchtime rides.
Another way to involve novices is to organise some adult cycle training accredited to the new national standard, which is designed to improve confidence and ability. To find out what's available locally contact the CTC at www.ctc.org.uk or call Tel: 0870 607 0415.
Some local authorities even provide grants towards some or all of the above as part of their work in promoting company Travel Plans (formally known as Green Travel Plans) which are used to reduce car dependency. Try contacting your council's Travel Plan co-ordinator. Another possibility is to take advantage of the Department for Transport promoted Cycle to Work scheme enabling employees to buy a bike and equipment at around 40-50 per cent discount. For more info go to www.dft.gov. uk and enter 'cycle to work' in the search function. If you need to persuade your employer to go further there are good resources there under 'sustainable transport' and also at the Cycling England website.
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