A new report from the Cycle to Work Alliance has highlighted the role that the Cycle to Work scheme is playing in encouraging people to take up cycling, outlining the benefits that is providing for their employers and the environment.
The trade body’s Behavioral Impact Analysis was compiled following a survey of more than 44,500 employees and 1,233 employers – nearly one in five of the scheme’s users and one in ten of the organisations offering it – analysing the reasons driving uptake on the part of both staff using the scheme and their employers.
One of the key findings of the report is the impact of the scheme in encouraging people to commute by bike, with nearly two in three respondents who had bought their bicycle under the scheme said that they were not cycling to work previously, and seven in ten described themselves as “either novice or occasional cyclists.”
That, in turn, is having a knock-on benefit for the UK’s bicycle industry, with three quarters of those responding to the survey saying that they would not have bought their bike had they not been able to do so via the scheme, and the impact on health is also underlined, with 87% of those surveyed saying their health had improved, and 84% describing the scheme as “an important and easy way to keep fit.”
In aggregate, the scheme’s users are helping to save 133,442 tonnes of CO2 each year, said to be “the equivalent of the total annual emissions of 24,000 households or a city larger than Hereford,” as well as being more than “that emitted by 76 full Boeing 747s flying around the world – more than the combined fleet of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747s.”
There has been much discussion over the past year or so of the impact in changes to the tax regime surrounding the scheme, and the report’s authors highlight that “the financial benefits provided by the scheme are central to its success in delivering
behavioural change, with 73% of respondents declaring that the savings they were offered through the scheme were the most important factor in their decision to take part.”
Satisfaction with the scheme was remarkably high, with 98% of employees who took part in the survey stating that they would encourage colleagues to take part in it, and a similar proportion of employers offering the scheme recognise the role it plays in promoting engagement among employees.
The Cycle to Work Alliance, founded last year with its membership comprising Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords, pointed out that the report's publication came at a time when the government has set “ambitious targets for improving public health, cutting carbon emissions and creating a more sustainable transport system, all of which have to be achieved at a time when public spending is being cut back.”
The scheme, it says, “is helping government and businesses achieve their goals, while at the same time improving employee engagement and supporting the cycling industry.”
In a foreword to the report, Norman Baker, who signs himself off as ‘Minister for Cycling’ – his official title is the rather less snappy Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, with his remit also extending to areas including regional and local transport and buses and taxis – said that the publication “provides key evidence of the potential benefits of Cycle to Work Schemes.”
Underlining that “the Coalition Government is strongly in favour of cycling,” Mr Baker added that “there is much to be gained from increased participation in cycling and the figures speak for themselves. Specialist economic consultancy SQW has shown that a 20 per cent increase in cycling in 2012 would release a cumulative saving of £500 m by 2015. A rise of 50 per cent on current rates would unlock more than £1.3 bn, derived from savings in congestion, pollution and healthcare.
“At the same time, switching from four wheels to two for the school run or the commute would dramatically reduce carbon emissions. If all the commuters in England with a journey of under five miles went by bike rather than car or bus, they save a collective 44,000 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent emissions produced by heating nearly 17,000 houses. And that would just be in the first week,” he added.
“However, the benefits of cycling run much deeper than balance sheets or carbon footprints,” continued Mr Baker. “It’s a crucial life skill as well as offering easy, exhilarating exercise. I would therefore like to thank the Alliance for their support of the Cycle to Work scheme and congratulate them on the positive impact their businesses and services have had in generating awareness and raising cycling levels.”
Keith Scott, Cycle to Work Alliance Representative and Head of Business Services at Halfords, told the trade website BikeBiz: “This report confirms that the scheme's benefits are driving a substantial increase in new cyclists something that is good for health, the environment and sustainable transport. The cycle to work scheme is a successful example of how a financial incentive can be used to stimulate beneficial changes in behaviour."
Meanwhile, the Cycle to Work Alliance has announced that it is supporting a roundtable discussion called Local solutions on sustainable transport to be held from 10am to 1.30pm at the St. Stephen’s Club, Westminster.
Chaired by Vivienne Russell of Public Finance Magazine, a panel comprising Coucillor Geoffrey Theobald of Brighton and Hove City, Alison Franks from the Sustainable Travel Team at the Department for Transport, Heather McInroy, Programme Director at the National Business Travel Network and Richard Grigsby, co-founder of Cyclescheme, representing the Cycle to Work Alliance, will discuss the recent DfT white paper, ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon; Making Sustainable Local Transport Happen.’
The Cycle to Work Alliance says that the event “will be an opportunity for senior representatives from central government, businesses, think tanks and charities to discuss how government can drive forward their commitment to sustainable transport and CO2 emissions targets. It will examine the vital role of cycling and will see whether the Minister for Transport Theresa Villiers‟ assertion that encouraging employees to cycle to work is an “essential part of the battle to combat climate change” still holds true for the government.”
Further details, including how to register, can be found here.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.