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Cycling can help reduce air pollution and keep staff healthy

Transport Minister for Northern Ireland Conor Murphy has launched a money-saving Cycle to Work scheme. The initiative will enable staff in the Department for Regional Development in NI to save money on their daily commute by obtaining a bike and cycling safety equipment at a significantly reduced price, with payment gradually made through salary sacrifice.

The announcement comes in European Mobility Week, a Europe-wide week of events to raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable transport, during which Travelwise NI has been encouraging commuters to swap the car for more sustainable alternatives.

Launching the initiative, the Minister said: “This scheme is a practical initiative to encourage staff to choose to cycle to and from work, providing a significant reduction in the total cost of the bike with the added benefits of improving health and reducing congestion.

“This Salary Sacrifice arrangement enables staff to hire a bike from the Department over a year and then have the option to purchase it at a greatly reduced cost, typically 40% off the full retail price, which is equivalent to the tax free cost of the cycle.

"Cycling to work helps to address the problem of air pollution created by traffic on our roads. The scheme makes it easier for employers and employees to make the move towards more sustainable modes of transport and helping to create a greener environment and a fitter and healthier workforce," said Minister Murphy.

Travelwise NI Cycling Co-ordinator Andy Bready said: "The levels of enthusiasm and demand we have already seen in the Department are encouraging and I hope that we will be able to extend it to the whole of the Civil Service before long. It is fantastic to see commuters so keen to embrace a healthier and more environmentally friendly way of getting to work each day, and helping to address the problem of air pollution in our towns and cities throughout the North."

This scheme is the first of its kind for the Civil Service and is already running very successfully in many public and private sector organisations, including Belfast City Council, the Belfast Trust, Allstate Northern Ireland, Belfast and Langford Lodge Engineering in Crumlin.

The Cycle to Work scheme will begin in the DRD on a pilot basis initially, with the aim of a roll-our across the entire Civil Service in 2010.