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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?