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Bosses urged to help workers ‘Commute Smart’

Ten top tips for smarter commuting. National Commute Smart Week is being launched as the clocks go back on Sunday (October 28), to encourage smarter commuting.

As British Summer Time ends, children who walk to school or to catch the bus there will do so in daylight, for a few weeks at least. Not so their working parents who, travelling earlier, will continue to leave home in the dark, and in many cases return in the dark too.

Every year there is a significant increase in wintertime road casualties. Last year, the number of car users killed or seriously injured jumped from 1211 in October to 1340 in November – a 12 per cent increase. The number of pedestrians killed during the winter months showed a greater increase, being 20 per cent higher than in the summer: 339 were killed during BST, whereas 404 died during the winter (source: 'Road Casualties Great Britain 2006').

According to Government-backed Work Wise UK, the not-for-profit campaigning body whose members include the TUC, CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, BT, Transport for London and the RAC Foundation, employers can take steps that will reduce the overall need for staff to travel and commute. Creating flexibility in the times when people have to be at a workplace, allowing them to avoid peak times, will impact upon road safety, congestion and overcrowded public transport. Even a small fall in numbers would have a significant impact, it is claimed.

Variations to standard working days and working weeks include flexible working arrangements such as flexitime, condensed hours and nine day fortnights, part home working, remote and mobile working.

Work Wise UK's chief executive, Phil Flaxton, said: “Workers here already have the second longest average daily commute in Europe: in many cases adding an entire working day each week. Add to this the misery, tension and delays of traffic congestion and overcrowding on trains, tubes and buses, and now the prospect of travelling to and from work in the dark for many months: it is no surprise that many succumb to depression and despondency.”

Work Wise UK and the RAC Foundation have developed ten top tips for commuting smarter:

1. Travel at a different time – while the majority of rush hour commuting happens between 7:30am and 8:30am, peak commuter hours get earlier as the week progresses – we get up earlier but also leave work earlier with the weekend on the horizon.

According to the RAC Foundation, even if just a few motorists can make their journeys out of peak hours, it will make a big difference to congestion. (Source: RAC Foundation/Trafficmaster Congestion Report May 2007 http://www.racfoundation.org/files/CongestionIndex.pdf)

2. Telecommute – Work from Home: nine million UK households now have broadband, while new mobile systems such as wi-fi make it possible to securely access business networks from almost anywhere. If all commuters could work just one day a week at home, commuter numbers would fall 20 per cent. This would reduce road congestion and public transport over-crowding significantly.

3. Teleconference – Use on-line tools to replace conferences and meetings, to cut back on travel during the business day. Tools include Online Communities of Practice – on-line groups where people exchange ideas and best practice; wikis – collaborative web pages that allow people to brainstorm ideas without meeting face-to face; and video conferencing through affordable web-cams rather than expensive video suites.

4. Take a detour – The RAC Foundation/Trafficmaster Congestion Index found that using less obvious routes to get from A to B can save commuters hours simply by avoiding congestion on their habitual route. (Source: RAC Foundation/Trafficmaster Congestion Report May 2007 http://www.racfoundation.org/files/CongestionIndex.pdf)

5. Try two wheels instead of four – commuters could shave up to three hours off their weekly commutes by switching from four wheels to two, according to the RAC Foundation's analysis of government statistics* which shows that in almost every region of the UK, motorcycle and scooter commuters are spending less time travelling to and from work than workers travelling by car, bus or coach, with the biggest savings available in Central London and the East of England. (Source: Labour Force Survey Statistics 2007)

6. Try peddle power instead – millions of people spend hours at the gym either before or after work. Why not combine exercise with commuting? Not only will it make you fitter, it could save you money both in travelling and gym subscriptions. The average commute is 8.7miles – most people could cycle this distance in less than half an hour.

7. Make sure your car is up to the job – Next week will see millions of people travelling home from work in the dark for the first time in seven months and many of them will be ill prepared. While huge investment in research and development by lighting manufacturers means that lights on modern vehicles are more effective and efficient than ever, they are useless if drivers don't use them, check them and maintain them. In 2005, over one million cars failed the annual MoT test because of lighting defects. Source: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/statistics/datatablespublications/tsgb/2006edition/sectionninevehicles

8. Get physical – instead of gnashing teeth at the red light, take the opportunity to do a few stretches or a shoulder-shake to get rid of tension and aggression.

9. Do random acts of kindness – drop the “thousand yard stare” and let someone out in front of you. Doing good for others creates an enormous sense of wellbeing and reduces commuting stress.

10. Give someone a lift – overcome “NIMFS” (Not in My Front Seat) and share the journey to work with a friend. Having someone to vent the stress of the day's work on means less road rage, while car-sharing cuts congestion.

Further details about Work Wise UK can be found on the website (www.workwiseuk.org). There is also a dedicated pressroom available through the website or directly at www.workwiseuk.pressrooms.net.

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