Cycle commuting in Britain is still on the up - that would seem to be the message of new figures that show a nine per cent rise in the numbers of people using the Cycle to Work Scheme to buy bikes in the first three months of 2012 through some of the biggest providers involved in the scheme.
The figures were released by the Cycle to Work Alliance, which said that its members, who include Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Halfords and Evans Cycles, saw 23,400 people sign up to the scheme in a reversal of previous trends which saw uptake suffer due to employers being unclear about tax implications pending clarification from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).
One of the principal aims of the Cycle to Work Alliance when it was founded in 2010 was to lobby against potential changes to the taxation regime surrounding the scheme, under which employees in effect lease bicycles from their employers by means of tax-free salary sacrifice, before making a final payment that sees ownership transferred to them.
The scheme allows them to save up to 42 per cent on the cost of a new bike and associated equipment such as locks, lights, clothing and other accessories.
Guidance issued last year by HMRC regarding tax implications, including VAT, for employers participating in the scheme has led to companies and other organisations becoming more willing to offer it to employees, says the Cycle to Work Alliance, and is one of the main reasons behind the rise in uptake in the first three months of the year.
Other factors include increases in the cost of fuel as well as fares on public transport, encouraging commuters to switch from cars, buses or trains to bicycles for their commute.
Events this summer are expected to give the scheme a further boost, as Keith Scott, a member of the Cycle to Work Alliance and Head of Business Services at Halfords, Britain’s biggest bike retailer, explains.
“The C2W scheme has seen a resurgence at the beginning of the year,” he said. “The Olympics and Summer of Cycling in 2012, will give cycling another significant boost.
“The Alliance is seeing this growing interest in cycling reflected by businesses. Increasingly employers recognise the potential of a healthy and active workforce and they are keen to help their employees cycle to work.
“We hope that backed by continued Government support there will be even greater interest in the scheme and more people commuting to work by bike.”
The Cycle to Work Alliance says that to date, more than 400,000 people have taken advantage of the scheme, with 23,000 workplaces and over 2,200 bike retailers involved.
Further information on the Cycle to Work Alliance can be found on its website.
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.