When it comes to transport, two hearts beat in the chest of Thomas Hoffmann. One for the S-Class, he has been working on since joining Daimler in 1986. The other for the bicycle. For 30 years, he has been riding it to work nearly every single morning. Together with colleagues, he has founded an initiative that brings together commuting by bike and social commitment. He talked with us about how this works.
Mr. Hoffmann, for three decades you have been riding your bike to your workplace at the Mercedes-Benz plant in almost any weather. You are now 60 years old. Asking provocative: Why are you actually doing this to yourself?
It's true, in the last 30 years I've left my bike at home just a few days because of storms or snow. The weather is no problem for me. When I ride my bike in the morning, work for me only starts when I'm sitting at my desk in the office. When I drive, it starts as soon as I open the garage. Driving through the "rush hour", looking for a parking space, and then walking to the office - with my bike I save myself all that. I really get to the office relaxed and in a good mood - just ask my colleagues!
Are you travelling with a conventional bike or an e-bike?
I usually travel to work on one of my conventional bikes. I have one for the summer and one for the winter with spikes on the tires. Then I can also ride in snow and ice. I also have an e-bike, but I rarely use it on the way to work.
You have launched an initiative for diversity in mobility. What is the idea behind that?
It all started in 2014 with some kind of competition at our head office. Since many of us have been cycling to work for years, we thought: Let's note our kilometers and check who has cycled the longest distance by the end of the year. The resonance for the idea was pretty well, so we thought about how we could take it further. In 2015, we agreed on a cooperation with the Sindelfingen store of the company Bikemax. Since then they donate an annual kilometer allowance of 1 EUR per 100 kilometers cycled to social projects selected by us. In 2019, 110 cyclists scored 194,093 bike kilometers and collected 2,000 EUR. With this money we have financed an e-bike for the Ecumenical Social Station Sindelfingen. In total we have cycled over one million kilometers since 2014. Our bike2work community now connects around 250 employees. The Sindelfingen city council is also on board, supporting our campaigns and working with us on projects to optimize traffic around the plant.
Can you quantify the impact of the initiative on the environment?
Yes, if our 110 cyclists all commuted by car, around 28 tons more CO2 would be produced. That's about the same amount as on average 7.5 households consume over their electricity consumption in one year.
As a cyclist, what kind of support would you like to receive from Daimler as an employer?
At my location in particular, at the Sindelfingen plant,the conditions for cyclists are already quite good. Especially the possibility to enter the plant is great. For example, I can park my bike directly in front of my building. However, things look quite different at other locations. Changing facilities with lockers and showers are also rare - even in Sindelfingen. All in all, I would say that there is still room for improvement. There are many ways to make companies more attractive for cyclists, from infrastructure and service to incentives.
You work at Daimler in the development of the S-Class, in test management of the front and rear axles. At the same time, your initiative promotes commuting by bike. What do you reply to people who say that this is a contradiction?
Car and bicycle, it is not an "either/or". As the name suggests, our initiative is about diversity. It is about finding the right lid for the right pot. For short distances, the bike is the mode of transport of choice if you are alone. At the same time, I also have a car in the garage. I always say: I allow myself the luxury of riding my bike around traffic jams on weekdays. And on weekends I allow myself the luxury of driving by car - without a guilty conscience when I drive a little faster.
The S-Class among bicycles is for me...
"...not always the most expensive bike. It is important to me that it suits me, is reliable and above all lasts a long time. That's why I also have "unflatterable" tyres, hub dynamos and hub gears with backpedal. But actually, bicycle is always S-class for me (laughs)."
My bike is for me...
"...a piece of quality of life."
To me, living sustainably means...
"...living consciously - and also not believing that everything goes by itself, but that you have to do something yourself to leave enough environment for the rest of the world. Sustainability starts with each individual."