Travel South Yorkshire’s Active Travel team are urging workplaces of all shapes and sizes to rediscover walking. Richard Pilgrim tells unLTD’s Chris Coates how the team can help get businesses moving more actively at a time when it can feel less fun to be outdoors
Before Covid-19, our work would involve lots of face-to-face activity such as talking to decision makers and individuals within workplaces about travel options. Our key motivator is to reduce the number of car trips being taken.
We’ve delivered a number of programmes which have given more people the chance to try alternative ways of moving, whether that’s through trials of public transport, access to cycling services or even supporting workplaces to introduce walking schemes.
We’ve been delivering workplace walking programmes for a couple of years now and had a weekly lunchtime walk group in Sheffield city centre. Groups of this kind can be difficult to keep going, but with persistence and a real team ethic we were able to establish and grow the group. Inevitably the pandemic brought the group to a pause.
Back in 2018 we put our team through their Walk Leader programme thanks to support from The Ramblers Walking for Health programme and the local walking networks – Walk Well Barnsley, Doncaster Health Walks, #WalkRotherham and Step Out Sheffield. It was a really positive experience and changed our idea of what a walk was. Route plans, walk leaders and even the dreaded risk assessment quickly became part of our walking experience.
The benefits of walking for our physical and mental health are well known and have been widely publicised. Walking is a great way to get our recommended weekly activity in, has a very low impact on the local environment and it’s also a great way to get from A to B.
In the early stages of lockdown, we tried to bring the team together by implementing ‘virtual walks’ using Microsoft Teams. With a team of ten people, six full-time and four part-time, getting us together without the need for a laptop really appealed. It meant we could connect together – through audio and/or video – and have conversations about anything and everything, work and non-work. The virtual walk idea worked well for a few weeks, but as the traffic volumes began to grow, it became more difficult to have these online, outdoor interactions.
Fast forward to September and we’ve been able to take our first tentative steps back to face-to-face walking meetings and these have gone well. It’s been great to meet up again in smaller teams and have some of that much-needed engagement. Better still, we had an armoury of ready prepared routes to play with.
We recently produced a handy little employer guide detailing the areas where we can help to re-think travel. At a time when we’re inevitably moving around less, there’s never been a better time to actually think how we can all move around just a bit more – whether your team are back in the workplace or working remotely.
To find out how Travel South Yorkshire’s Active and Sustainable Travel team can help your workplace and offer practical support with things such as setting up walking schemes, contact email@example.com or visit travelsouthyorkshire.com/workplace