Lee Ashworth and Adrian Cromwell, npower, one of the first organisations to reap the benefits of CityConnect’s Bike Friendly Business Scheme

Free expert advice and grants to help West Yorkshire employers support more staff cycling to work

Free expert advice, tailored support and grants of up to £5,000 are available to help West Yorkshire employers support more staff cycling to work, which will play a vital role in meeting the transport challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Combined Authority’s Bike Friendly Business scheme, part of its CityConnect programme aimed at encouraging more people to travel by bike and on foot, has been made easier for businesses to access.

This work is part of a package of emergency measures to help people move around the region safely. This includes significant short and longer-term proposals, which have been submitted to Government in order to access £12.5 million funding through the recently announced Emergency Active Travel Fund, and an online map for residents to highlight areas where improvements are needed to help more people travel by bike or on foot.

By signing up to the scheme organisations can access expert advice on a range of topics, from route information to introducing a Cycle to Work scheme. Grants of up to £5,000 for items such as bike parking, pool bikes and lockers are also available.

The scheme is already supporting more than 300 organisations to become places where travelling by bike is the easiest and most convenient option, with bronze, silver and gold accreditation for employers going the extra mile.

On average, businesses that sign up to the scheme see a 20% increase in the number of employees travelling to work by bike. To date, 20 organisations have been awarded gold Bike Friendly Business accreditation, including Wellington Place, a 22-acre site in Leeds city centre comprising office, residential, retail and leisure space.

Charlotte Best, travel plan coordinator for Wellington Place, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have recently been awarded gold accreditation in recognition of our ongoing work to make Wellington Place a great place for cycling, alongside our CityConnect Walk Friendly Workplace accreditation.

“Since 2018 we’ve increased the number of people travelling to Wellington Place by bike to 7%. This work will only become more important as an increasing number of people think about changing their travel habits over the coming weeks and months.”

To date, over £400,000 in grants have been used to fund: 600 new bike parking spaces; more than 90 pool bikes; lockers, drying facilities, improvements to showers and changing facilities; work stands, pumps, tools and stocks of bike parts; and activities such as led rides, bike maintenance sessions, and ride leader and cycle skills training.

Councillor Kim Groves, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Transport Committee, added: “Through our CityConnect programme, we have invested significantly to enable more people to travel by bike and on foot and encouraging others to consider cycling and walking is even more important in helping us address the transport challenge created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Two-thirds of journeys in our region are less than five miles, which takes about 30-minutes by bike. If more people switch to cycling, this will not only boost their health and save them money, it will also help us to achieve our aim of being a net-zero carbon economy. Cycling has increased by nearly 20% at our Bike Friendly Businesses and that’s testament to our approach of combining infrastructure improvements with initiatives specifically designed to help people overcome common barriers.”

Over 85% of respondents to a survey of more than 80 grant recipients thought their organisation’s carbon footprint had reduced as a result of the scheme, while more than a third agreed both car parking issues had improved and productivity had increased. The most bike-friendly employees went on to make additional improvements based on the CityConnect team’s advice – from hosting breakfasts for people arriving by bike, to arranging buddying schemes and prioritising travel by bike on their “how to find us” webpages.

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