The numbers taking up tax-free bicycle purchases in a council scheme are almost 25 per cent lower than 2009 predictions, and eight times lower than employees of other businesses in the city.
825 bicycle vouchers were issued to council workers in the period 2009 - 2012, and only 200 this year under a new scheme administrator, according to a Freedom Of Information request carried out by Mancunian Matters.
According to Bike Biz, when Cyclescheme won the tender to provide a bike to work scheme for Manchester Council’s 25,000 employees from 2009 to mid-2012, Cyclescheme’s partner stores were expected to provide a face-to-face service to an estimated five per cent of its workforce, or 1.250 people.
A spokesman for the council blamed wider problems with cycling infrastructure in the city, saying: “Given that the majority of commuter journeys in Greater Manchester are less than five kilometres there is significant potential for encouraging more people to cycle if we can deliver the infrastructure that will enable people to feel able to cycle.“
Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, with a tenth of the number of employees, has issued more than 1,000 certificates, representing more than four bikes for every ten employees - a figure the service attributes to fitting all workplaces with lockers and showers and promoting bike use to employees.
The Service’s Sustainability Manager Sam Pickles said: “We set up our cycle to work scheme because we’re an environmentally conscious organisation, full of very fit people. Whilst we hoped for some interest in the scheme, we couldn’t possibly have imagined how successful it has become.
“Encouraging cycling is just one part of a big push to make GMFRS more environmentally friendly. Our next challenge is to do even better.”
Daniel Gillborn, of CycleScheme, which tenders 34,000 Cycle-to-work contracts including Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and, previously, Manchester City Council, said: “We tend to see higher uptake of in well-established schemes where there are male-based work forces and where staff live in a small local radius to their offices.
“The private sector often leads the way. Although we often see a 30% uptake from fire and rescue services, the figures for Manchester Fire and Rescue Service are really incredible.”
A Mancunian Matters survey into cycling infrastructire found that 72 per cent of the public surveyed said the roads were not safe enough for cyclists.
Will Carney, 21, a student living in Rusholme, said: “I’ve tried cycling to university but I’ve decided to walk now because when I cycled down the curry mile I am tempted to ring my mum before as I fear it could be the last time I speak to her.”
Marie Clarke, 25, a sales assistant from Didsbury, said: “The roads aren’t wide enough and there is not enough cycle lanes, Manchester needs to do more to make it safer for cyclists.”
This year Manchester has won a significant amount of Cycle City Ambition funding; £20m from the Department for Transport and a local contribution of £11.1m.
According to a government press release when the funding announcement was made in August:
The funding will kick start Velocity 2025, which will, over time, create a city-wide cycle network.
Initially, as part of the CCAG funding, this will involve a series of high quality cycle lanes that will lead from the city centre out to the M60 like spokes of a bicycle wheel.
Spokes will have a Cycle and Ride station located several miles from the city centre, allowing cyclists to leave their bikes and swap onto Metrolink or a local rail service for the last leg of their journey if they wish.
As part of a door to door approach the proposals involve the introduction of 20 mph zones in some residential areas adjacent to the cycle “spokes” to enable safer access to the cycleways. Greater Manchester’s vision is to double the number of cycle journeys within 5 years and to double them again by 2025.
The Government funding will bring 56km of new or improved cycle paths and predicted health and wellbeing savings of around £7 million a year.
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.