Sustrans helps workers save money and stay healthy

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Employers can now pick up a step by step guide to improving their workforce’s health and productivity by encouraging staff to walk or cycle to work.

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans on Monday, April 27, 2009, launched its Active Travel workplace toolkit to coincide with the first ever Walk to Work Week.

The toolkit highlights tried and tested staff travel plans at selected hospitals, superstores, business parks and councils across the UK.

The plans have seen new and novice cyclists take part in cycle training, team up with more experienced cycling colleagues on their journey to work and buy their own bike in a tax free scheme.

Rachel Bromley, Sustrans Active Travel Co-ordinator, said: “Many UK employers now recognise the benefits – to staff and to the business – of encouraging staff to commute in more active ways. The toolkit is packed with clear and up-to-date information, including best practice case studies and ‘how-to’s’ that simplify all the issues involved.

“Physical activity, including walking and cycling, can help reduce sickness absence, improve morale, and increase productivity.”

Lisa Brannan, Project Manager for Leeds UTravelActive, has helped provide new cycle storage and showers among other measures at the city’s universities.

She said: “Walking or cycling to work is one of the easiest ways for staff and students to achieve the daily recommended 30 minutes of activity to benefit their health.

“But it can also be much quicker than driving and journey times don’t vary with traffic.”
An information campaign was launched at Singleton hospital in Swansea to encourage staff to try out walking and cycling, after a travel survey identified more than 100 workers who drove to work lived within two miles.

Joanna Davies, Deputy Director of Planning at ABMU NHS Trust West, said: “Investing money on walking and cycling infrastructure and staff facilities has increased the number of people actively commuting to work.

“We consider this investment excellent value for money and are keen to make similar improvements at our other sites.”

Sustrans’ toolkit includes evidence of the need for active travel. During 2007, 172 million days were lost to the British economy due to sickness at a cost of £20 billion to the business and public sector. Currently only 40% of men and 28% of women are reasonably active.

The toolkit - which can be ordered or downloaded at - sets out how other organisations have encouraged staff to travel actively to work including Leeds University, Singleton Hospital, Stirling Council and B&Q.

Walking or cycling not only removes vehicles off the road it also benefits the individual in that he or she gets the much needed exercise they often do not get when working in offices. It also saves money; money otherwise so often spent on going to the Gym. So, you can look at it as a win/win situation.

The same we must encourage our children and young people to do, namely walking or cycling to school, in groups if need be. The school run in SUVs must become a thing of the past.

Our children would benefit immensely too as they would lose some pounds for sure and they might escape that way the trap of obesity.

© 2009