Blogs & Comment

Torontonians begin to embrace Bike Month, but is it enough?

Countries all over the world have embraced bikes and their benefits, but Canada is lagging behind.

(Photo: Grant Harder/RK Studio)

Countries across the globe have embraced the bicycle and recognized its benefits, while Canada appears to be lagging behind in this area. Approximately one-third of Denmark’s workforce cycles to work; with countries such as Spain, China and the Netherlands topping the list for frequent bicycle usage. So why is it that in a country such as Canada – which seems to have an environmentally and health-conscious society – and, specifically, in a city like Toronto – which is becoming increasingly congested with traffic – that so few people actually use bicycles to get to work?

Currently, there may not be a correct answer to that question. However, this is a definite reason for Canadian organizations to start thinking about incorporating bicycling into their Corporate Social Responsibility strategies.

This Monday marked Toronto’s 5th annual Bike to Work Day – the official start of the city’s annual Bike Month. At the crack of dawn, hundreds of cyclists met at local ‘start points’ to ride together to city hall for the annual Group Commute and Breakfast Event. A clear effort by the city to try to get the workforce cycling to their offices – at least in the summer months. While many showed up this morning to get their free pancake breakfast, people are creatures of habit, and with a previous lack of daily cycling it appears that Toronto’s workforce is not quite ready to make this complete shift in transportation.

The majority of Torontonians have yet to truly recognize the benefits of bicycling. Not only does it encourage healthy lifestyles and a convenient form of daily fitness, but it also provides an affordable and environmentally friendly mode of transportation for employees to commute to their workplaces on a daily basis. Without the proper motivation to realize the benefits of cycling, the number of cyclists is likely to remain fairly stagnant.

Proactive employee bike policies that encourage this form of transportation should increase the probability that workers would shift their perceptions of cycling to work. Organizations could and should do more to advance alternate transportation methods in order to address health and environmental issues. Here are three ways that they can begin to include cycling into their policies: facilities, bike memberships and environmentally-tied compensation packages.

Facilities, which could include bicycle lock-up stations, showers and lockers, would make it easier for employees to bike to work. And for those who don’t own or have access to a bike, Toronto has recently implemented the Bixi system – an accessible pay-as-you-go bicycle renting process, with 80 bike docks located around the city. Corporations should consider offering employees membership cards in order to encourage the use of this form of transportation, while relieving the pressure to own a high quality bicycle.  Lastly, organizations can include environmentally friendly practices into their compensation and bonus packages.  For example, Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. has implemented the Greenshares program where employees are rewarded for performing environmentally friendly actions such as cycling to work.

With the proper facilities, Bixi memberships and accompanying environment-focused bonus packages, corporations should be able to significantly increase the number of employees who choose to use this form of transportation. Hopefully, with motivation coming from the workplace, Toronto’s workforce will begin understanding the benefits of bicycles, and the big smoke will be one step closer to becoming a healthier, greener city.