Editor's choice
16 Sep 19

Walking and cycling – for corporate profit

Today is the start of the European Mobility Week. Bigger than ever, its focus this year is ‘Safe walking and cycling’. Both modes of transport are increasingly relevant to corporate mobility. Check back all week for in-depth reports!

More than 2,200 towns and cities all over Europe are participating in EMW 2019, and more than 2,000 businesses, schools and NGOs are running mobility projects under its umbrella.

Structured approach
Just a few years ago, the corporate sector (and indeed, society as a whole) would have looked down upon walking or cycling as worthy themes of a structured mobility approach: why walk and cycle if you can drive? Even small distances – short commutes, quick trips to the shop - were habitually overcome by car. 

Fortunately, such attitudes no longer go unquestioned. Walking and cycling are increasingly seen as integral parts of a holistic, multimodal mobility approach, also for corporates, and rightly so.  

Important results
First and foremost, promoting walking and cycling (where feasible) helps companies achieve important results in terms of both cost savings and Corporate Social Responsibility. Those CSR results, in turn, are also twofold: more walking and cycling means less CO2 emissions; and healthier and happier employees. 

Indeed, as proved in a recent study by the University of East Anglia (UEA), switching from driving a car to walking or cycling to work improves the well-being of employees: those who chose for a more ‘active’ commute were better able to concentrate and felt under less strain at work. Those mental benefits are on top of the physical benefits of exercise, already well documented. 

Special challenge
But how exactly do corporates take on board walking and cycling in their mobility policies? Some countries, and many companies, show the way: by offering employees compensation for commuting on foot or by cycle. Even though a legal framework and official rates do exist – at least in some jurisdictions – the measurement of these compensations does pose a special challenge for HR departments.

Walking and cycling may seem like pretty low-tech solutions, but even they can’t function without the requisite infrastructure. Here, cultural differences can become very manifest: it is no coincidence that ‘Copenhagenisation’ is the word for making your city bicycle-friendly: Denmark leads the world in cycling precisely because of its decades-long efforts in creating the right urban environment for it. Other places are notoriously un-suited for cycling (we’re looking at you, London) or walking (that’s you, United States). 

Mobility nirvana
So corporates need to evaluate their various locations for what’s possible: large variations are likely. As part of their CSR commitments, they may consider adding their voice to those asking for better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.

An important lesson from places like Amsterdam, where cyclists practically rule the road, is that success for walking and cycling generates problems of its own – a huge increase in conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists, for instance. However, these too can be identified and resolved. More walking and cycling will not lead to a mobility nirvana, but it will generate clear benefits for both corporates and their employees – if properly managed.

For more on this topic, follow the articles on EMW 2019 on Fleet Europe website throughout the upcoming week. And check out the Smart Mobility Institute’s upcoming event, on 16-17 September near Brussels Airport: its main focus will be the integration of Fleet and Travel, but the event will also devote attention to the benefits of MaaS – including walking and cycling – for corporate mobility. 

Authored by: Frank Jacobs