Linen Quarter BID, which plays a leading role enhancing Belfast city’s vibrant Linen Quarter, is urging businesses across the city to become true champions of cycling.
With Bike Week kicking off along with commuters starting to return to the city, there is a new opportunity to promote a pro-cycling culture to support both active travel and sustainable transport.
Linen Quarter BID has partnered with Cycling UK, the organisers of Bike Week, to help businesses across the Linen Quarter connect with the organisation’s official accreditation and become recognised as a Cycle Friendly Employer. Employees who cycle not only reap the benefits personally, when travel costs and fitness are considered, they also make a positive contribution to their employers by reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint thus contributing to a more sustainable city. In addition, those who lead an active lifestyle are less likely to take sick leave.
Chris McCracken, Managing Director at LQ BID, said: “It’s time our city centre employers get serious about cycling and supporting those who wish to cycle to work. Cycling is not only healthy for the individual but for our cities too as a sustainable transport model that helps us to reduce our collective carbon footprints.
“Our partnership with Cycling UK is incredibly important to us, not just for Bike Week 2021, but in the long term, as it supports our goal of promoting the benefits of cycling to commuters and supporting employers with educational resources and signposting on vital activities such as making premises as bike-friendly as possible.
“This Bike Week is a great opportunity for businesses to reconsider how accessible cycling is to their staff and if they could do more to enable staff to cycle should they wish. For instance, do they offer somewhere safe to store bikes? Do they have a shower room? We’re encouraging all of our member businesses across the Linen Quarter and businesses city-wide to engage with Cycling UK this Bike Week, particularly on its official accreditation programme which is a fantastic foundation for businesses who want to learn more about the benefits of cycling and then also commit to supporting staff who cycle.”
The Cycling UK Cycle Friendly Employer accreditation starts with an online assessment which is followed up by a site audit before the business is awarded.
Josh Murray, NI Engagement Officer at Cycling UK, explained: “There is significant public demand for improved cycling infrastructure, and we encourage the Department for Infrastructure to bring forward new investment. However, the addition of cycling lanes across the city is only part of the picture. We need businesses to commit to employees and ensure that cycling is accessible to them.
“The pandemic has highlighted that we can’t just go back to the ways things were. As we start to return to the office, many people may remain uncomfortable using public transport as long as Covid-19 cases remain. Cycling becomes a viable alternative. While the number of those choosing to cycle remains low by comparison to driving or using public transport, the number who want to cycle given the right conditions is vastly higher, which shows the room for improvement and the need for employers to take a pro-active approach. Cycling is too beneficial for it to become a missed opportunity and we need to address this as we look to the future and rebuild our city centres.
“There are plenty of progressive companies across NI that are fantastic examples of how easy it can be to instil a positive cycling culture but there are plenty more who have yet to address how they support cyclist commuters. Cycling UK is keen to engage with any local businesses who want to find out more about our accreditation and our website has a host of resources that are a help to get the wheels in motion, if you will.
“Partnerships and collaborations like our on-going relationship with Linen Quarter BID are vital to our mission and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank the team for their dedication to promoting cycling to commuters and businesses.”
Ormeau Baths, a shared working space in the Linen Quarter, is setting a great example of how businesses can support employees. It has an internal bike storage facility with space for 10 bikes along with two adjacent shower rooms, installed when the facility opened in 2017.
Of its 200 members, it is estimated that around a quarter cycle to work using their own bikes and the city bikes. Management at the Baths is noticing that interest in cycling is growing at a rapid pace amongst its members as they return to the city and it has had to install additional external bike racks as a result.
Jenna Parker, Community Manager at Ormeau Baths, continued: “There has definitely been an increased number of those cycling to work since our members have returned over the last few weeks. The pandemic has placed an increased emphasis on health, so we believe this has had an effect on how our members travel to work.
“We provide the facilities that we do, and continue to do all we can to accommodate our members’ travel preferences, including ensuring cycling is as accessible as it can be, because we believe in promoting a culture of sustainable travel. As part of this commitment, we regularly communicate with cycling members so we can identify and react to any concerns. Of late, we’ve been advising new cyclists on the most cycle-friendly routes to take into the city and it’s also emerged that an on-site toolkit to repair punctures would be helpful.”
Linen Quarter BID has launched a survey to engage directly with cyclists to better understand the public’s views on cycling into and around Belfast City Centre. The survey will examine cycling patterns, why many people choose not to cycle and what areas need to be improved so that more individuals will join the cycling community.
Chris concluded: “I cycle to work myself because I am truly passionate about the benefits it brings to our city. We have an ambitious vision for the Linen Quarter and environmental sustainability is a key part of this. Not only will this commitment protect the ecosystem, it will result in cleaner air which is hugely positive to health and wellbeing.
“Interestingly, a recent consultation revealed over 90% would like to see accommodations and improvements made to cycling infrastructure, suggesting that personal environmental impact is a growing area of concern.
“Having insights like this is really important as it helps us to better understand public sentiment and attitudes and from there introduce initiatives with the support of our partners to make our city a city that works for everyone.”
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