Active Travel the realities vs the vision

Active Travel the realities vs the vision

February 2019


At one time cycling was never ever an option as a feasible mode of transport. Especially in business. Slow, unsafe and a lack of carrying capacity. Let’s not forget ‘sweating’, lycra and not been able to get on public transport with bikes should you need to.

And if you turned up on a bike at work you got some odd looks and were labelled that ‘eco warrior’ type. That was 20 years ago when I first started commuting by bike in Wakefield working as a mechanic. A job involving cars, amongst colleagues cycling to work was just radical!

In business I use multi-mode transport options full 40 mile work commutes (on a mountain bike in winter / road bike in summer ) and a highly versatile fold up bike for shorter commutes (Urban journeys) mixed with public transport gives me easy regional spread and National access.

Bear in mind these bikes are my choice you need not spend a lot, and if your employer has the cycle to work scheme use that for more savings if you can.

So what is the reaction now when I rock up with a bike? Very different. I purposely use the fold up bike as a prop as it can go in meetings with me and workplaces I visit and is a powerful statement.

I don’t always wear lycra or top end bike clothing I purposely wear business attire where I can. This proves you can do business whilst riding a bike.

You now find people naturally gravitate to you. Intrigue brings them to ask where you have come from, the bike, the distance you have come etc. People are interested, generally. At business networking events it can get you over that hurdle of speaking to new people.

I recently visited the Sheffield City Region Mayors dinner with Doncaster Chamber. I cycled the 12 miles there on a dark evening in full suit and took the bike into the venue. Spoke to lots of interested folk. The bus was my late transport back. The Mayor Dan Jarvis is big on active travel.

I work and manage Health and Wellbeing strategy for a private sector Organisation in North Sheffield, work on the Leeds City connect super cycle highway and work in the Public Sector in physical activity programmes. It gives me good grounding across public health, Workplace approach to health and actively travelling the regions network great insight.

City Connect

I also struggle with time like everyone but have discovered the key to unlocking more time is utilising the way we travel for physical activity (walking included).

Then exercise isn’t an add on chore after a long day at work and home is beckoning. Fuel cost and of course not contributing to already high air pollution levels is, well ethically the right thing to do.

Next I want to set the scene with two statistics relating to how inactive we actually are as a nation and some very surprising bad air quality hotspots – featuring Yorkshire (particularly in Doncaster)  and my top tips for cycling (forming habits). Or behaviour change as the academic world label it.

Fast forward 20 years and we have weather forecasts that feature levels of pollutions and public health warnings. UK air pollution could cause 36,000 deaths a year. A new report led by King’s and published by the government’s Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP) estimates that between 28,000 and 36,000 people die as a result of air pollution every year in the UK

aru quality


Leeds took the worst place outside of London and I was very surprised at Hickleton in Doncaster featuring as the third worst area for pollution – somewhere I live and commute around by bike. Sheffield also ranked highly.

Then there is inactivity with many of us sat down on average 8.9 hours a day. Throw in the mix work, family and personal time commitments exercise gets pushed down that priority list – you can see how 25% of people do less than 30 minutes a week of physical activity (11.3 million people) – source: Sport England.

A host of health repercussions and costs to the NHS – NICE (National Institute for Health and care excellence estimates 1£1 billion a year from inactivity alone.




Or according to Copenhagen, the International Sport and Culture Association (ISCA), the UK ranks the highest across Europe in the inactivity states.


One of our most basic tools to be more active and fight against air pollution is altering the way we move. Of course electricity production, energy consumption for home & work environments, meat and farming all factor in to air pollution, but by moving around actively we limit our transport emission contribution.

By tackling our overuse of cars we hit two priority areas; increasing physical activity, the individual and community benefits of doing so and lessening our impact on local air quality levels.


Cycling and Walking to work / for work

Time – across urban centres cycling is often quicker. Consider Leeds (11.25 mph), Sheffield 10.44 mph and Bradford 10.08 mph). You can walk at 3.5 mph quite easily.

Cycling at 12 mph is considered fairly easy for beginners with little training – and your fitness levels soon improve.

So even at 12 mph you could be ahead of every car in the 10 cities listed below. That’s not taking into account getting to the car park and getting out of the car park – all time consuming we fail to factor in when using the car.





So if you are going to commute by bike here is some sensible things to think about


  1. Pack everything the night before (you may be up earlier and faffing about looking for things which will only create a bad experience) You will get quicker at this.
  2. When you arrive at work / destination feel proud. And the endorphins from the exercise will help you feel energised.
  3. If Night cycling take 2 light batteries (factor in winter they drain power quicker when it is cold). Make sure the second battery is accessible so you can change quickly. Use phone light to do this.
  4. If you can’t shower and you are sweating arrive 10 mins early and cool off outside before you enter a static building that will aid sweating. Hydrate obviously.
  5. Spare shirt if you are conscious about sweat patches – or cycle in a breathable top.
  6. Wet wipes for a quick once over (these are realities).
  7. Oil chain on bike frequently / check tightness of nuts and bolts.
  8. Locally there will be lots of initiatives on routes / cycle training etc. Sustran’s are a good starting point initially.
  9. 9. Spread the word let your social media contacts know.

Cyclists are the least exposed to air pollution on daily commutes into a congested city centre, research has shown. People in cars and buses spent longer in toxic air, as did walkers unless they made detours to avoid main roads. Source: James Tate, University of Leeds. Walkers use green routes where possible to reduce air pollution exposure.


The work, conducted in Leeds, supports the investment in cycle lanes to both reduce air pollution by cutting vehicle journeys and improve citizens’ health. It also found that air pollution reached relatively high levels inside cars, echoing a recent warning that cars are “boxes collecting toxic gases”.


My Cycle Commute videos

Green route examples are Trans Pennine trail see South Yorkshire trail here – Night cycling – NORTH SHEFFIELD SECTION


Cycle check lists – DONCASTER GREENWAY

Bike beats car North Bridge Doncaster congestion

City connect super cycle Highway Leeds – Bradford

And now the benefits of physical activity / cycling

  • Improved cardiovascular function. …
  • Muscle strength and tone. …
  • Increased mental wellbeing. …
  • Increased energy. …
  • Weight loss. …
  • Reduced stress. …
  • A fresh perspective. …
  • Family fun.
  • Cycling improves mental well-being. Cycling makes you happy: fact.
  • Cycling builds muscle. Build muscle on the bike
  • Better lung health. …
  • Cuts heart diseaseand cancer …
  • Cycling is low …
  • Cycling saves time. …
  • Cycling improves navigational skills.

Already the Sheffield City region Mayor is on the case focusing on active travel as is the Doncaster get moving project (looking at physical activity culture) and Leeds have a dedicated active travel team (walking / cycling).

Local initiatives such as Travel South Yorkshire Travel Team (SYT) work with business on active travel in Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. The Canal River trust promote their Canal into Sheffield as an active travel route (green lined perfect away from pollution for walking)

B.Braun Medical have included offering e – bikes to employees through SYT, have a cycle roadshow in March and guest speaker Deborah Cundy talking about her journey in cycling as a total beginner. Walking also features in their Health and wellbeing programme for employees.

I also sit on the Sheffield Chamber Health and wellbeing Forum as vice chair with Westfield Health for business where Peter Kennan has presented on his work on the Sheffield City Region transport strategy which features active travel.

And to conclude as if we didn’t need any more evidence to use the car less and transform our travel habits consider the graphic below.

Infographic_on_the_scale_of_the_problem_with_air_pollution (1)

Member of the Royal Society for Public Health

Vice Chair of Sheffield chamber of commerce Health and wellbeing group

Workplace Health Lead National centre for sports and exercise medicine

Health and wellbeing Adviser to;

B.Braun Medical

Living streets (city connect walking) associate


Follow me and my active commute journeys


Twitter @AJPConsultant




Using Health and well-being to shape employer brand



This is an article about Health and Wellbeing in the workplace and its role across business function to help shape HR policy, enhance pay & benefit function, aid employee engagement and that all important “employee experience’ that Employers must manage.

But first of all I want to set the scene particular in a workplace and business context – it’s important.

Remember the good old days ‘of a job for life’. Local Government was probably the Employer of choice for my generation with the attraction been pensions schemes, job security and stability combined with good career progression.


Source: Think health and wellbeing

But how that has changed. A combination of Public cuts has led to fixed term contracts, impacting on the period paying into pensions and uncertain job security. Take away two key assets away from Local Government and it becomes a lot less appealing. Especially to the millennial generation with very different expectations. hr exchange network

Rebuilding a house of Health and Wellbeing (see graphic above) is one way to help offset other benefits lost in a changing and dynamic economy.


This isn’t a scathing attack on Local Government but a perspective on Employer brand which impacts on recruitment retention, recruitment and talent attraction. The HR function has such a broad range of challenges and expectation to deliver on from an ever changing employee landscape within a policy framework that needs to accommodate changing work practices.

What should have happened to negate these cuts to public service is an overhaul of the pay and benefits structure, incentives and building a proposition that makes LA attractive again in the face of it losing the strength of its job security and pension assets. In my experience (this isn’t with every LA), many are failing to meet the expectation of the millennial and next generation of workers.

LA 1

A secret weapon is adopting a Health and Wellbeing approach which looks at working environment, culture, external and internal marketing, pay and benefits and that all important social strand outside work. Remember the good old work social clubs – are they the next big thing in a different guise in terms of Employee offer?

See my other article here which goes into more depth on H&W and business function links –  Health and Wellbeing ‘Its none of your business’?

In the Private sector recruitment is an important strategy to remain competitive and making sure talented individuals are added to the team, as well as keeping the best performing individuals there. In a fierce job market it takes way more than the ‘usual’ perks to achieve this – and in a budget restrained environment some creativity.

So here comes the silver bullet, a once ‘nice to do’ and often overlooked add on function to an existing role – Health and Wellbeing. Free fruit, the odd exercise class, communications around health (still a good start), has now evolved into a more stand-alone function that has the ability to span every business function. And why. Because it is about people.


There isn’t anything else that has the ability to make people feel safe, invested in and cared for than health – something important to us all on an individual, family and social level. Providing opportunities around Health and wellbeing beyond just health insurance, cash care plans and clinical services (all  great benefits) focused on a preventative agenda is key. Inject this with a little fun, incentives, benefits, engagement and opportunity and you have an all singing all dancing brand.

And what has brand got to do with Health and Wellbeing? Let me offer an example. Say you are a B2B (business to business) operation. Very well established in your sector, a ton of credibility but little face/brand voice in a B2C context (business to customer).


An active employee H&W programme offers links locally, involves you in networks otherwise you wouldn’t be in normal business operations and provides a carousel of content and human interest stories so important to marketing strategies.

Perkbox area great example of brand building specifically positioning themselves at the tech savvy young graduate with a cool chic feel employee experience, placing emphasis on rewarding high performance with active culture, incentives *& rewards and buzzing social scene. As a fresh graduate why would you not gravitate to the perkbox brand rather than the Local Government bland brand?

Twinkl, an education resource based Business, runs a host of activities across health and wellbeing for its employees and provides resources  Twinkl wellbeing

Swinging this article around full circle remember recruitment? Branding. Whether B2B, B2C or Local Government what your employees say, are involved in and have access to will speak volumes to perspective candidates seeking work. H&W is an important lever to push your recruitment and Employer presence across social media that has enormous power.


Aviva UK have ‘Health Heroes’ championing employee health internally initiating activities. These activities not only enhance employee experience but also infilterate employees social media feeds spreading ‘the great to place work’ message.  Aviva Health

B.Braun Medical Ltd in Sheffield have an internal facing H&W brand ‘B Healthy B. Braun that feeds into Employee engagement, experience and social health activities whilst feeding content through new external networks across the City establishing itself as an Employer focused on Employee Health. B.BRAUN

B health image green smaller (2)

Millennials have different expectations. Physical workplace, chill out zones, nearer to home (less travel), flexible and remote working, perks, social connectivity and of course the ‘gig economy’. All important consideration in HR strategy.  The gig economy could be a freelancer servicing many contracts (I work this way), H&W connects me to my contracts and workplaces giving a sense of ‘collectiveness’ to remote working.


What comes with remote working could be ‘disconnect’ in terms of face to face situations. If business can be performed at home, in a coffee shop or on the go – is health and wellbeing activity the sticking glue in connecting that person back to the physical workplace whether social opportunities (think weekend walks / opportunities for family events provided through work)?

I get some of my greatest engagement putting events on outside work that includes family friendly activities e.g. an event I have held 4 times at the UK’s largest Indoor inflatable park – Jump inc’flatable. A fun environment for employees and families to have access to the park exclusively – the feedback is great and it provides an opportunity to communicate the other H&W offerings.


Now focus on ‘exclusivity’. Another BIG LEVER. What you as an employer offer others don’t. That offer keeps people. Not wanting to let go of something you feel is important to you. Friends and families comment on your workplace activities and what you have available to you – it instills a sense of pride.

And with National Health and wellbeing awards bringing the industry’s leading best practice examples and rewarding innovators the likes of RSPH  REBA   have two excellent days dedicated to learning from others and a top awards night for H&W in the workplace.

  • rsph  REBA

To conclude I didn’t want to write yet another article purely on key sick absence causes or trends – we know these, the evidence is clear, return on investment projection statistics available and credible business case support all over the internet.

What I wanted to touch on is the other opportunities that an active H&W programme and offer has to employers. The links with business strategy, recruitment & retention and the ability to shape positive employee experiences that appeal and resonate with differing employee expectations.

See Health as business opportunities Business Health ‘the new’ golf course


A broad and flexible workplace offer that can be tailored to individuals and accommodate current and emerging working practices is something H&W programmes have the leverage to shape and bring business benefits far wider than just reducing sickness rates. Think wider.


Andrew Picken

Member of Royal Society For Public Health

Workplace Health Lead and independent consultant.

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