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Cycling our way to health and happiness

We’re all aware of the Danish happiness phenomena. It’s well documented that the Danes are pretty joyful, with Denmark consistently ranked in the top three happiest countries in the world. We also know Denmark is a nation of people who like to travel by bike, with more than half the workforce in Copenhagen commuting by bike every day. It’s very likely there’s a strong connection between the two.

Cycling gives a boost in neurochemicals that relieve pain and improve mood – meaning people who cycle are more likely to arrive at their destination calmer than those who travelled by car.

Cycle commuters also have a significantly lower risk of a range of diseases including cancer, heart attack, and stroke. And, on average, they have 1.3 less days absence due to illness every year than those who don’t cycle.

Although the figure is growing, currently only 5% of people in Scotland usually or regularly cycle to work. The two most frequently reported barriers to cycling are traffic travelling too fast and no access to bikes. It’s encouraging that the Scottish Government has doubled the active travel budget this year, some of which will be used to improve cycling infrastructure, and efforts to promote 20 mph zones in Scotland’s cities and towns are helping make streets safer for cycling.

What does this mean for employers?

For employers, encouraging employees to cycle has multiple benefits including a happier, healthier workforce and reducing the environmental impact of your business.  But how to get started?

It helps to focus efforts on three key areas:

  • Financial support – working with schemes like Cycle to Work means you can offer staff tax-free loans for bikes
  • Infrastructure – cycle parking, showers and maintenance areas all help encourage cycling
  • Culture – building cycling in to workplace culture is key, for example by providing pool bikes and encouraging people to travel to meetings by bike.

The good news is Cycling Scotland offers a programme of advice and support for employers including grant funding of up to £25,000 for projects which encourage staff and visitors to travel by bike, including cycle parking, showers and lockers, pool bikes and upgrading access routes.  With support from Cycling Scotland, employers can also achieve a Cycle Friendly Employer Award, a nationally recognised award for organisations encouraging cycling.

If Danish levels of cycling were achieved in the UK, British Cycling estimates the NHS could save around £17 billion over 20 years. That’s definitely something to aspire to.

Read more about how the Cycle Friendly Employer programme can help organisations pedal towards health and happiness.

If you would like to contribute a guest blog about ways to improve staff wellbeing or your organisation’s resource efficiency, please get in touch by email.


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