Consultants charged with getting Britons cycling have been left red-faced by accusations they have banned their own workers from two wheels.
Jacobs (formerly Jacobs Babtie) has been advising local authorities in the UK on how to persuade commuters to leave their cars at home.
But in an email reportedly sent to its own staff, the Glasgow-based British arm of the firm instructed people working out of the office to travel by car in order to “protect” them.
The Times reported that it obtained a copy of the email which states: “It’s patently obvious that if you are struck by a wayward vehicle when you are on a bicycle or motorbike you are going to be more severely affected than if you were in a car. The reason for this policy is to protect our employees from other vehicles on the road.
“There will be a few limited exceptions when employees will be permitted to travel by bicycle, but that would be when that mode of transport is required to undertake the job, for example, carrying out surveys along river banks and tow paths.”
It is not clear whether the company has any specific policy on how staff travel to and from work, though its own Health, Safety and Environmental Policy Statement states that its “clear goals” include “No damage to the environment”.
The leaked email reportedly goes on to say that the directives on cycling “could be construed as being at odds with our environmental policy and the requirement to be environmentally responsible”.
Jacobs has done extensive work for Transport for London (TfL), particularly in monitoring its progress in increasing walking and cycling in the UK capital, and the impact of the congestion charge.
TfL has been unimpressed by the alleged ban, labelling the company’s behaviour “bizarre” and calling for it to rethink. Jenny Jones, green transport advisor to London mayor Ken Livingstone, has now questioned whether Jacobs should even be granted any further contracts by TfL. The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has urged Jacobs to rethink the move and give its employees cycle safety training instead.
Jacobs has also acted as a consultant for Oxfordshire County Council, working to “undertake feasibility studies and lead public consultation on more than 40 rural cycle schemes. The schemes aim to encourage more short rural journeys to be made by bicycle” according to the company’s website.
After several attempts to secure a response, Jacobs eventually told BikeRadar: “We are in the process of reviewing the UK policy in response to what the media has expressed. We are working with our UK office to release statements to the press which should alleviate concerns and clarify misunderstanding regarding Jacobs UK business travel policy.”