Simon Community Scotland – Creating a Cycling Culture in the Workplace
Simon Community Scotland are a Charity that provide support and accommodation for people experiencing homelessness.
In September 2020, we spoke to volunteer coordinator Lauren Cherry about the organisation’s efforts to encourage cycling. We reviewed the cycle parking and changing facilities at 11 of their Glasgow sites.
Before becoming involved in the Cycling Friendly Employer Award – a programme run by Cycling Scotland – Simon Community Scotland had no cycling facilities. Very few of their employees cycled, all business journeys used motorised vehicles and there was very little awareness of the potential benefits of increased staff cycling rates.
Now they have a cycling intranet page for staff including route planning and cycle training resources, and information about local and national cycling events.
As a Cycling Friendly Employer award applicant, Simon Community Scotland could apply to Cycling Scotland’s employer fund to purchase a fleet of bikes which volunteers and staff could use to deliver essential services, such as the Street Cycles team which provides support to rough sleepers and vulnerable people in Glasgow. Using bikes has enabled the Street Team to cover a greater area and respond more rapidly to those in need. Each bike is able to carry life-changing items, including food, clothing, first aid, sanitary products, needle exchange kits and sleeping bags. The team communicates via a WhatsApp group where they can also share cycling related information.
Bike for Good provided cycle training for the Street Cycles team. Lauren reflected on her and Craig’s experience:
‘I learnt more than I thought I would. I’m a pretty confident road cyclist, I wasn’t thinking that I was going to learn as much as I did. But I think they were really good at tailoring it to our level. So Craig’s the same, cycles every day, he’s a very confident road cyclist but just clarifying really specific things, like where you should be on the road, why is that safer than a different position. Especially if you’re cycling with another person, which isn’t something I do often, but the Street Cycles guys do it day in, day out so how you should be as a pair on the road, that was interesting to learn as well.’
Simon Community Scotland’s cycle fleet includes hybrids, folding bikes, e-bikes and e-cargo bikes. During the pandemic, Lauren used one of the folding bikes to commute to work. She commented on the health benefits she’s noticed: ‘I think the benefits mentally, probably outweigh the benefits physically actually. Especially at this time of year when you’re not getting to see much daylight, just being outside for half an hour even if it is in the rain, is quite nice.’
Simon Community is a member of Healthy Working Lives. Lauren noted that involvement in the Cycling Friendly Employer Award has ‘given us a lot of opportunity to put our money where our mouth’ and give ‘people the tools to go out and either cycle to work or cycle for work.’
She also commented on the advantage of staff cycling, rather than using public transport during the pandemic: ‘not only saving money but avoiding the risk of catching an infection, at the moment is great, but also in comparison to using a car, there’s a couple of things: it’s better for their health, better for their pocket and also better for the environment which we are all for.’
Lauren noted that the e-cargo bike they’d purchased with funding from the Energy Saving Trust ‘really came into its own’ during lockdown, so much so that they purchased a second with funding from Cycling Scotland:
‘So all of a sudden we’re having to deliver PPE every week to services and the alternative to that is to use our van, which is brilliant, and I love our van but it’s not the most environmentally friendly thing in the world.’ So being able to access cycles, particularly ones with panniers and you know the cargo bike with a big bucket on the front that you can load up with pretty much everything that you want to and take it out to services is definitely something that comes to mind when I think about making improvements environmentally because we make a lot of deliveries every week and having that on hand is very beneficial.’
They have also recently secured funding for an e-bike loan scheme for staff which is due to launch in the Spring.
Lauren would like to encourage other employers to apply for the Cycling Friendly Employer Award: ‘There’s nothing to lose. There’s nothing negative about encouraging cycling within an organisation, all you can do is improve your staff’s health and wellbeing and, as I said, the funding is there. So for organisations like us who work on quite a tight budget a lot of the time, it wasn’t a problem. So I think if we can do it, anyone can do it. Not only is the funding there but the support is there.’
Lauren was also pleased with the support she received from Bike for Good: ‘the help that you gave me was brilliant, and you talked me through the process and just basically gave me a tick list of what I needed to do, which was very helpful. So yeah, Bike for Good and particularly Robin have been very good at helping me through the process and making sure that I meet all the requirements.’
In November 2020, 9 sites received their Cycling Friendly Employer Award renewal, 2 are currently awaiting cycle parking improvements.