“Green” Transport Consultant Bans Employees from Biking

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Jacobs Babtie, one of the UK’s leading consultants in sustainable transport, is banning its own employees from commuting on bicycles or motorbikes after declaring them too dangerous. On the company website, where there is actually a picure of a young boy signaling a right turn on his bicycle, Jacobs boasts that it has an "impressive track record in the rapidly growing field of sustainable transport." This is surely a weak point in that track record. The Times of London reports (via TreeHugger):

One of Jacobs’ biggest customers is Transport for London, which has a target of achieving a fivefold increase in the level of cycling by 2025. TfL paid Jacobs £6 million last year for various projects, including monitoring the impact of the congestion charge and measuring how many people have switched from driving to walking or cycling.

On its website, Jacobs states: "In the area of cycling, we can offer expert resources at every stage from cycle policy and promotion through to the detailed design and implementation of cycle schemes."

Jenny Jones, the green transport adviser to Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said TfL should consider cancelling its contracts with Jacobs. She said: "It is hypocritical to offer advice on promoting cycling but at the same time ban your staff from using bikes. If Jacobs does not understand how important cycling is to TfL, we need to ask whether they are the right sort of company to work with."


Photo: jeremyhughes/Flickr

  • Mitch

    People say biking is dangerous, but I think we need to keep these dangers in perspective: I’ve never seen the fire department use the Jaws of Life to pull someone out of a flaming bicycle wreck.

    I’ve read the article several times, and I can’t believe that Jacobs Babtie really intends to ban employees from biking to; they say their insurance requires the ban, but I doubt that the company’s insurance covers employees riding to work.

    More likely, the rule bars biking while working. This is still a dumb rule, but it’s probably within the employer’s rights to issue a rule like this.

    Of course, it’s especially dumb for a “green transportation consultant.” How are the consultants supposed to develop plans for green transportation if they’re discouraged from experiencing it themselves? It would make more sense to offer employees Effective Cycling classes and the services of an on-premises bike mechanic.

  • It is not the bike that is dangerous, it is the bike among automobiles. The insurance company is right. The people promoting bikes should also be trying to get rid of the auto. I know that is true of most people on this blog, but there are a lot of bike sites that don’t address this problem. I personally know two cyclists hit from behind by a car.

  • Mitch

    There are risks associated with riding a bike, and we should do what we can to reduce these risks — including get rid of the auto, wherever possible — but even now bike riding is not all that dangerous. According to the London Times article, the casualty rate for bikers is 38 deaths per billion km. (I presume this statistic is for Britain.)

    If you’re a statistically average biker, you can go a long distance before these odds catch up with you. If this death rate includes children and male teenagers — and it probably does — the average 30 year old London transportation planner has a very low risk of bodily harm from biking.

    Since bikers are known to be safer when there are lots of other bikes on the street — the “safety in numbers effect” — people who care about bike safety (including, perhaps insurance companies and green transportation consultants?) should encourage people to get on their bikes; they should also make efforts to ensure that bikers know how to ride safely and ride well-maintained equipment; that’s why I suggested cycling classes and bike mechanic services at the workplace.

  • nobody

    Can they really legally get away with dictating the transportation mode their employees use? Assuming that they locked up a block away, how would the company even know? Sounds rather legally dubious.

  • Mitch

    While we’re on the subject, I should mention that, instead of banning bikes at work, the City of Madison, Wisconsin takes the opposite approach: they have a Bikes at Work program that checks out bikes to city employees for short work-related on lunch-hour trips.

    I don’t know how many employees take advantage of this program, but I have seen the Mayor on one of the Bikes at Work bikes.

  • I went green last week!!!Check out my blog….best regards,pumpy

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