Travelling green even out of the city

The cost of car ownership is on the increase and so is congestion on our roads. It’s enough to make the coolest commuter hot under the bonnet.

We don’t need Peter Kay to prove that car-sharing is the way forward. It’s greener, cheaper and, potentially, a lot more fun.

Zipcar now claims to have more rentable cars parked around London than there are Starbucks branches. Reassuringly, each of those Zipcars represents 10 privately owned vehicles taken off the road in the London area over the last 12 months.

But what about those of us who don’t work metres from a high street coffee shop? Those who shun shared rides and soya lattes in favour of free parking and the comfort of our own car? People who work out of town, in places more like Car Share’s Manchester Fort retail park?

This article asks what part these workers can play in sustainable travel, looking at:

  • the problem with business parks
  • the better news: social responsibility
  • better still: active travel
  • how to go green – even on a business park
  • the future of business parks.

The problem with business parks

With their alluring accessibility and plentiful free parking, business parks don’t seem to tick many boxes when it comes to sustainable travel. Often in rural or out-of-town locations, they don’t feel the pressures of congestion charging, city centre gridlock or pricey carparks.

Single-occupancy vehicles are the norm, even though many staff live close enough to walk or cycle to work.

Even where organisations encourage shared travel, a car-centric culture means employees don’t get the chance to reap the rewards of active commuting. (Your office may be situated within several million square feet of countryside and boast an on-site gym, but imagine the benefits of doing your daily workout and your commute at the same time, and enjoying secure bike parking and great shower and changing facilities when you’re done.)

The better news: corporate social responsibility

Happily, many organisations are adopting sustainable travel plans as part of their corporate social responsibility strategy.

With the average car-sharer saving £1,000 a year, corporate car-sharing schemes are a bit like a pay-rise. 

Peer-to-peer rental services like Drivy and easyCar (which lets owners rent their cars out privately), together with carpooling clubs such as Zipcar and corporate schemes, are rivalling old-style rental companies (like Avis – which now owns Zipcar).

And the trend is set to continue. Research suggests that the number of people using car-sharing services will increase almost threefold, from roughly six million in 2017 to almost 18 million by 2025.

With a ready-made community all going to the same workplace, organisations located on business parks can collectively meet the running costs of these schemes. Together, they can make the daily commute part of the sharing economy.

The benefits of active travel

Taking things up a gear, we know that employees who travel to work actively – on foot or by bike – are healthier than the rest of us. So says research showing that regular cyclists take fewer sick days than non-cyclists.

It’s also clear that supporting employees getting to work by walking or cycling is a worthwhile investment for businesses. As well as boosting attendance and reducing traffic delays, it increases productivity and employee retention and motivation, and reduces the need for parking spaces.

Employers involved in one cycle-to-work scheme estimated the average savings to the organisation at £25–80 per month per bike.

How to go green

Green travel can be encouraged by initiatives that change social norms, like bike loan and car-share schemes, electric car charging points and personalised travel-planning, as well as innovations such as electric and autonomous vehicles.

Transport planners working at Milton Park, a 250-acre site in Oxfordshire, have been awarded £2.5 million to trial self-driving vehicles.

The future

Perhaps the biggest benefit of promoting sustainable and active travel is that it appeals to environmentally aware, health-conscious millennials, who will make up 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025.

As more companies return to city centres to attract these workers, business parks are under pressure to attract and retain talent. Could savvy travel-planning be the answer?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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