Being a keen advocate of cycling, as you might imagine, I am always surprised to hear that other people aren’t quite so convinced about the benefits of bike ownership and use. Life Cycle is working closely with Derby City Council on their Connected programme, which aims to promote sustainable transport and economic development; one of the ways it is doing this is to offer suitable job-seekers a refurbished bike to help them access jobs, training and interviews. A recent debate on local radio questioned whether this really was a worthwhile scheme.
Life Cycle’s take is that clearly from a sustainability pint of view it is worthwhile… if job-seekers can get into the habit of cycling as part of their search for employment, then they are likely to carry on cycling once they secure a job benefitting their health, wellbeing and of course the local environment.
But the debate wasn’t really about environmental sustainability, it was about whether bike ownership would really help someone secure employment. Back in 2003 a report* was published by the then Office for Social exclusion, which found a clear link between transport and exclusion: lack of affordable and accessible transport was a major barrier to employment for those on the lowest incomes. More recently Sustrans have also undertaken research into transport poverty** and corroborated that that long journey times, infrequent services and multiple changes (from one bus to another for example) and expensive tickets put real barriers in people’s way: they stop people applying for jobs and training opportunities; stop them attending interviews, and even if people do manage to get to the interview, can prevent them taking up the job if travelling to the workplace is just too costly or time consuming.
At Life Cycle we believe a bike really can help people back into work. A bike offers people low-cost and convenient transport to work – and even if the person in question doesn’t secure a job immediately a bike also gives independent transport for leisure and everyday life meaning they get more value from it than just for the journey to work.
Furthermore, owning and using a bike can really boost people’s mental wellbeing and physical energy which can in itself help motivate people into finding employment. One of the unexpected outcomes of Life Cycle’s Bike Minded project was that it helped people back into employment. We didn’t’ set out to achieve this, but as result of improved mental wellbeing and motivation, four of our participants who had been out of work long-term because of mental health issues have got back into employment.
So if you know someone looking for work, who might benefit from a bike, tell them to get in touch.
*Making Connections: Final Report on Transport and Social Exclusion. Social Exclusion Unit – Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2003
** Locked Out: Transport Poverty in England, Sustrans 2012