Businesses take up FREE bicycle parking stands to support eco plan for Milton Keynes
Nearly 300 cycle stands installed as part of council's Ride It, Lock It, Love It scheme
A council scheme offering free secure bike parking to MK businesses has seen a dramatic effect on staff numbers cycling to work, as well as customers coming through the doors.
The Ride It Lock It Love It initiative saw 30 workplaces install 256 free cycle stands over the summer, in an attempt to encourage employees to make their post-covid return to the office a healthier and more sustainable one.
The Sheffield stands were supplied across a range of workplaces, from familiar names like Primark and Yamaha through to microbreweries, research facilities, restaurants, community cafes and gallery spaces.
Council leader Pete Marland explained the scheme ties in with the council’s £500,000 Green Recovery Fund aimed at encouraging the green economy and supporting the commitment to tackle climate challenges head on.
“We have one of the most ambitious carbon neutral plans in the world - we need to get people out of cars and on to more sustainable transport if we’re going to hit that target.
Cllr Marland met staff at Willen Hospice who took six 'much needed' new stands for their newly-opened Wells Building.
Marketing manager Helen Winter said: “Previously we’ve had to park bikes in the office and that’s been putting people off.
“I also know that if everyone’s in on a particular day then cycling’s out, as I’m not going to be able to lean my bike against a desk. It’s amazing the impact a few stands can have, and has had already.”
The next step in encouraging more sustainable growth will be to overhaul bicycle parking facilities in central Milton Keynes, allowing people to cycle into and feel safe leaving their bikes while they work, shop or meet friends.
“Our thinking behind the Recovery plan is to provide good cycling infrastructure – cycle parking, wayfinding, well surfaced and maintained routes,” explained Cllr Marland.
“Then we give people with the tools - whether that’s cycle training, support with journey planning, bike maintenance or access to bikes - to help them cycle. Finally we give them reasons to get out and about with friends and family through initiatives like Love To Ride, guided rides and waymarked trails.
“All this has an effect on others - if people see other people cycling, then they think about possibly cycling as well, and it has a momentum effect.”
That snowball effect is being seen in many of the companies that signed up for bike stands, with the numbers of staff cycling into work at the National Badminton Centre more than doubling since the stands were installed.
Having secure bike parking is also bringing in new business for some, like the Old School community cafe in Wolverton.
“We’ve just had our group of seven cyclists from Brickhill in,” said manager Marie Osbourne, “I think we’re now their cafe and coffee spot now. They come once a week because it’s easy for them to pop by and leave their bikes somewhere safe.
“If they’re anything to go by, hopefully the stands will develop more cycling-related business but it’s already encouraging us to cycle in as well. We had seven staff in one day last week - five of us came in by bike thanks to having the stands.”
New stands are also having an impact at award-winning microbrewery Buck Star Beer. The Buckinghamshire Business of the Year has just opened up its after hours Tap House bar, so the the stands are in by staff during the day and customers at night.
‘It’s brilliant to have the facilities as people can drop by for a beer without having to plan too much, plus the timing was perfect with the end of lockdown and the summer evenings.’ said founder Datis Gol.
“It’s good to see customers cycling in but it’s also really nice for us to be able to cycle in and have that quiet, relaxed period at the beginning and end of the day.”
The council is also pledging to match any money companies spend on green transport initiatives to a total of £1,000, effectively gaining companies a 50 per cent discount on any measures to help staff commute sustainably. As well as new bike stands, the Medical Research Network in Crownhill also took advantage of the Sustainable Transport grant to install a shelter for the stands, along with six electric car charging points.
“We surveyed our staff through the Modeshift Stars website and found not having anywhere to lock up was putting people off cycling in,” explained travel manager Emily Blackwood.
“It also revealed other staff members were perhaps thinking about a switch to electric vehicles and maybe just needed a nudge.
“It’s about taking away the reasons not to make the switch - whether it’s to bikes by providing shelters or electric vehicles by installing charging points,” she continued, “It made perfect sense to do that now, and it is fabulous that the council are actively assisting with this”
The 256 stands handed out means there is now space for 452 more employees to cycle to work across the district.
MK Gallery manager Jamie Ayland has starting to commute by bike again after a break of a few years, thanks to the ten stands that the community arts space were given.
“I cycled to work every day for about 16 years and it’s great I can start again. Yes, I’d be lying if I said I loved biking to work every single day I did it - but I saw first hand the health benefits, the benefit for the environment, and I could also see the financial benefits as I wasn’t spending so much on petrol.”
Meanwhile his c olleague Annette Palmer is just getting to grips with the concept of cycling in. She got her first ever adult bike through a workplace scheme last summer, but hasn’t had the chance to actually ever ride it to work, thanks to the pandemic. Instead she just practiced the route to the office at the weekends.
“I took my bike out on to the redways, which were an amazing discovery. We’re so lucky that we have the redway network but it seems not that many people realise it’s there.
“The route to work is gorgeous so I’m determined to come in at least a couple of days by bike to try it out.”
“Employers should be giving people the option of cycling, and give them the time to get to work on a bike in the morning because Milton Keynes was built with that in mind,” says Jamie,
“We’ve got redways everywhere - in terms of me cycling to work everyday, it’s probably the safest place in the country to cycle.”