Save us from our own best intentions! Jacobs, one of the UK's leading consultants in sustainable transport, is banning biking for its own employees. The Times Online reports the text of the memo to all employees in which the company's health and safety manager says:
It's patently obvious that if you are struck by a wayward vehicle when you are on a bicycle or motorbike you are going to be more severely affected than if you were in a car. The reason for this policy is to protect our employees from other vehicles on the road.
There will be a few limited exceptions when employees will be permitted to travel by bicycle, but that would be when that mode of transport is required to undertake the job, for example, carrying out surveys along river banks and tow paths.
What could be behind such a dramatic measure? And is it the right attitude for a company which is a key advisor to Transport for London (TfL), which targets to get five times more people onto bikes by 2025?From Jacobs' own website:
- Jacobs has grown to become one of the UK's leading consultants providing advice and support to public and private sector organisations in transport planning and traffic engineering.
Jacobs acknowledges in the e-mailed memo that the new bike policy "could be construed as being at odds with our environmental policy and the requirement to be environmentally responsible" and "will not please our environmentally friendly clients".
Some employees are reported to believe the change has something to do with Jacob's insurance policies. Not mentioned in the Times article is the aspect of worker health and safety laws, which do require that companies maintain a safe workplace. Traffic accidents during working time are reportable just as a sawmill accident or coalmine accident would be. In some European countries, even accidents during the employee's commute to and from the workplace count against the company's performance in workplace safety.
But this does not excuse Jacobs. This is a company with pull (â‚¤6 million in contracts with TfL in 2006). Additionally, Jacob's stated mission includes to "provide expert and up-to-the-minute advice on cycle and pedestrian strategy and travel planning". Jacobs should be throwing its weight behind cyclist safety training and safer cycling infrastructure. They should even be going beyond that to advocate sensible and balanced insurance and regulatory policies which recognize the long-term health benefits of cycling that offset the accident risks.
A spokesman for Transport for London said:
We find the attitude of Jacobs bizarre and we will be urging them to rethink this decision. TfL is committed to encouraging Londoners to get on their bikes whenever and wherever possible. Our serious investment in growing cycling has seen journeys by bike on soar by 83 per cent since 2000. The number of number of cyclists killed or seriously injured has fallen by 28 per cent since the mid to late 1990s.
What a step backwards from promising progress made in cities like Berlin and programs like the UK Center for Alternative Technology's Cycle to Work program. We here at TreeHugger predict the people at Jacobs will come to their senses shortly and retract this ridiculous policy.