The government has announced further details of its Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme, inviting bicycle repairers wishing to participate to register for it – but the bad news for anyone hoping to get £50 towards the cost of fixing a neglected bike is that the vouchers are unlikely to be available to the public for several weeks yet.
There are also a good few bureaucratic hoops for repairers to jump through both to qualify for the scheme and to redeem vouchers, as well as strict requirements of what is and is not an eligible repair, and consumers hoping to benefit will also have to provide proof of address, with a limit of two bikes per household.
Some details of who can benefit from the scheme have been published today on a dedicated microsite on the Energy Saving Trust website, which says: “The Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme aims to encourage more people in England to embrace cycling as an alternative to private cars and public transport, particularly while social distancing measures are in place.
“The scheme will be open to anyone who has an unused cycle in need of a repair. It will help them get it back on the road by providing £50 towards the cost of a service and repair for up to two cycles per household.
“The scheme is not yet open to the public. If you’ve got an old cycle that needs repairing, you can check back shortly to apply for a voucher.”
In a statement published on its website today, the Department for Transport (DfT) said that “members of the public will be able to apply for the vouchers in the coming weeks” and gave the following brief summary of the scheme:
The bike owner will find a registered bike mechanic to fix their bike. A map of participating bike shops and mechanics will be available on the Energy Saving Trust website when the scheme launches to the public.
The bike owner applies for a voucher.
They bring their bike in to be fixed, using the voucher towards the cost.
You [the repairer] can then claim the cost of the discount (up to £50 per bike) back through the Energy Saving Trust website.
The Energy Saving Trust will refund you on our behalf on a weekly basis.
In order to participate in the scheme, bike repairers are required to meet certain criteria, including carrying £2 million in public liability insurance.
Full terms and conditions can be found when registering for the scheme, which is done through the Energy Saving Trust website, and which set out what are and are not considered as “eligible repairs,” as follows:
“Eligible Repairs” means repairs that are:
necessary to make cycles roadworthy and fit for purpose; and
carried out on premises in England.
Eligible Repairs may include:
repairing or replacing tyres, tubes, wheels and related components;
adjusting, repairing or replacing braking system components;
adjusting, repairing or replacing transmission system components;
repairing or replacing other essential components which prevent safe use of the cycle e.g. deteriorated grips or saddle;
repairing or replacement of components for permanently fitted lighting systems.
The following repairs are not Eligible Repairs:
a sale of replacement parts without any repair work.
replacement or upgrade of existing safe and roadworthy components;
replacement or repair of removeable lighting accessories.
The terms and conditions also stipulate that the customer, having sourced a registered bike mechanic through the Energy Saving Trust website, will need to provide proof of address matching the voucher details both when they drop the bike off for repair and when they collect it.
When claiming on the voucher, the repairer is also required to ensure that is accompanied by a photo of the bike that has been repaired under that voucher and which must “be a photo of the whole cycle, including frame and wheels, be clear and unobstructed [and] correspond with the description of the bike provided on the voucher details.”
As we reported last week, we have seen a lot of interest in the vouchers from readers since they were first announced in May at a Downing Street daily briefing by transport secretary Grant Shapps.
At the time, he said that the vouchers would be available at some point this month, something he repeated on 4 June. Now we are entering the last week of the month, that is not going to happen.
Moreover, as we pointed out last week, it is a race against the clock to achieve the “once in a generation” opportunity Shapps identified to change the nation’s travel habits.
Today, the DfT said that “The Fix your Bike Voucher Scheme has been set up to encourage more people to embrace cycling, to boost the number of commuting and leisure trips, and to promote an alternative to public transport, while social distancing measures are in place.
“It also aims to help reduce the number of short journeys made by private cars,” the department added.
But with a handful of notable exceptions, it has proved impossible to roll out emergency infrastructure to encourage would-be cyclists onto the roads during a period when any hint of a further easing of lockdown rules in England has encouraged more and more drivers to get back in their cars.
And many of those potential cyclists will have been waiting for the vouchers to give them financial help to get bikes out of garages and sheds and into a roadworthy condition – meaning that each week’s delay makes that less likely.
Moreover, with many bike shops that do provide repair services already having lengthy waiting lists for people wanting to get their bikes fixed or serviced, it won’t be a case of simply going into a shop to drop a bicycle off the morning it arrives and pick it up that evening – a further delay of perhaps several weeks seems inevitable.
Depending on the condition of the bike, of course, the owner may get a bit of a shock when they’re given an estimate for how much it will cost in terms of parts – new tyres, a new chain, brake cables, etc – and labour to get it back on the road, with the £50 from the government going only a small part of the way towards covering it.
Some half a million vouchers are due to be issued, for a total cost to the government of £25 million.
At this point, however, and bearing in mind some of the finer details as well as our own reservations mentioned above, we’ll be very interested to see the actual uptake, both in terms of vouchers issued, and those that actually get used.
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.