Active commuting is the use of active-transportation (AT) to get to and from work. There are numerous health, social, transportation, environmental and economic benefits associated with using AT.1
In 2016, active modes of commuting to work in London, Ontario included, walking (6%), cycling (1%) and public transit (8%).2 There is growing interest in using AT to travel to / from work and workplaces are well positioned to play a role in supporting increased use of active commuting.
Active commuting provides a convenient and regular opportunity for many employees to fit daily / weekly physical activity into their routine by walking, cycling or using public transit to get to and / or from work.
Having a physically active workforce contributes to enhanced productivity, employee physical / mental well-being and morale.
Active commuting is associated with reduced sick time and reduced employee turnover which can lead to workplace savings.
Employers that support active commuting can enhance their corporate image in areas such as environmental leadership, social responsibility and community relations.
Workplaces that support active commuting options provide employment equity for those without motorized vehicle access or for whom parking access is limited, not possible or too costly.
The workplace can be an information source to employees and influence attitudes about and use of AT. Choices about using AT for other reasons such as, shopping, daily living and recreation can also be impacted.
Employers that support active commuting play a role in reducing overall traffic congestion. Reduced traffic congestion helps to improve commute times, traffic safety and air quality as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Workplaces can play an important role in increasing the demand for improved transportation system design that supports active commuting which, in turn, can influence civic planning and engineering decisions.
What Can Workplaces do to Support Active Commuting?3,4
Here are a few ideas that employers can use to encourage and support employees in using active commuting daily, weekly, monthly or seasonally.
Find one or more champions within your workplace to lead and organize collaborative efforts with management and staff that support active commuting options and opportunities. A good place to start by developing a travel plan.
Provide information and resources to employees about active commuting opportunities and reduced use of motorized transport options. For employees who cannot actively commute, carpooling or carsharing could be options.
Provide various types of supports such as; secure bicycle storage, lockers and shower facilities, organize a Bicycle Users Group (BUG), more flexible dress codes, subsidized public transit or other types of financial incentives, etc.
Provide active transportation workshops for employees, e.g. walking, cycling.
Support alternative work arrangements, i.e. flexible work hours, compressed work weeks, work from home, teleworking.
Organize workplace challenges, employee recognition programs, or support community events to increase awareness about active commuting.
Public Health Nurse Bernie McCall shares her experience biking 7km to work. With a bit a planning, you can bike to work too.
Developing a Workplace Travel Plan
A workplace travel plan is a set of coordinated actions that encourages efficient and sustainable commuting among employees while addressing the unique characteristics of the workplace.4
Keys to Success
Commitment – Since workplace travel plans lie outside an employer’s core business the commitment must reflect true motivation and a shared purpose.
Leadership – Leadership in the form of organizational accountability, having champions, a coordinator and various types of staff support involved in the process will help facilitate the development and implementation of the plan. Examples of staff include; facilities management, communications, parking, human resources, finance, procurement, etc.
Employee Involvement – An advisory team can identify opportunities, foresee challenges, help shape effective communications and provide ongoing feedback.
Partnership & Resources – Accessing outside support can help avoid mistakes / inefficiencies and provide ready-made solutions that avoid delays. A well-crafted action plan will align with the resources available to implement and sustain it.
Integration – Workplace travel plans that become part of an employer’s way of doing business are much more likely to endure and lead to desired results.
Travel Plan Development Steps
1. Getting Started
Determine potential benefits to the organization of having a travel plan.
Determine who should be involved in the development and implementation of the plan.
Decide what key measures will provide the most useful information.
Determine how much time and money is required.
2. Assess the Situation
Find out what methods employees use to commute including why, when and what the circumstances are for using particular modes.
Find out what employee interests and attitudes are as well as the opportunities and challenges that exist when using various commuting options.
Summarize the information to identify priority needs and opportunities.
3. Create an Action Plan
Determine goals, objectives and specific actions.
Decide who will be responsible for what.
Determine a process and timeline to follow.
Determine the costs and benefits.
4. Implement the Action Plan
Build and maintain momentum through organizational commitment to the goals, objectives and actions by providing ‘quick wins’ and timely communications that link identified priorities to the actions.
Look for ways to improve communication and promotion through simple, positive, encouraging messages that acknowledge successes and are linked to local, provincial or national events.
5. Evaluate Results
Determine what progress has been made using the predetermined measures.
Determine the effect of specific actions using a general or targeted survey.
Determine what may have changed that is affecting commuting attitudes and / or behaviours.
Understand what new opportunities and challenges may exist.
6. Update the Action Plan
Determine if there are new goals and actions based on results from the previous action plan.