One thing I'll always commend the Savings & Loans staff on is the way that they embrace new ideas and the passion they have for getting behind worthwhile initiatives. The hundreds of hours they spend volunteering every year is obviously a great example of this, as is the enthusiasm everyone at Savings & Loans has shown to becoming more environmentally-conscious in the workplace: anyone caught leaving a light on in their office is very quickly brought back into line!
Sometimes the deep interest of our staff is unintended, but still very much welcome. When we started sponsoring the Savings & Loans Cycling Team we had no idea of the direction the team would take. In the past few years they’ve moved from a group of amateur riders taking on mainly state-based competition to a professional outfit that has just returned from racing in Japan.
On top of this, many of our staff have taken a keen interest in cycling – both in the recreational and commuting sense. We’ve had groups of staff members take on the Savings & Loans Coast to Coast, events with the Tour Down Under and the epic Around the Bay in a Day. There’s also a growing number of staff riding their bikes into work, which has more benefits than you might realise at first.
One of the cyclists at work sent me a link to a news story a month or so ago about a report that states cycling saves taxpayers more than $290 million a year in terms of health and traffic costs. Now these are obviously some big numbers and I haven’t had time to read the full report but even if the savings are half those listed, getting on the bike could become more important and common as things happen.
You only have to look at the popularity of the Tour de France to see how big cycling is in some parts of the world. And with names like Robbie McEwen and Cadel Evans making headlines here and overseas, it looks like things can only get bigger.
Australians seem to be catching on to the cycling bug, with events like the Tour Down Under and Herald Sun Tour bringing some of the best teams in the world to our shores. I know there’s been discussion lately about tensions in the ProTour, of which the TDU is a part, but I don’t think that will have a big impact on people taking up the sport recreationally.
Infrastructure is obviously an important factor in encouraging people to get use their bikes more. There just aren’t enough bike lanes and cyclists need to be on their toes (figuratively speaking) when riding through city streets. Also, I’ve often wondered what road designers think cyclists are meant to do when bike lanes come to an end – are they expected to turn around and go back to where they came from?
Workplaces need to make accommodation for cyclists, too. Obvious facilities such as bike racks and emergency tool kits need to be available, but if cycling becomes more popular in a workplace then extra changing room and locker facilities are also required. Maybe employers need to become more flexible with start and finish times so their staff can get to work a little later in the morning, or earlier so they’re not riding home in the dark?
Of course, as well as the health benefits of getting more exercise – something many of us could take on board – riding a bike for transport rather than recreation could help relieve some of the pressure of rising fuel prices. It’s probably not practical for doing the weekly shopping (unless you attach a small trailer!) but for short trips it could be perfect. I’m sure we’ve all seen cyclists overtaking us as we’re waiting at traffic lights on the way to work!
Cycling to work obviously isn’t a possibility for everyone (or even in all seasons). I know that a 50km round trip in the wind and rain isn’t really appealing for most people, and your options are severely limited if you live in the outer suburbs. If you ride to work, what are some tips you can offer others?
If you don’t jump on a bike to commute, what do you think could make you change your mind?