11 June 2023

Employers urged to embrace pedal power for happier, healthier workers

| River McCrossen
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Cyclists in front of Wollongong Town Hall

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbury, Destination Wollongong chair Simon Kersten and Wollongong Councillor Tania Brown are joined by cyclists ready to ride to the University of Wollongong. Photo: River McCrossen.

On the eve of the official start of winter, a group of cyclists took to the streets of Wollongong to show that no matter the weather, pedal power is the cleanest and healthiest form of transport.

University of Wollongong staff and students gathered at Wollongong Town Hall last Wednesday (31 May) to cycle to the uni via a safe and efficient route.

They were joined by representatives from Wollongong Council to launch a Bike Friendly Employer (BFE) program designed by Destination Wollongong, which encourages businesses to install facilities and implement workplace programs to enable and accommodate employees to ride to work.

The program is a part of Wollongong’s UCI Bike City status and one aspect of the legacy of the 2022 UCI Road World Championships.

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UOW climate change researcher and Healthy Cities Illawarra coordinator George Takacs was keen to join the ride to encourage others to swap out the car and pedal the trip to uni.

“I’ve been using a bike for 30 years, but I normally walk because I only live 2 km from the university,” he said.

“What we’re trying to promote with this specific ride is the existence of a safe route from the CBD into UOW for people who cycle commute.

“Transport is the fastest growing sector of Australia’s emissions. It’s on track by the end of this decade to be the highest source of our emissions. So, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport the fastest way is through active transport.

“It reduces air and noise pollution, improves people’s health and reduces pressure on the healthcare system. It’s the thing that can do the most to reduce traffic congestion and it improves the productivity of people in their work because they’re healthy.”

George Takacs riding to uni.

UOW climate change researcher and Healthy Cities Illawarra coordinator George Takacs encourages staff and students to swap out their car and pedal the trip to uni. Photo: River McCrossen.

Destination Wollongong chair, president of the Illawarra Cycle Club and UCI World Championship Silver medallist Simon Kersten has encouraged Wollongong businesses to register for the free BFE program.

“The benefits of employers fostering a cycle-friendly workplace are enormous,” he said. “There are health and therefore productivity benefits for employees, but also a reduction in parking and transport costs for employees.

“For businesses, there are obvious positive contributions to the environment, their business’s social capital and even the morale of the workforce.

“For our city, the more people choosing an alternate mode of transport in cycling provides enormous benefits.”

Employers who sign up with the BFE program are encouraged to work with Destination Wollongong representatives to ensure they are actively encouraging employees to participate in cycling.

This includes initiatives such as providing safe, secure, undercover storage for bikes, adequate changing and showering facilities and enjoying the benefits of joining a network of like-minded employers.

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Dr Takacs said just over half of the commutes to UOW are within 5 km and cycling was a viable alternative for most of them.

“It’s just people not being aware of what are the good routes to follow,” Dr Takacs said.

“Of the people who travel within 5 km, and that’s 51 per cent of the UOW commuting population, probably 80 per cent of them can be using a bike or walking.”

To register for the BFE program, visit the Destination Wollongong website.

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