CYCLING campaigners have joined forces with the council and city business leaders to encourage more people to commute by bicycle this year.

Bike Worcester have joined forces with Worcester City Council and local business groups to call on Worcester employers to help transform the city in 2021, by enabling and encouraging their staff to commute by bicycle.

The campaign group said more than 50 per cent of people who live in Worcester have a commute of less than three miles and is encouraging people to make those journeys by bike rather than car.

Dan Brothwell of Bike Worcester said: “Employers can support active travel in a number of ways, such as thinking about where bikes and a change of clothes can be stored.

"Bikes and other equipment can be purchased through the Cycle to Work scheme, where the business makes the purchase, and this is repaid by the employee via salary sacrifice, saving personal tax contributions."

Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chambers of Commerce and Worcester BID have also supported the call for an increase in active travel - which includes walking and cycling - as well as supporting the move towards Worcester becoming a zero-carbon city.

Cllr Marc Bayliss, leader of Worcester City Council, said “Choosing to travel by bike rather than car for short journeys has a number of benefits for individuals and wider society. A commute by bike is beneficial to both physical and mental health for the individual, as well as costing less money than fuel and parking fees.

"More journeys made by bike in the city will reduce congestion, noise and pollution, which benefits everyone. This moves us closer to a more sustainable society, with better air quality and reduced CO2 emissions causing climate change.”

Businesses can also sign up for the SHIFT scheme which encourages staff to cycle to work by giving companies the chance to pledge a small sum of money for each kilometre travelled by employees by bike which is then donated to a good cause.

Worcester-based Herlig Marles Architects signed up for the scheme pledging to donate 10p per kilometre.

Anita Marles said “Cycling is often the quickest and most convenient way to get around the city. Unlike a car journey which may get delayed in traffic, I always know how long it will take me to get somewhere.

"Our clients may at first be surprised to see us arrive by bike but they soon realise it’s part of our business culture; to make our city greener and our lives healthier. We care deeply about our local community and really encourage others to get on their bikes to make their daily travel more fun and with less hassle."

Hallow-based businesses Aquabio says it has seen an eight-fold increase in distance travelled by bike since signing up, with journeys made to the offices and construction sites, sometimes in combination with trains or cars.

Sharon Smith, chief executive of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Now more than ever it is important for businesses to promote a healthy living lifestyle to their employees. The SHIFT scheme will not only provide employees with a boost to their health and well-being but will also make a difference in reducing companies carbon emission contributions.

“The chamber has always valued initiatives which promote healthy living and a reduction in carbon footprint. With the government target of achieving net zero emissions fast approaching this scheme is a perfect way for businesses to do their part in tackling the important issue of climate change.

“I would encourage all businesses to sign up for this scheme and promote a more sustainable lifestyle to their employees.”

Sam McCarthy of Worcester BID said: “The use of sustainable transport is a great way for businesses to support their employees to choose a healthier lifestyle and support their mental wellbeing.

"It is also key to adapt this change to support the city to deliver the strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 2030. We also want to encourage those visiting Worcester to walk or cycle, the city has so much to offer with riverside pathways, parks or even coming to relax and refuel in one of the many restaurants, bars or shops”

Gary Woodman, chief executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is important that businesses across Worcestershire encourage their staff to pursue sustainable transport such as cycling or walking to work. At the LEP we have set out our energy strategy for the county and sustainable transport plays a major role in achieving our ambitions to reduce carbon emissions for Worcestershire by 2030.

“The SHIFT scheme is a great example of how businesses can use cycling to help contribute to not only a healthier workforce, but to also give back to the local community through donations to fund local good causes. I would encourage more businesses across the county to utilise sustainable transport and schemes like SHIFT going forward."