The Government has been banging the drum for cycling, with £140 million being invested over the next three years to get us on our bikes.
Should we be listening?
If you operate a fleet in a congested city, a motorised vehicle isn’t always the quickest way to get around.
And aside from journey times, using bikes can boost your company’s green credentials, save on fuel and reduce maintenance costs.
There are also plenty of health benefits to cycling.
Courier firm CitySprint has 100 bikes in its 1,500-vehicle fleet.
Its cycle couriers carry out about 1,000 deliveries a day – between 10% and 12% of its total deliveries.
An express delivery service, which relies on pushbikes, was recently introduced in London Docklands.
Couriers on electric bikes collect deliveries in the Isle of Dogs, take them to CitySprint’s central office in EC2 and then cycle couriers distribute them.
It’s a 99.9% carbon-free service, according to fleet and specialist services director Am Pall.
“We set up the CentralExpress service to reduce congestion and carbon emissions,” he explains.
“We reviewed traffic flow from E14 to W1 and decided we needed to implement a more environmentally-friendly delivery option rather than using conventional delivery methods, such as motorbikes.
We decided pushbikes would be the best solution as they’re carbon-free and quicker in the city.”
In fact, CitySprint says pushbike couriers can cut delivery times in half compared with a four-wheeled vehicle.
Being able to zip around quickly is a reason why the City of London Police has two cycle patrol divisions.
Sgt Dave Prashner, from Snow Hill police station, which has a fleet of 25 marked police bikes, says a bike can be quicker than an area car.
When a suspect vehicle was reported after the Haymarket bomb last year, a cycle officer was the first on the scene.
“We can find alternative routes that vehicles can’t go down,” Sgt Prashner explains.
“Cyclists can weave in and out among pedestrians and quickly get from one place to another.”
For Promogroup, an advertising business which uses specialist four-wheel cycles, bikes offer a solution to parking restrictions and pedestrianised city centres.
“Our bikes are pedal-powered and can go anywhere a pushbike can,” says Polly Stainbank, director of Promogroup.
“We have lots of campaigns in cities and town centres, and the bikes can get into smaller spaces which vans can’t.”
Being an environmentally-friendly form of transport is another advantage over vans, says Ms Stainbank.
CitySprint agrees – a recent survey revealed 66% of its clients feel it is important that their courier service provider has a range of environmental options.
And an added benefit of using bikes is reduced maintenance costs.
As Ms Stainbank points out: “It’s a lot cheaper to fix brakes on a bike than on a motorised vehicle.”
Of course, the flip side to using bikes is safety – cyclists are 10 times more likely to be killed on the road than drivers of cars.
Cyclists don’t have the protection of airbags, seat belts and crumple zones and they are exposed to the full force of a crash.
Although it’s not a legal requirement to wear a cycle helmet, adequate safety equipment is important.
Each cycle officer from Snow Hill wears a high visibility jacket and a helmet.
‘Police’ is written on their right calf in reflective tape so that it can be seen from behind and is also written on their helmets.
In addition, the bikes have lights and reflective spokes. “We haven’t had any accidents as road users tend to give us a wide berth,” Sgt Prashner says.
Promogroup has an accident-free record.
The riders are all experienced and road users tend to slow down to look at the bikes.
There are, however, limitations to using bikes, such as load capacity.
CitySprint has addressed this by adding CityTrikes (pushbikes which have an electric motor and cargo box on the back) to its fleet.
They have three wheels and can carry up to a quarter of a tonne.
Bikes are also better suited to short distance work and City-Sprint’s regional network is predominantly vans and Smart cars.
Promogroup has found it is not feasible to leave bikes parked in town centres at night as they risk being stolen or vandalised.
And Sgt Prashner says being caught in the rain while cycling “isn’t much fun”.
But, take these things into consideration and you might find bicycles are a worthwhile addition to your fleet.
- Top five tips from RoSPA
A cycle fleet is no different to a car fleet and you need to consider work-related road safety.
Assess a person’s ability to ride and see if they need training
Supply the appropriate gear such as luminous and reflective clothing and cycle helmets, and have a policy that they wear it
Consider routes those who work for you might be using. Get maps of cycle lanes and help with journey planning
Have policies on alcohol and using mobile phones while cycling
Make sure the employee knows how to check the bike and maintain it.