A few years ago when I was still in the workforce, I attended a seminar on Green Skills Training. As part of the introductory session we were all asked to describe the future “green” office. I don’t remember what most of the responses were, including mine [with one exception], but they were most likely along the usual lines of “paperless offices” etc. The comment of mine which I remember was: “A bicycle beside every desk”, a response which was greeted with snorts of derision from some. This surprised me greatly as it seemed to me that this would solve so many of the transport dilemmas faced by me and my colleagues at this time, as well as facilitating a very major “greening” of the workplace.
We were located in the centre of Newcastle where parking was either expensive or inaccessible (ie at the top of an enormous hill), our workplace was divided between two locations which were about 2 kilometres apart and often we had meetings to attend which were nearby, but maybe a few kilometres away, they were rarely a comfortable walking distance, and were often along Hunter Street which is wide and perfectly flat. [For those who are not familiar with Newcastle’s topography, the centre of town runs parallel to the harbour and is flat, but right behind those few inner city streets there is an enormous hill, upon which are mostly houses, units, a cathedral and a school; this area is called, unremarkably, The Hill.]
At our workplace we also had a spacious open office area which would easily accommodate a bicycle beside every desk, as well as undercover parking space. I was the only one who rode to work there, I had a flat ride which took me about 25 minutes and I rode slowly so I didn’t sweat enough to warrant a shower so I could ride in my work clothes. I have written before about the difficulty I had in convincing management to allow me to park my bike indoors as I didn’t want to risk it being stolen or damaged. So it was not a terribly bicycle friendly work place, but it could easily have been.[An employee of the John Hunter Hospital carrying his commuter bike to his office, after riding it up an enormous hill.]
Most of the people at the Green Skills seminar were not from the same workplace as me, but they mostly worked in a similar location to me and could easily have used bikes for transport. Likewise, many of my colleagues lived as close to work as I did and could have ridden to work in a simliar timeframe. Are we making it too hard in our heads to embrace the idea of riding to work or is it just not a part of our culture, and never will be?