Archi Velo


Cycle Friendly Architects

This is a different story from, I note, previous very impressive long-distance trips.  However, here at Nicoll Russell Studios, it is more a gradual accumulation of distance over time ……. but it does all add up.   

In 2016, things actually began as a run log, starting up a bit of motivation and competition within the office. We quickly added a cycling category to the contest.  We didn’t manage to keep this up for very many monthsto begin with – bad weather? lethargy? But, following another half-hearted attempt the following year, things really took off in 2018. 

 With running and cycling still being the main events we have added many more categories to widen the appeal and to encourage more people. We have flat cycling, hilly cycling, running, walking and swimming, all measured in kilometres.  We also have gym time, football, yoga and even sometimes gardening, all measured in minutes for want of a better idea. 

Prizes are given at the end of each month. All very exciting, could be as much as a Fredo for example, or perhaps a wee pack of nuts when in a healthier mood.  It is surprising how much a small prize for achievement brightens up a person’s day as they sit there working at a computer. 

While this started out as a health drive, being part of the Studio’s environmental group, I then in addition, saw a positive link to improving our carbon footprint.  As Architects, we have an obvious environmental responsibility towards the buildings we design but that also extends our own housekeeping, our own workplace.  

I have tried the odd site visit by bike, works quite well. Messenger bag, ok.  A site high-vis jacket does just as well on the bike.  Helmets, …. less easy perhaps.  However, I think the main advantage is in the commuting.  While we have one cyclist who travels in from Carnoustie, it is the multiple short commutes which add up.  Ifound out recently that one of my colleagues, having changed from driving to walking in almost every day over the last year, and winning a number of prizes on the way, Jane has decided to give up her car altogetherwhich is certainly better for the environment.

My own cycle commute is very short.  It does not add many kilometres to the totalizer, however I find it makes a big difference to how I feel in the day.  That bit of very fresh air blasting up the River Tay is always welcome.  So, it seems that the cycling is good for mental wellbeing as well as physical health. 

I have found that the trick to actually getting out the door and avoiding the lazy car option is to have everything ready to hand, making cycling the easiest and quickest option.  And - a cycle commuters handy hint – the architect’s uniform of black jeans is pretty good for hiding chain oil!

Dundee is a small city and we have ready access to the scenic coastal path up to Carnoustie and Arbroath.  We can also easily use the tracks up at Templeton Woods where Director Willie Watt, a qualified mountain bike coach, was able to organise training sessions for the staff – very enjoyable and we all survived unscathed!

We were pretty happy this year to present our low key approach to Cycling Scotland and as a result, attain a Cycle Friendly Employer status but while that is directed at the office itself, we have found that our strategy is also reaching staff families too, for example a school child cycling in with her mother and leaving her bike stored safely here near the school or other family members joining in the mountain bike training.

Looking to the future, we plan to improve our facilities, aiming to install proper bike racks and, we hope, a shower.  Both of these we think, making it easier for people to cycle and run into work, therefore creating a healthier more motivated staff and a tangible team ethic.

Alice Turpie is an Associate and Architect with Nicoll Russell Studios, Dundee

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