Bumper 2013 for sales of tax-free bikes heralds long-term cycling boom, says scheme organisation

The Cycle to Work scheme had a bumper year in 2013, surpassing its 2010 peak with a 16.4 percent increase over 2012 and 164,317 people getting tax-free bikes via members of the Cycle to Work Alliance.

As well as the large overall increase, the fourth quarter of 2013 saw an 11 percent year-on-year increase in scheme participation compared to figures for the final quarter of 2012.

The Cycle To Work Scheme gives a saving of up to 42 percent on the price of a bike by allowing employees to pay for it from their pre-tax income.

The Alliance said: “This growth marks out the past twelve months as the best year for the scheme as employers increasingly recognise the importance of encouraging healthy lifestyle choices among their staff. The unprecedented level of scheme use reflects the high value employers attribute to the scheme in achieving a healthier workforce.”

The organisation believes the increase could be a sign of a long-term boom in cycling, powered by the attention cycling has garnered in recent years from two British Tour de France victories, Team GB’s Olympic cycling medal haul and the imminent return to the UK of the Tour de France Grand Départ.

Steve Edgell, director of Cycle Solutions and chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance said: “The Alliance is, naturally, hugely pleased at the success of the scheme in 2013. Registering our best ever year demonstrates that the scheme remains a proven method of encouraging cycling take-up across the country and remains a critical tool for Government to deliver sustainable transport and public health objectives.

“Of course, no-one should be resting on their laurels. This is merely the start of what we hope will be a longer-term cycling boom. With only 2% of journeys in the UK made by bike, clearly there is scope to encourage more individuals to take up cycling, not least to bring our rates of cycling in line with other European countries. In order to achieve this, Government and the industry will need to work together to increase safety and investment in cycling to make getting on the saddle a simple choice.”

Daniel Gillborn, director of Cyclescheme added: "We are delighted with a record year for the Cycle to Work scheme. With these results, growth is being led by the IBD network which proves that employees favour the personal service, expertise and product choice of local stores that cannot be replicated in large national retailers."

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.