Buoyed by riding the former 2012 Olympic cycle route on a daily basis, perhaps it is inevitable that employees of the gin producer Silent Pool Distillers take their cycle commute through the Surrey Hills to their Guildford office seriously.
Clad in Lycra, riding in all weathers and negotiating tight bends and steep terrain, the small but established cohort are in “cycle heaven”, according to Ian McCulloch, the business’s managing director, who has run a government cycle-to-work scheme for a few years. “They’re the kind of people who would be cycling at the weekend anyway,” he said. “You have to be an enthusiast or you wouldn’t bother with the journey. We have offered an electric bike scheme as well but this lot would never use them. To them an e-bike is like a vegan sausage: pointless.”
Hardcore riders may take a dim view of power-assisted cycling but they could soon be in the minority. The market is exploding and Deloitte predicts that more than 130 million will be sold globally in the next three years helped by the more flexible, hybrid style of commute that is likely to emerge after Covid-19. Rising environmental concerns and a revaluation of activity levels and working routines are rendering the car-centric five-day office-bound commute more obsolete as people switch to more sustainable micromobility, with the onus on business to accommodate accordingly.“
No one wants to sit in traffic jams anymore and, while we may not be Holland, it’s encouraging to see British people of all ages and abilities get in the saddle,” said Chris Smith, managing director of Pendle Bike Racks, who has seen a 100 per cent rise in the sale of the racks and storage he manufactures at his Lancashire premises. “What we need to see from employers is more commitment to safe bike storage and guaranteed access to cycle parking as well as flexible start and finish times because the key to encouraging non-cyclists to cycle is safety and convenience.”
What3Words (W3W), a digital addressing app based in west London, has it covered, with both indoor and outside storage and security fobs, after signing up to the e-bike subscription scheme Dash Rides. The scheme was introduced to quell staff anxiety over returning to the office, which was rooted in the journey, specifically catching Covid-19 on a cramped Tube. Employees pay a monthly contribution from their pre-taxed salary, topped up by £30 from the employer, to hire bikes that retail at about £3,000.
Jack Waley-Cohen, 43, chief operating officer of W3W, said that previous schemes involving regular bikes did not take off because of “too much exertion and the hassle of showering on site”. The e-bikes, though, are generating more buy-in with journeys of up 18 miles, a top speed of 27 mph and a sharing of experiences internally on Slack by users.
“I think there’s already a fear of missing out from those not on board,” he said. “This feels progressive and unlocks the possibility of cycling for people who wouldn’t have thought they have the stamina and energy.” He added that with the average office attendance at about two days a week, paying for train season tickets had become a false economy.
“Already we’re seeing an evolution of previous habits. One employee used to use the Tube and then cycle the rest of the way on a regular bike but now cycles the whole journey on an e-bike and much prefers it. You never hear anyone who cycles in to work saying they have had a terrible journey whereas we used to hear that all the time from those who had been on the Tube and train.”
Ian Bayliss, managing director of Seacat, invest £7,000 in e-bikes for his staff to get aroundNOT KNOWNSimilar enthusiasm is evident in the less urban environs of the Isle of Wight, where Seacat Services runs a fleet of vessels transporting engineers and equipment to offshore windfarms off the UK, Danish and German coasts. With a key role to play in maintaining the UK’s energy infrastructure, the pandemic proved to be a catalyst for changing behaviours that sat uneasily with the business’s broader decarbonisation agenda, notably its land-based support team’s reliance on cars.
Ian Bayliss, 44, the managing director, who invested £7,000 in e-bikes for staff, said change happened slowly on the island but prising people away from four to two wheels had not been the struggle he anticipated. Charged from electricity generated by solar panels on the office HQ roof in Cowes, the bikes have led one manager to give up his second car altogether.
“Everything is pretty much near by on the island, from our suppliers to the shipyards, so there’s less need for cars,” he said. “Plus, attitudes are changing after Covid: many are enjoying a more athletic lifestyle and the opportunity to be more active.
”He conceded that external pressures also came into play. With every facet of the operation under scrutiny from utility giant customers demanding stellar sustainable credentials throughout the supply chain, no detail is too small. “We’ve put a CO2 emission figure on everything we do, including the journey to post a parcel. All too often with sustainability, the focus is on very challenging, ambitious targets, but there are so many things we can control such as making local trips greener. As an employer it’s my responsibility, which is why I’m looking at introducing e-scooters as well, it just seems the next step.
”Indeed, accelerated by the expansion of city bicycle infrastructure and the affordable accessibility of self-service rental schemes, the e-scooter market is booming.
The micro-mobility business Dott is participating in Transport for London’s (TfL) pilot e-scooter rental scheme and reports a 100 per cent rise in usage of his vehicles at peak rush hour times. It is evidence of a new style of commute, Henri Moissinac, 51, Dott’s chief executive, said. “People want to live their lives in different ways and try new things . For those coming into the office for a couple of days a week, hiring a bike or scooter makes more sense. An average 20-minute journey costs around £3.
”Users download the Dott app, which alerts them to the nearest scooter that is unlocked and ready to use but it is a convenience reliant on there being both availability near by in the first place as well as designated parking provision close to the destination, an alignment that Moissinac admitted was still a challenge.
With an existing fleet of about 700, Moissinac estimated that a figure of 6,000 vehicles with more parking provision was needed. “TfL is doing a great job but need to be more empowered as local [parking] regulations across the different boroughs can be hard to manage. Without enough parking the scheme won’t work; we have to give electric scooters a chance.”
A big challenge perhaps, but it seems the consumer appetite is there.
Read the original article on The Times