How to get employees cycling

24 March 2015

Travel planning is about thinking about using and actually using sustainable travel modes: walking, cycling and public transport. Get your businesses travelling smarter with advice from the Traffic Design Group.

There are plenty of reasons why we need to rethink how we get to work.  Nationally, more than 62 per cent of people drive to work and it’s having widespread impacts: the loathed, ever-increasing traffic jam, rising carbon emissions and nasties in our storm water runoff (like chemicals produced from the combustion of fossil fuels, material from brake linings and rubber particles from tyre wear). What’s more, we miss out on opportunities for active transport, and then head to our desk job to sit down for eight hours.

So how can businesses encourage employees to change their behaviour and switch to sustainable travel modes, and why should they? How do we make them the normal, easy and ‘go to’ choice? The Traffic Design Group’s Judith Makinson let us in on some of her secrets at an event we held in Hamilton last month 

Benefits for your business

Show you care:
Getting employees on public transport, or getting them active by encouraging walking and cycling, emphasises that your business cares about the environment and the people that work for them. Be proud of what you are doing. Share your stories! Impress other people!

Healthy employees, healthy business:
Being fit and healthy helps your employees sleep better anddeal with stress better, increases their concentration and motivation levels, and helps them interact better so everyone is more effective at doing what they do best. An employee’s health is particularly important in smaller businesses; healthy people take fewer sick days.

Watch those costs fall!
Goodbye company car provisions and travel expenses.

General benefits

In Hamilton, the entire city can reach the CBD within 30 minutes on a bus. This gives you time to read a book, learn a language, catch up on emails before you get to the office or relax after a big day.
In general, cycle and bus lanes mean public transport can get there faster when the roads are blocked up.

Leaving the car at home will see air quality increase (in Auckland alone 126 people under the age of 30 die prematurely from transport emissions each year).

The savings can be phenomenal – let’s say every registered car takes a 10km roundtrip to work every day. If all of those cars stay at home all year then that would save 1.46 million tonnes of carbon a year, a 17 per cent decrease in our annual carbon emissions.

Happy wallet:
Forget the gym membership – if you walk or cycle you don’t need to slog it out on the treadmill after a big day (unless you want to).
Bus fares can be much cheaper than parking plus petrol (without even thinking about car running costs like insurance, warrants and tyres). In Hamilton, if you pay $5 for parking every day, you’ll save $1,200 a year – a week’s holiday for two on the Gold Coast.

Stronger communities:
You’ll see and hear things you’d otherwise miss, and maybe become involved in issues like cycle advocacy.

How to get started

Make a decision:
The hardest step is often the first one. Be brave and take it.

Get support:
A workplace travel plan takes an ongoing commitment of time and resources. The decision-makers in your business need to be supportive if it is going to be successful.  How much time and resource is a matter of choice and will depend on how much of a change your workplace is seeking to achieve.

Go for it: 
You’ve decided to adopt a workplace travel plan, you’ve got the support for it, now you’re just wondering how to do it..

The specifics

Adopt a travel strategy:
Be it a one-line mission statement or a detailed breakdown of carbon reduction targets, set some general goals such as reducing the amount of single occupancy car use or reducing company kilometres travelled. 

The easy bit: identify existing behaviours:

Honesty is the key factor here.  This stage usually involves a travel questionnaire for staff and a look through business travel. You could also include travel of supply chain. How do you contract your suppliers? What metrics do you use to judge the merits of those suppliers?

The hard bit: changing how people travel to and from work

There are genuine reasons we have for choosing to travel by car and there are the reasons we tell ourselves we have for having to travel by car.

For example ‘I have to drive to work because I have to drop the kids at school’. Do you really HAVE to drop the kids at school?  Could they get there on their own?  Can they cycle, take the bus or walk with a friend?  Quite often it is down to habit.  And we all know bad habits are hard to break.

Breaking the habit – individual action plans:
What can be done to help change those choices and habits? Develop an action plan with individuals that includes incentives, support and measures you intend to take to help create change.  This can then provide information to complete the cycle and feed back into goals or objectives.

A lot of the time people haven’t tried the alternatives in a very long time (if ever) and have a wariness of the unknown. Having a travel buddy or a personal travel plan can help. The plan could include: information specific to their trip such as the exact route to walk or cycle, which bus route to take, what time to be at the stop, where they can shower and change and how long the trip will take.  Trying adopting a company policy on bus use, or walking to meetings within a certain distance of your premises.

Target short trips first:
The first two minutes of driving are when cars put out the highest rate of emissions. Short trips are also the most easily substituted by another mode. A two minute drive at 50 kmph is around 1.6km, or a 15 – 20 minute walk (the amount of time we should be walking daily to keep fit and healthy).


An annual review of the travel plan is sufficient– not so frequent that it takes too much time and effort, but regular enough to see how you’re tracking against your goals and targets.

Remember: You don’t have to change every trip you make.  Start with one trip on one day and take it from there. 

For more information check out the resources from NZTA, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Auckland Transport, and Christchurch City Council.