Freewheeling to the future

SPONSORED: A new partnership project between NUS, the EAUC and Love to Ride is designed to encourage staff and students to cycle more

Cycling can help students and staff to be happier, healthier and wealthier and helps higher education institutions by dramatically reducing sick leave, saving National Insurance Contributions through the Cycle to Work Scheme and reducing congestion, pollution and the need for car parking at and around campuses.

A successful pilot, run using an Innovation Challenge Fund award from the Department for Transport, ran with eight university partners during the 2018/9 academic year. 3,150 people, including 496 ‘new riders’ (those who had ridden a bike zero or a few times in the year prior to registering) logged 124,717 trips on the UniCycle website, clocking up a staggering 1,091,561 miles during the course of the year.

NUS and Love to Ride worked with participating institutions to assemble project teams comprising students and staff. The whole cohort were invited to a behaviour change workshop at UWE last November, where they were introduced to the Individual Social Material (ISM) model and shown how to apply it to transport behaviours at their own campuses by leading experts Andrew Darnton and Fiona Spotswood.

Project teams then used the model to devise interventions and events to get more people on bikes at their institutions, coming up with a wide variety of innovative and impactful ideas including: bike-based food tours, fun led rides, virtual velodrome challenges, bike breakfasts and free bike hire schemes.

Cycling can help students and staff to be happier, healthier and wealthier and helps higher education institutions by dramatically reducing sick leave

The UniCycle Challenge – a friendly competition between the universities to see which could get the most students and staff to try riding a bike – ran in March and despite the Beasts from the East almost a thousand people took part.

The Love to Ride platform allows students and staff to register quickly and easily and log their trips manually or by linking a variety of cycling apps (Ride Report, Strava, Endomondo and MapMyRide).

By segmenting registrants according to their baseline survey, they can be targeted with useful and relevant information to help them access existing cycling services and give them the support they need to switch to traveling by bike.

The website also offers institutions instant reporting on cycling participation at and around their campuses, as well as a platform for the passion and enthusiasm of their cycling staff and students to be constructively channelled into long-term behaviour change. The site is fun, attractive and easy to use, consistently receiving excellent feedback from users.

The lead contact at the University of Oxford, whose staff team won the UniCycle Challenge in March, said: “I am so proud of everyone here for getting involved. We thought it would be students and maybe a few staff who took it up even though we really wanted to reach staff, and it’s worked brilliantly. We are amazed at the results and it’s enabled us to reach a whole new audience of cyclists that we previously haven’t engaged with before.”

NUS, Love to Ride and the EAUC are currently planning and recruiting for the first fully self-funded year of the UniCycle programme.

Basic membership costs £2,900 and the fully supported package is £6,900 (both +VAT) and support may be available from your Local Authority.

Write to unicycle@lovetoride.org to find out more and visit nus.org.uk/unicycle to see the NUS ratecard and access two webinars about the programme.