Cycle To Work Scheme – twenty years on

Twenty years, that’s a long time. A life time for some, well, those who were born in 1999 anyway, what were you doing in ’99? Me? I was not even ten, probably causing havoc in my mum and dads back garden, being told about the Millennium Bug and dreaming of a Subaru Impreza P1.

The Cycle to Work Scheme was started as a way to encourage the nations workforce to a healthier life and ease road congestion. As an incentive, companies enlisted in the scheme are able to save money when reimbursed through the scheme, while employees are entitled to an affordable way to purchase a new bike, tax-free. Yes, a tax free bike, you just need to work for a business which is signed up to the scheme and you’re only allowed £1,000 towards your bike and equipment.

Bikes can be used for your weekend ride as well as commuting to work, and at the end of the loan term – which is essentially a hire period for your equipment – employees can purchase the gear by paying any outstanding fees; otherwise, it will belong to the employer.

As an incentive, it’s very enticing but did it work? Well, people are travelling further on bikes, on average, in 2002 987 miles were covered per year rising to 1144 in 2017 however, the number of cyclists has largely stayed about the same.

The Scheme falls down in trying to convince non-cyclists to become cyclists and ditch the car for the bike, no surprise that the main reason for this was road safety and having the confidence to ride the bikes on the road. There are other moans and groans to of it taking too long to travel by bike, a car being more convenient and (surprisingly for me) there’s too much traffic. You’d think with more traffic people might see the advantage of going by bike?

With 57% of the people who are involved in the scheme already cyclists, it’s seen as a fantastic way to upgrade your bike and kit which is affordable and still indulge in your passion for pedal pushing.

And for those who make a long term commitment to swapping their car for their bike, they can enjoy incredible health and financial benefits as detailed in this infographic from Merlin: What would happen to your body if you swapped your car for a bike? The results showed that once the year is up, you’ll have stronger muscles, prolonged mental health benefits and have saved a small fortune.

I feel like I’m preaching to the choir here as many of you reading this are probably already cyclists and already own a bike but, n+1, right? My point remains though, when living in East London, commuting by bike was easier and better than travelling by tube, certainly in the summer when the tube was just so hot and busy. Conversely, travelling by bike, the smog was just so much that it actually had an effect on my lungs. However I felt better about myself when I did cycle in. If things are made in to a routine they become easier.

I think what really needs to change is employers mindset. An area to store bikes which is safe and simple maintenance equipment is a huge benefit, as is a shower. However, it seems that installing an electric charge point for cars is a better incentive for employers as the cost of installation is cheaper than that of a decent shower for cyclists. The government can do all they can in building a better infrastructure but, to me, it means nothing unless employers will build the bike shed and showers. So more than tax breaks, help your workforce to a healthier life and it might become a benefit for employees.

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