LEADING THE WAY – BIKE FRIENDLY WORKPLACES

What does it take to make your workplace bike friendly? Discover how South African businesses are embracing a bike friendly culture and reaping the rewards of happier and healthier employees. 

Forward thinking South African businesses are encouraging and supporting more people to commute by bike. Being bike friendly is great for business, employees and the environment.

Employees are attracted to businesses that are bike friendly: being able to cycle to work saves hours wasted in traffic and money spent on fuel and parking. That’s beside the obvious health benefits of leading an active lifestyle. Happier and healthier employees means increased productivity and a more energized and sustainable workplace.

Creating a bike friendly workplace makes an enormous difference to the commuting experience and encourages people to ride to work who might not have considered it before.

THE GAME CHANGER

Jaco van der Linde rides 15km from the southern suburbs of Cape Town into the city each day, a commute that usually takes him about half an hour. He runs his business – a data tech company – from a modern, collaborative workspace called Workshop17 on Kloof Street. There are other Workshop17 offices in the Western Cape and Gauteng, and all of them are leading the charge when it comes to bike-friendly facilities.

“It’s not that complicated,” Jaco says. “You really just need a place to lock up your bike. You can get by with a wipe-down and a change of clothes in the bathroom, but a shower is a bonus. The showers at Workshop 17 are amazing, even better than mine at home.” Knowing that there’s such an epic shower at the end of his journey and a safe and easy place to store his bike are some of the main reasons that motivate Jaco to ride to work.

Sebastian Thompson runs his design business from another Workshop17 located at The Harrington, in the heart of Cape Town’s trendy East City Precinct. He’s full of praise for the commuter facilities at The Harrington. “There’s a room for storing your bike, and showers” he says. “It’s a game changer, not only if you’re commuting but also if you want to fit in a training ride before work or over lunch.”

The Harrington was designed with cyclists in mind. Their state of the art commuter facilities and bike parking room are kitted out with showers, lockers, change rooms and of course, secure bike storage and space for cyclists to repair their bikes or charge their electric bicycles. With the building owners being keen cyclists themselves and limited space available for vehicle parking, these facilities are seen as a key asset. This has also enabled them to attract and retain tenants who value cycling, including a bike shop and bike friendly cafe.

In addition to commuter facilities, Workshop 17 provides shared office bikes which can be used for running errands, going to meetings or for lunch breaks. This helps create a fun, active work environment and can be the catalyst for bolder adventures like cycling to work.

THE CHANGE MAKERS

Growing bicycle commuting in the workplace can be challenging, especially when faced with South Africa’s limited cycle infrastructure and employees who may not have access to bicycles. This is where business policies and initiatives can make a huge difference – allowing for flexible work schedules so employees can avoid peak traffic, rewarding employees who commute by bike or initiating earn-a-bike schemes and cycle skills training opportunities.

When Simiso Manatha was given a Brompton folding bike, through a donation to TSiBA Business School, he started an exciting new chapter in his commuter story. Over the past 3 months he has cycled over 22 km a day commuting from Maitland to Allan Gray headquarters in the V&A Waterfront. All done while wearing his business suit! “I love having the time to think,” he says. “And get a little exercise. Cycling gives me a lot of freedom and I never spend any money on transport or parking. I can get to meetings quickly. I ride in my business suit to show others how easy it is to cycle to work”. He also can’t fault Allan Gray on their cycle-friendly facilities: “I can park my bike safely and there are shower facilities,” he says. “That’s all you need.”

Simz first began commuting with a group of friends. All the commuters we have chatted to, agree that one of the best ways to get your employees or colleagues to start cycling to work is to join or start a group ride. It’s called a Bike Bus. For the past year Simz and the TSiBA’s cycling team has led some of Cape Town’s Bike Bus commutes, showing newbies how to navigate the city. “The bike bus makes it easer and safer for you to ride and gives you a deeper knowledge of cycling in the city”.

SO WHERE TO START?

Back at Workshop 17 Kloof, Jaco has just arrived from his morning commute. “You don’t have to own a fancy bike to start cycling to work says Jaco. “Any bike will do. If it works, great!” 

Making the workplace Bike Friendly is just as easy if you run a company, or if you’re a building manager. You don’t need to build a bike workshop stocked with tools – although cyclists would love you for it – you just need to start by providing a safe space with some decent wall hooks or standing racks so that people who cycle to work can park their bikes.

Show off your facilities and boost your exposure to cyclists by becoming a certified Bike Friendly Workplace. Being certified means you’ll also get discounts and support from a network of affiliated suppliers, as well as assistance in making your business even more bike friendly, in sourcing bike racks and bikes or starting a bike commuting programme.

Having bike-friendly workplaces makes it easier for everyone, and maybe – just maybe – there will be enough bicycle commuters one day to spur city officials into making the big changes that will ensure that cycling is safe and accessible to all citizens.

Change starts with you.

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Jon is a freelance writer, editor and photographer. He’s a frequent contributor to various publications, including go! and Bicycling. He has a garage full of steel bikes, which he rides as often as he can – usually to Kalk Bay in Cape Town for coffee, or into the forest behind Kirstenbosch.
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Jon is a freelance writer, editor and photographer. He’s a frequent contributor to various publications, including go! and Bicycling. He has a garage full of steel bikes, which he rides as often as he can – usually to Kalk Bay in Cape Town for coffee, or into the forest behind Kirstenbosch.

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