The number of bikes bought through the Cycle to Work scheme in June was more than double that of the same month in 2019, providing further evidence of the current cycling boom in the UK as people switch to two wheels due to the coronavirus crisis.
Leading providers are now urging the government to open up access to the scheme, which enables people to effectively receive a tax break on buying a bike by paying for it via salary sacrifice, to the self-employed.
The Cycle to Work Alliance, whose membership comprises Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords, says that the year-on-year increase on people joining the scheme in June was 120 per cent, with 37,754 employees securing a bike via the scheme last month compared to 17,071 in June 2019.
That came after a 52 per cent increase in May compared to last year, with 26,300 employees signing up, against 17,300 in 2019.
Cycle to Work Alliance chair Adrian Warren said: “UK workers are ready to embrace cycling like never before. As lockdown measures ease, we want the scheme to support as many people as possible to return to work safely. Already we have seen that the scheme is the natural option for employees wanting to get to work safely.
“We warmly welcome the Government’s acknowledgment of the scheme as a key pillar of their strategy for keeping employees safe on their return to work, and their £250 million investment in temporary cycling infrastructure to support cycling to work.
“That’s why we’re calling on government to widen access to the scheme for self-employed workers. This will ensure more people can actively travel to work and help avoid a spike in people commuting by car or overcrowded public transport after lockdown. Like employees, the self-employed often need to travel to work, and bike should be the default option for many people.
“We should be doing all we can to encourage the significant shift towards cycling that’s taking place across the country and widening the scheme to include self-employed workers is such a simple, easy solution.”
Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE – the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed – backed the Cycle to Work Alliance’s call for the scheme to be made available to self-employed people.
He said: “Extending the Cycle to Work scheme to the self-employed would be a timely change.
“Many self-employed people are currently considering the return to work after lockdown but remain concerned about the health risks of using public transport to get there.
“The Cycle to Work scheme will be just the solution many are looking for to help them get back to business. It will not only benefit them, but the economy and the environment too.”
A survey by the Cycle to Work Alliance of users and employers underlined how, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the scheme was enabling people to switch their means of transport for their commute, with key findings including:
• Six in ten users said they would drive to work if they didn’t use the scheme
• Since joining, two thirds of scheme users are cycling more than they were before
• The scheme encourages people from all backgrounds to get cycling. More than seven in ten participants are basic rate taxpayers, and a third of scheme users are over fifty years old
• Three in ten scheme users said they were considering purchasing an e-bike through the scheme in the future. Greater access to e-bikes mean that more people can benefit from active travel, including older workers, those who live further from their place of work, and disabled cyclists
• The scheme is helping businesses of all sizes to support their employees with more active lifestyles by cycling to work. Six in ten employers offering the scheme are SMEs (and employ less than 250 people).
Warren added: “The survey results show the scheme is a proven mechanism at getting more people to cycle to work. We’re continuing to work closely with the government to ensure active travel is an option for as many people as possible, and we’re supporting employers up and down the country to offer the scheme to their staff.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.