Tenants want cycle provision at work. Are landlords listening?

When will developers jump on the bandwagon and embrace a cycle-centric approach to office development? 

With its cycle superhighways, Crossrail for Bikes and Cycle to Work schemes, London wants -- and seems to be trying hard -- to become the next Copenhagen. Following a trend that is far from confined to Europe (New York has Bikes in Buildings, while Singapore has been profiting from the Travel Smart Grant since 2014), the successive mayors' wishes for a safe bike-friendly capital have given rise to incentives such as the Cycle to Work scheme. But once commuters have made the journey to the office, the question remains -- what are they supposed to do with their bikes (and sweaty selves)? 

Ambitious as they are, London's cycling growth targets and incentives remain stifled by a surprising lack of insight from office landlords and developers who refuse to include or retrofit offices with cycle provision. 

When thinking about these much-coveted workplace facilities, a famous Fields of Dreams quote-turned-motto comes to mind: "Build it, and he will come." In this case, however, it seems the words need jumbling up a bit, for he the cyclist has come, but it has not yet been built. 

When will developers jump on the bandwagon and embrace a cycle-centric approach to office development? Perhaps some numbers will help put things into perspective.

Cyclists riding on London's superhighway
Bikes account for 24% of rush-hour traffic in London. Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Research points to missed opportunities

In 2017, British Land found that, among 1,000 workers, 87% want public transport links close to their offices, a figure that rises to 97% in London. An even more pertinent figure shows that 39% of all employees want somewhere to park their bike at work  50% among millennials. 

And because cycling, much like the Central Line at rush hour, but with added health benefits, makes you transpire, it comes as no surprise that 53% of the surveyed employees want showers and lockers in situ.

Perhaps the most crucial find of all, however, echoes our earlier Fields of Dreams reference: 38% of British office workers would consider commuting by bike if their workplace offered better facilities.  

Demand for cycle provision is rising but few modern offices are designed to meet them:

 

  • One in 10 offices offer absolutely no cycle provision, according to research commissioned by the British Council for Offices and carried out by Remit Consulting
  • Although 83% of UK workplaces offer some form of bicycle parking, less than half is actually covered and secure
  • 45% of surveyed offices do not have those basic yet crucial facilities otherwise known as showers. 
in-office bike racks
bike parking inside the office
The Leadenhall Building includes parking spaces for over 400 bikes with 24/7 access

So, why should landlords and developers promote bike-friendly offices?

Wellbeing in the workplace has become a bit of a buzzword in office culture, and with good reason: it is where office design is headed. Sustainable, adaptive, and increasingly hyggelig (thank the Danish for the increasing number of workplaces to feature homely touches), the modern office now has to cater to cyclists, too. Why? 

The following list of perks can be split between three beneficiaries: the employee, the employer, and the person in charge of the building (i.e. you, the office landlord or commercial developer.) Although we could skip to this last category, presenting the full picture is of paramount importance to understanding the need for cycle provision at work. 

1. Perks for employees 

Financially speaking, when an employee gets a bike through a scheme, they don't have to pay VAT, Income Tax or Employees National Insurance on the cost of said bike. 
As for health benefits, there exist countless studies and extensive academic literature on the link between cycling and health. From type-two diabetes, through coronary heart disease, to several forms of cancer, research shows that cycling (and physical activity as a whole) can help cut diseases and reduce cancer risks. 

Cycling has also been proven to reduce stress, alleviate depression, improve sleep patterns. But you probably already knew all that, so let's move onto our second category. 

London office with cycle-in ramp for bike commuters
in-office bike storage facilities
Clockwise from top: London's first cycle-in office at Alphabeta Building, by Studio RHE. 7 Clarges Street, Mayfair, by Squire & Partners
wayfinding inside office for workers who cycle to work

2. Perks for employers 

When employees get a bike through the cycle to work scheme, employers can save on National Insurance contributions. This can incur savings of up to 13.8%. Cycling to work is also associated with lower absenteeism rates, which, naturally, boosts overall productivity. And because a cycle scheme, like other salary sacrifice incentives, yields a non-cash reward, it can help employers attract, as much as retain talent. 

Financial benefits aside, the Cycle To Work scheme is an attractive feature for the sustainability aficionados. The average worker who devolves (or evolves?) from four to two wheels would reduce their carbon footprint by 6% and save 0.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide. 

bike storage at 2 Forbury Place, London
2 Forbury Place in London features bike parking facilities coupled with service station amenities and ample locker space

3. Perks for landlords and developers 

Including cycle provision from Day One is, of course, much easier than retrofitting an existing office building with the likes of bike parking, lockers, showers and so forth.  Such building standards do, however, attract tenants, and perhaps that is the biggest advantage landlords and developers should tap into. 

Just like a product succeeds because its creators have identified a gap in the market, a successful office building has to meet present demands and expectations for the future. This means that a cycle-centric strategy can increase the letting potential of your office space. 

Perhaps prophetically, Workplace Parking Levies have recently been approved in  Cambridge, Nottingham, and possibly Manchester soon. Nottingham City Council is currently leading the way with firms charged over £400 a year in an attempt to tackle air pollution and reduce congestion in big UK cities. 

What may seem like a constraint might in fact be an interesting opportunity for landlords who, by reducing the number of cars in their office buildings, could repurpose the newfound space into, oh I don't know, shower and changing facilities? 

How exactly does one tackle this transformation and what are the factors to consider when developing a bike-friendly office? 

Cycling facilities at work: 5 factors to consider

in-office bike storage facilities

Cycling facilities at work are becoming increasingly necessary. Here are 5 factors to help landlords and developers cater for a sustainable, profitable future.

Together with company culture, office standards are changing, and with incentives like the Cycle To Work Scheme in place, tenants are now turning to office landlords and developers for cycle provision in the workplace

So, what are the factors to consider when developing a bike-friendly office? 

1. Indoor cycling facilities

in-office bike storage facilities

According to the  BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 manual, "cycling facilities may be located anywhere on site. However, the total route that cyclists must take to access the nearest cycle storage, cyclists' facilities and building entrances must be no greater than 500m via a safe and convenient route." 

Including cycle provision at the shell and core stages of office development, of course, much easier than retrofitting an existing office building. If, however, you fall into the second category and find yourself with restricted space for indoor cycling facilities, think about moving internal refuse stores outside the office building. This will free up some space for your much-wanted in-office bike storage. 

2. Number of cycle spaces

London areas where higher cycle parking standards apply. Source: Transport for London (TFL) 2017

The New London Plan plans aims to increase the minimum standards for cycle parking in B1 offices developments from 1 space per 90 sqm to 1 space per 75 sqm. This applies to areas with higher cycle parking standards (highlighted in red in the map above).

It goes without saying that these figures are only a minimum requirement, but let's put this into context. An office building like The Leandenhall Building, aka. The Cheesegrater, totals 56.671 m2 of office space and includes parking spaces for 400 bicycles and 129 motorcycles.  

Now, The Leadenhall Building is home to 24 companies, one of which is AON with its 500+ employees spread over 10 floors. Following the 1 space per 90 sqm. rule, it should offer 630 parking spaces; but still, compared to its City neighbours, The Cheesgrater scores considerably above average. 

“compared to five years ago, cycling provision is increasingly becoming accepted as an integral component of Grade A office specification”,

Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices

Of course, not every single occupant is a cyclist, but let's turn to leading sustainability assessment method BREEAM and make predictions a little more realistic. BREEAM ‘Tra 03 Cyclist facilities’ states that landlords and developers should provide 1 bicycle parking space for every 10 occupants. 

Forward-looking companies may also want to think about opportunities for expansion, should more employees opt for a two-wheel commute in the future.

3. Lockers & storage units

office washrooms fitted with ample locker space

Providing bicycle parking is only half the battle of developing a bike-friendly office. Cycle provision also includes convenient storage units and lockers designed to help create a better working environment. 

Anyone who has ever ridden a bike through peak-time London can imagine the challenges of storing wet clothes in an office that does not have appropriate storage facilities. Together with bike parking, lockers are an advantage for tenants and can, therefore, raise the leasing potential of your office development. 

4. Showers

Taking a line from our much-loved BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 manual: 

Compliant cyclist facilities (showers, changing areas etc.) can be provided in shell and core areas of the building as part of the base build. Alternatively, compliance can be demonstrated where the shell and core building is designed to facilitate future installation of the compliant number and type of cyclist facilities by the tenant/owner-occupier through the provision of an appropriately sized and dedicated space in the base building, including either the installation of the appropriate services (for showers) or infrastructure to allow the future installation of the relevant services e.g. capped water supply, service or ventilation ducts, drainage etc.

Shower facilities should be located near the bike parking and ideally, profit from naturally ventilation. Direct access to the core lobby should also be provided. In order for your office development to be BREEAM-compliant, it should include one shower for every 10 cycle storage spaces. Also worth noting that any building comprising eight showers or more is considered compliant, regardless of the number of parking spaces provided.

5. Specifications

Your office can be fit for cyclists as early as the shell & core stage. There is, therefore, no requirement for office cycling facilities to be finished to a high standard. However, here are a few tips to take away with you. 

  • Keep it well-lit.
  • Use slip-resistant flooring.
  • Keep room heights equal or higher than 2.2m.