Despite the UK Government attempting to encourage cycling, and the journey to work being one of those trips where substantial reductions can be made in car use, surprisingly few people have heard of BUGs, never mind what they are for.
What is a BUG?
As the title suggests, BUG is short for Bicycle Users Group. This is usually set up by some over-worked, underpaid person who is passionate about cycling and all the benefits it brings: health, costs (both in terms of infrastructure and personal), and many others.
BUGs can be found anywhere there is a significant cycle commuter population. They are a way of bringing together cyclists and would-be cyclists with management in a co-operative fashion to bring about improvements that will encourage people to cycle to work or on business. Imagine reaching the end of your six-mile commute one winter's day and finding showers, covered bike space and lockers waiting for you; this is precisely the sort of thing that a BUG can achieve.
Blimey! Management Will Never Buy It
The trick is to show the employer how much he can benefit by having cycling employees. For instance, one cyclist is one fewer car parking space, and car parking can cost employers upwards of £1000 a year. It is perfectly possible to get six cycle spaces into the same area as one car space, and for a fraction of the cost. Cycle commuters have a much more reliable journey time, benefit from reduced stress and better all-round health, and are generally a more productive part of the workforce.
Setting up a BUG
Approach someone in management, the higher up the better, and if you can find someone who is a cyclist, so much the better. Let him or her know what it is you intend to do, and then contact everyone you know who cycles or has been thinking about cycling. Then it's a question of conducting a simple survey to find out what people think are their most pressing needs. These could be really simple things like Sheffield stands, or just somewhere to hang damp clothes next to a radiator on a rainy day, or they could be a bit less simple to provide, like showers. Once you have your list, cost it up and present it, along with reasoning. It is also worthwhile getting in touch with the local council, as they sometimes have grants for helping out with this sort of thing. The Department of Transport also occasionally gives grants.
The local council will probably have a cycling officer, and he will be able to help you out with sourcing and costing racks, stands etc. Many councils also have Local Transport Plan officers now as well, and he might be able to work with your employer to implement a sustainable transport plan that includes provision for cyclists.
Once you've got your existing cyclists happy, you may feel up to implementing schemes such as a Bike Bus1, adult cycling classes, a pool bike, repair facilities and even a mileage allowance. The Inland Revenue currently permits:
Up to 20p/mile mileage allowance for cycles tax free
Interest free loans from employers to employees for buying a bike and equipment
Provision of up to six free cyclist's breakfasts a year without tax implication
Keeping it Going
The most important thing really is to ride yourself. If you run the BUG and don't ride to work, then people are not going to feel inspired, and setting an example is by far the best way to get others to ride. There is also Bike2Work Week in June, which is turning into a huge, national event. You may well find that other employers in your locality have events going on for that and you could do some joint events, such as a commuter challenge2 and cycling or maintenance classes. If you have a sociable workplace, how about arranging some leisure rides out of work hours, perhaps some gentle ones so that the less confident riders can gain some experience?
A BUG is a very useful addition to the workplace, both for cyclists who can benefit from improved facilities, and employers who can benefit from a healthier, less stressed work force. So go on, join or start a BUG today!