By Duncan Moore
Recent years have seen a massive increase in the numbers of city workers commuting by bicycle, no doubt helped by cycling infrastructure projects such as the cycle superhighways in London. This upsurge has not gone unnoticed by commercial landlords and property developers who are now looking to attract ‘green’ businesses with high numbers of cycling employees.
Taking note of this changing environment was David Farr, who has been involved with the cycle industry for many years. “I’ve seen the number of users multiply beyond control. So that means there are more people coming into London on bikes and that’s got to be good news for the industry.
“I could see bike racks in commercial premises were filling up and I saw that buildings that didn’t make an effort were not doing so well with respect to the tenants they attract. Those making an effort to provide facilities for cyclists and runners were attracting big-name businesses,” says Farr. “Around two years ago, I decided to take a step back from the business I co-founded to go and meet some of the landlords of buildings where there were lots of active cyclists.”
What he discovered during those meetings was a real eye-opener for him. “I was really surprised to learn that health and wellbeing facilities are now considered the third most important criteria behind the price of rent and the overall internet connectivity of a building.”
At those meetings with landlords and property developers, Farr was told that if he could develop a benchmark, a set of standards that give a transparent window between landlords and a prospective occupier on what is being offered to encourage an active lifestyle for a building’s tenants, that they would be interested in giving up the rent on the space used for the facilities because it would make the building much more appealing. This, in turn, would lead to the ability to ask for higher rents and longer lease terms.
It was during those meetings that Farr realised how much a universal standard was needed. Although an effort was being made architects were making mistakes. Farr mentions a facility with 400 lockers that didn’t have any vents and of a building in London that has a futuristic-looking ramp running through the reception area for cyclists to access the bike parking, but on its opening day it was wet outside and the first cyclist to use the ramp slipped up on the highly polished floor.
“This is the fine details that only someone from a cycling background fully understands,” he says. CyclingScore, which Farr describes as “ensuring the built environment improves end of trip facilities and services, making it more accessible for cyclists,” is a certifiable accreditation of a building’s cycle friendliness.
“That movement is happening now especially in London,” he says. “But we are doing a lot of work in the regions; Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow. Take, for example, Bristol; pound for pound it’s probably more of a cycling city. These regions represent a huge opportunity because the buildings are way behind where they need to be.
“We are keen to try and get more and more people to give it a go. The market of ‘would-be cyclists’ in the built environment really is huge. Far bigger than the current number of active commuters.”
It is easy to see why Farr wants to get more building cycle-friendly as it will mean more work for his other business in the cycle industry, but he is always acutely aware of that business’s limitation. “In city centres around the country, cycle-related service providers can work with building landlords and facilities management companies. Cycle businesses need to be proactive and CyclingScore is always looking for providers of service that can plug into our clients.
“I want as many cycle trainers, product suppliers, fitness coaches and more, it doesn’t matter just so long as it’s people who are prepared to do deals in business and be plugged into buildings that are CyclingScore certified.”
Including local cycling-related services is an important part of the CyclingScore accreditation. There are two ways that clients can adopt CyclingScore; one is by assessment and the other is via the CyclingScore Design Lab. If a building operator goes for the former, which is usually the case in an existing building, the assessment covers points such as access, bike parking and then benchmarking the numbers against square footage and also the expected maxi- mum occupancy of the building. At the same time it takes into account international standards such as the BREEAM and WELL certifications.
“Around 20% of the assessment focuses on the services offered,” explains Farr. “We want cycling-related operations to go into buildings and build up a customer base within those buildings that are getting certified. We can make that connection happen via our engagement guides which we deliver to the management team of each building we certify to encourage them to set up events throughout the year like bike clinics.
“Businesses and individuals can work with the building management and be paid by them for the services they provide or charge the individual users. You go to the customer rather than waiting for it to come to you.”
The second option offered by Cycling Score is its Design Lab, where Farr and his team do the design and build of the cycle facility within a building; the specification, the flow and layout of the area itself. Farr describes it as being “all about getting the punchy appearance that makes people feel welcome – not a dark and dingy basement. We create a place that people can be proud of, want to be and which can be used as a part of the building’s marketing.”
However, the scope of what Cycling Score can and does do includes much more as Farr goes on to explain: “For a building to really harness a first-class cycling culture you can’t just provide good facilities you’ve got to go further. We don’t just plug locations into local supplier, we connect them with the local authority initiatives in their area too. For example, the local police force that will offer free bike security marking. Lots of London Boroughs offer free one-on-one cycle training.
“We can arrange to get the company that provides that training to visit a certified building and offer lessons. That will help people to gain the confidence to commute by bike for the first time. It’s all about getting people to try it. We set up cycling clubs in each building, each club is bespoke to the building. Again, that is a potential opening for a local shop to interact with the cycle users in the building, creating ties with the club.”
When asked to sum up the thinking behind CyclingScore, Farr comments: “CyclingScore was not designed for existing cyclists, it was designed to try and get more people to choose an active lifestyle.
“I’ve recently had a meeting with NextBike [a flexible bike share scheme provider] which wants to work with our certified buildings and the pool bikes that they provide will need servicing by a local business.
“I’ve been speaking to a laundry firm and that sums up what CyclingScore is all about – breaking down barriers between businesses to create a better environment for commuter cyclists.
“We are also really interested to hear of new ways in which specialists within the cycle trade can find to engage with people in commercial or residential buildings on cycling services. CyclingScore can certainly help to make those connections to increase a cycle business owners’ customer base.”