Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Better?

Cycling to work

In the US, the number of workers who cycled to work increased by about 60% over the last decade. That’s impressive, until you consider that cyclists account for less than 1% of all commuters in the U.S.

Frank Cottle, ABCN Chairman and himself a keen cyclist, says “cycling is the new golf, the new ‘green’ way to commute and the most proven exercise source globally”.

So why aren’t more people climbing aboard and two-wheeling it to the office?

Cycling by numbers

First let’s take a snapshot of cycling in parts of the U.S. and Europe.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in May 2014, the number of commuting cyclists in the U.S. increased to 786,000 in 2012. Given that there were 140 million workers at that time, the numbers are small. However, it does represent the largest percentage increase than any other commuting mode.

Portland, Oregon, has the highest bicycle commuting rate at 6.1% while Minneapolis is another strong contender, having increased its ratio from 1.9% to 4.1%.

In the UK, the percentage of people travelling to work by bike (as a proportion of working residents) is 2.8%, according to 2011 Census data. Drilling down to city level, the number of people cycling to work in London more than doubled from 77,000 in 2001 to 155,000 in 2011. Notable increases were also seen in Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

On the continent, The Netherlands steals the show. Amsterdam is widely considered the most bicycle-friendly capital city in the world, with over 60% of trips made by bike in the inner city and 38% in the greater city area.

The Danish capital Copenhagen – another bicycle-friendly city – made headlines when its ‘Cycle Snake’, or Cykelslangen, opened in June. At 721 feet long, this winding elevated bicycle lane relieves congestion for cyclists, enhancing the city’s 220 miles of bicycle paths. Here, more than 50% of residents ride their bicycles to work.

What can workspace operators learn from cities with a high density of cyclist commuters?

“It is essential for companies to provide safe cycle storage and shower facilities for staff and clients to encourage cycling,” says Jonathan Price, Managing Director of Business Centre Capital Co Ltd. Jonathan cycle-commutes to Central London most days, clocking in a 12-mile round trip.

“I cycle because it saves money and keeps me fit. It is also the quickest means of transport for most door-to-door journeys,” he said. “Having staff cycle to work benefits employers too, as the staff are healthier and they are more punctual than those driving to work or taking public transport. Bicycles are rarely delayed.”

Many business centres already offer facilities for cyclists. For instance in the UK, Landmark Plc offers bicycle racks, lockers, changing rooms and showers at its Lombard Street business centre in London. In Manchester, i2 Office provides similar facilities as does Collingwood in Newcastle.

In Holland, Amsterdam’s EBC Business Centre offers bicycle facilities as do most workspace providers in the city. But what about business centres in regional locations outside the capital?


“There is a little demand for covered parking for bicycles in our centres,” says Jeroen Tolmeijer of Color Business Centers (pictured), a Dutch business centre brand with a number of regional locations.

Color Business Centers“Most of our customers come by car, so it is not a ‘hot’ item. The issue is that we don’t actually want too many bicycles in front of the buildings, by the entrances, because it is not a nice view!”

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The issue here is location of bicycle storage which, for business centres leasing a building, isn’t always under their control. The same goes for cycle safety out on the roads. Indeed, ONS analysis suggests that “cycling remains a niche means of everyday transport largely because of poor infrastructure on the roads.”

The addition of showers, lockers and changing facilities is something business centres can implement, however. This in itself provides an excellent selling point and will also attract those clients who enjoy exercising during their lunchbreak, too.

The question remains, is the business centre industry doing enough to accommodate cyclists? Or is it holding back would-be cyclists through lack of facilities? Is your business centre ‘geared up’ for cycling commuters? Let us know.

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