The Bicycle Association (BA), the trade body representing the bike industry in the UK, has outlined the steps it believes the government should take ahead of the potential easing of lockdown measures, including zero VAT on sales of bicycles and e-bikes, as well as a £250 subsidy on the latter to make them more affordable.
Announced yesterday – the same day that Boris Johnson heralded “a new Golden Age for cycling” – the BA has emphasised the role of cycling in easing pressure on public transport and avoiding gridlock on the roads in the weeks ahead.
Among other things, the BA is calling on the government to encourage people returning to work to do so by bike, to provide funding for pop-up bike lanes, to remove VAT on bikes, e-bikes and repairs, to provide subsidies of £250 for people buying e-bikes, and a £50 voucher for people to get their existing bikes serviced.
It is also urging that the Cycle to Work scheme be extended to groups currently not eligible including the self-employed, to fund “refresher” cycle training for adults, and to loosen planning restrictions and provide funding for NHS facilities to provide secure cycle parking for key workers.
BA executive director Steve Garidis commented: “Feedback from the cycle industry is that 7 out of every 10 customers at the moment are new or returning cyclists.
“Their eagerness to get out on two wheels and enjoy the reliable transport, healthy exercise and low-cost mobility that cycling offers depends heavily on the roads being, and feeling, safe to ride.
“That’s why the BA believes it is essential that the government steps in to ensure that across the country, urgent measures are taken to make cycling for transport feel safe, and with enough road space to ensure social distancing can be properly maintained.”
Meanwhile, Adrian Warren, the chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance which brings together companies involved in providing bikes through the government’s Cycle to Work scheme, says there has been a 200 per cent increase in bikes ordered in recent weeks, mainly driven by NHS staff.
He told the BBC: "This past six weeks, we have seen the biggest experiment in transport policy this country has even known. It's clear the default option is cycling."
The scheme allows people to buy bikes through a salary sacrifice scheme, effectively buying them tax-free.
The BA’s appeal, which is also addressed to other senior politicians and Whitehall officials, comes ahead of the Prime Minister’s announcement this coming Sunday in which he is expected to outline details of the relaxation of restrictions on movement in England.
The devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate regulations in place, and have been liaising with Number 10 to try and find common ground on how the lockdown should be lifted.
Garidis added:“Bold actions which would have been almost unthinkable before this pandemic are now a logical necessity.
“I just can’t see any realistic alternative to putting in place effective measures to enable mass cycling, if we want to keep cities moving while public transport remains restricted. And the time to act is now, ahead of traffic levels rising as lockdown eases.”
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.