Bicycle parking spaces are also common, as well as cloak rooms and showers located in an office block. Choosing the bike is beneficial.
The Cycle to Work programme has been very popular in Great Britain for many years. How does it work? In practice: in case a worker declares a willingness to get to work by bike, the employer buys the selected model for them. Next, the vehicle is paid off by the employee – a small instalment is deducted from their salary every month. What's more, a bike's price is not high. The government relieves the employer from paying VAT and additional allowances let the worker acquire the bicycle at a price of up to 40% less that in a shop. Since 1999, over 400 thousand workers have taken part in the Cycle to Work programme. Surely, we all still remember IKEA's campaign, that saw all of the company's employees in the USA receive a bicycle, thus being motivated to change the mode of transportation. Meanwhile in Holland, office clerks have been 'earning' by riding a bike to work – 15 euro cents per kilometre.
Game designer on a bike
We do not have to look abroad to find good examples of this process taking place - a 'bike culture' has been growing also in Poland, particularly in the last few years. One of the first companies that decided to give bonuses to the employees choosing this type of activity, was Krakow based Ganymede, which deals in social and mobile game design. Ganymede's original project was the so called two for two wheels. For each bike ride to work, the worker receives a bonus of 3 Zloty, paid out on a quarterly basis – explains Aneta Wojnar, PR Specialist. It means a bonus of almost 700 Zloty a year. In the beginning, four people took regular bike rides to work, now there is around a dozen of them, and the most resilient ones do in even in the winter.
A good example: "A bike ride to work"
Bike enthusiasts have taken over also the other side of the country. We cannot forget about the "A bike ride to work" competition, organised by the Department for Mobile Activity of the City Hall in Gdansk, which defines a new model of transport by bike marketing, assisting the efforts of companies. "A bike ride to work" is also an element of a social campaign by the European project of Central MeetBike, partly financed by the European Regional Development Fund.
The competition undertaken at the turn of the summer was not directed at employees, but employers, who decided to promote transport by bike. 45 Gdansk companies applied. The winner was Intel Technology Poland. Intel has been supporting cyclists for years - at the beginning it was aimed mostly at sport, but with the development of Gdansk's cycling infrastructure, the number of people using bikes as the daily transportation mode has started to grow rapidly - says Krzysztof Arentowicz, Software Design Engineer. It persuaded us to provide the right conditions for those workers. Cycling workers have access to a cloak room and showers, as well as a bike shelter. The shelter's redo and enlargement coincided with construction of a new cycle route by the city, which increased the cycling activity in Intel even more. The company's location is also important - the office block is situated outside the city, on the edge of Tri-City Landscape Park - as well as the specific form of work. The workers have task-related working hours, so they don't have to stress about coming in late. It all makes the bike ride to work simply a relaxing experience and pleasurable for many people working for this company – explains Aleksandra Nowakowska, Administration Assistant. Apart from that, we have a very well functioning cycling group in our company, whose activities are partly funded by the Employee Benefit Fund. We have company cycling outfits, co-financing to take part in marathons and cycling races. Many people treat the bike ride to work as training.
Another form of benefitting the cyclists is also the Bike2Work competition, organised at least once a year. Workers register their journeys to work over a month or two - the persons leading the ranking (the biggest number of rides, the biggest distance covered) receive t-shirts and other small gifts. Although workers do not receive bonuses per kilometres covered, in the summertime around 60 people choose this mode of transportation, which is around 7 per cent of the employees.
In second place of the "A ride to work" competition came the BPH Bank, which provided its employees with free bike U-locks and spring servicing of their bikes, apart from closed, cover parking spaces, showers and a cloak room. By contrast, Wirtualna Polska employees (3rd place) can include the transportation time into their working hours.
The image of a modern company
Promoting bike rides have become an element of a consistent image building and positive branding. The trend has also been noticed by developers. We are currently working on a new investment – the investor's principles are to create a new class of office buildings in Rzeszow – says Artur Rysz, Property Director at Developers company. One of the objectives is to create cyclist-friendly buildings, which are therefore also eco-friendly. Apart from that, on the design level we have been talking to companies specialising in modern office spaces commercialisation, and even then there was pressure to include facilities aimed at cyclists in the project. It was suggested that because of those and other special features, the building will be more attractive to future lessees. Aiming to satisfy the future lessees' expectations, we have created a whole cycling infrastructure, from underground and overground parking spaces to cloak rooms, changing rooms and shower rooms with toilet facilities – he summarizes.
The expansion of the cycling trend is also a serious challenge for the existing premises' managements, who have the challenge of modernising them before them. The Etiuda office block, home to Ganymede's main office, has been systematically increasing the number of parking spaces every year. Over the three years of the office building being in operation, we have already increased the number defined during the design stage twice - says Andrzej Rosłaniec, Property Manager. The number is sufficient for today, but the tendency will probably keep growing in the following years. We are prepared for that, it suits us well as an alternative to satisfying motorists' needs. Promoting travelling by bike and creating more parking spaces have an economic justification – the vehicle certainly takes up less space than a car, and if the cycling infrastructure's objectives also include the provision of a cloak room and additional showers, space saving is obvious.
Promoting physical activity and offering bonuses for travelling by bike is also an element of the company's image campaign. By doing so, the employer shows that the employee functions as an equal dialogue partner, that they are open to the employee's needs, and that they influence the team's integration and the establishment of a permanent relationship between the employee and the employer, while still acting in the company's best interest. Genymede's employees joke that there's a hidden government agenda behind the bike travel bonus system, which aims to decrease the number of sick days. In all seriousness though, it is worth stressing that it is not unfounded – New York's Columbia University's research shows that daily exercise improves the body's defence system, while increasing the efficiency and the creativity of the worker – stimulating nerve cells development, which are responsible for memory amongst others.
Companies, mostly from abroad, often boost the prestige of physical activity by including elements of grivalry (or rather gamification), which means using the mechanisms known from computer games to animate human behaviours, for example by introducing an element of rivalry. Another common occurrence is motivating workers' physical activity by making an internet app available to them, which is connected to, for instance, their mobile phone and a Multisport card, which automatically awards points for gym training or a bike ride to work. The monthly and yearly rankings winners may receive bonuses. It seems that it is only a matter of time until such solutions are implemented in Poland. Ganymede already declares introducing gamification elements among their cycling workers in the future.
Giving bonuses for travelling by bike is usually also an element of a company's policy concerning ecology. Bicycles do not emit fumes, they do not pollute the environment, so they go well with ecological awareness. however, it is only a fraction of some companies' eco-friendly actions. Intel Technology Poland focused on recycling. Our company supports eco-friendly actions, as part of which we collect waste paper, batteries, light bulbs, caps, thanks to which we can help children in a hospice – recites Karolina Wojciechowska, Services Specialist apprentice. We also organise electronic equipment collections, and in July we did a forest cleaning action, in which 90 people took part.
Another change considered by Polish companies is treating the bike as an official work vehicle – with the same privileges that come with a car. The concept would see employees receiving a return on their work travel costs, established for example on the basis of the distance and servicing costs. On the other hand, it seems that with a little bit of motivation a big part of the team will gladly switch to bike, it is the employers who need incentive. But we can be positive: companies that have started offering bonuses for bike riding will set an example for others.