Cycle to Work Scheme providers say they saw a 7.9 per cent increase in the numbers of people using the scheme in 2012 as compared to 2011, as more commuters take to two wheels to beat rising transport costs and get fitter.
According to the Cycle to Work Alliance, a group of the leading providers of the cycle to work scheme, including Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords, 2012 saw over 86,000 new cyclists commuting to work by bike.
Perhaps as a response to the Olympic and Tour de France successes of the summer, the fourth quarter of 2012 saw the largest increase in users – with 30 per cent more individuals signing up to the scheme than in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Steve Edgell, Chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance and Director of Cycle Solutions said: “2012 was one of the most successful years for the cycle to work scheme. With the Olympics boosting the image of cycling, and rising costs deterring people from traditional forms of commuter transport, the scheme has become an increasingly popular and important option. Interestingly these figures suggest that the attractions of the scheme are powerful enough that people are not put off by bad weather. 2012 was one of the wettest year's on record in the UK a factor recently cited by Transport for London as being one possible reason for a decline in cycle commuter traffic on it's network of main road routes.
According to a Behaviour Impact Study carried out by the Alliance in 2011, the financial incentive of the scheme was by far the biggest driver in attracting people to sign up, the vast majority of whom - 70 per cent - classed themselves either as novice or occasional cyclists, with 61 per cent saying they didn't cycle to work before taking part in the scheme. While scheme providers don't claim that all those taking part are instantly turned in to cycle commuters they do point to the figure in their research in which 65 per cent of those buying a bike through the scheme say they have reduced the number of miles they drive per week as a result.
In a statement announcing it's 2012 performance the Alliance said it had seen an increasing interest by both employers and employees in the benefit of commuting to work by bike. For employers, promoting cycling to work ensures a healthier and happier workforce - says the Alliance, while employees see the scheme as beneficial to both their health and their finances.
"We expect this success to continue in 2013, as the scheme builds on the legacy left by 2012. We hope cycling, and the scheme, will continue to be promoted by Government as a most valuable form of commuter transport, said Mr Edgell.”
Cycle to Work allows employees to save up to 42 per cent of the cost of a new bike and safety equipment as a tax-exempt benefit for the purpose of cycling to work.
To date according to Cycle to Work Alliance figures over 500,000 people have taken advantage of the scheme, 61 per cent of them being people who had not ridden bikes regularly before.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.