Uphill ride putting staff on bikes

9th May 2008 at 01:00
Like many schools in London, my own is getting a rebuild
Like many schools in London, my own is getting a rebuild. In the new "green" London of the future, there are to be virtually no car parking spaces. Where we once had 50 spots for motor vehicles, we are to have parking to cater for more than 100 staff bicycles.

But is cycling a realistic option for most teachers? Any school redesigning itself with the aim of getting staff to cycle to work first needs to take a reality check. When I started cycling seven miles across London, it was the height of summer. But in the depths of winter, cycling is only a realistic mode of travel for a praetorian guard of fitness fanatics.

A school that wants to encourage its staff to bike it to work needs to plan its building work with care. It will need a sizeable drying room where the drenched cyclists can sort out their sodden clothes. And, believe me, when you get wet on a bike, you get very wet.

It will also need shower facilities - a long ride in to work can be very sweaty. How many showers will a car- free school need if 40 staff arrive within 10 minutes of each other?

Then there's the question of dressing appropriately. Most schools encourage staff to work in full business dress, but where are all these snappy clothes going to be kept? I am lucky and have an office. I drape my wet clothes across a long radiator. I have a reasonable selection of suits, ties and shirts on hangers, on all the walls. But what about the others? They can only cycle if they have room to store their stuff. Will new "green" schools also provide full-length metal lockers where clothes can be hung?

Cycling more than a couple of miles in difficult weather conditions is gruelling. Sure, it has its benefits. It burns up calories and reduces carbon footprints. But it can also be dangerous. So, if you are planning a new, low-carbon school, there's plenty to think about.

Paul Blum, Senior manager in a London school.

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