the Cycle to Work scheme
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James Palser, CFE-UK Project Manager at Cycling UK, argues the case for sustainable and active transport, including the virtues of the Cycle to Work scheme

So, unless you’ve been off the internet for a while, or just avoiding the news (and trust me, I don’t blame you…), you’ll have noticed that in cities around the world people are protesting against catastrophic climate change. Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg, David Attenbourgh and Jane Fonda to name a few, are bringing the issue of climate change right on to our screens and into our living rooms.

Transport and more specifically, our commutes contribute to this change. Just by travelling to work the UK’s commuters create 77.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, or to put it another way, a fifth of the UK’s total emissions. Our use of the earth’s resources to fuel our everyday lives is damaging us and the planet beyond repair. But what can any of us do to save the planet?

Within the UK each devolved nation is taking a different approach. Wales with its Active Travel Act has laid out in law for the future provision for cycling and walking, while has also cancelled key projects that would have been devastating to the air quality around South East Wales and the Gwent Levels.

Scotland has increased its financial support for sustainable and active travel, along with the political support to make this happen.

England and to an extent Northern Ireland lags behind their neighbours in terms of action, Northern Ireland due to its lack of a functioning assembly and England… well, there really is no excuse, as there’s a strategy in place, which the government recognises is failing due to insufficient funding.

It’s clear we’re on the cusp of a transport revolution, MaaS (Mobility as a Service), electric and autonomous vehicles, micro-mobility and drones are all a developing part of the changing face of transport in the 21st century.

The landscape for transport is changing rapidly, especially in urban areas where air quality is a major issue. Governments need to face this change and invest in ways to tackle the looming crisis, but so too do individuals and business.

The Cycle to Work scheme is part of the solution. In the 20 years since it was introduced the scheme has helped thousands of employees save on the cost of a new bike; this amount is varied depending on the level of tax you pay but is between 25% or 39% of the cost of a new bike and equipment.

This year, the government clarified its guidance on the scheme meaning there is no price limit on new bikes and equipment for employees of Financial Conduct Authority approved companies – if that’s not your employer then you can still access the scheme and buy a bike and gear up to the price of £1,000.

It’s not just employees who save on the cost of the bike, but employers can make savings through reduced National Insurance Contributions too.

It’s not just employees who save on the cost of the bike, but employers can make savings through reduced National Insurance Contributions too.

The Cycle to Work scheme can help with congestion (particularly in terms of staff parking), pollution and can help keep employees fit and healthy. The major downsides to the scheme are that many employers wait until a probation period is over to offer the scheme, by which time the employees’ travel habit has been formed, or for those on short-term or temporary contracts, the scheme is unavailable.

Also, while the scheme can help the employee access a bike at a lower cost, there is no onus on the employer to provide any facilities to help make the journey from ‘bike to desk’ any easier. But without the investment in this infrastructure and facilitating change, the main beneficiaries will still be the fit and the fearless – essentially those already cycling – rather than those people looking to make a change.

That’s where national charity Cycling UK’s Cycle Friendly Employer (CFE) accreditation comes in. CFE works directly with employers to help to influence the nearly 30 million people in work in the UK.

The accreditation is an independent European benchmark operating across 15 countries and assesses a business against 57 measures, such as their commitment to promoting cycling, their shower & locker facilities and even actively discouraging colleagues from driving to work.

In the UK, the scheme is working with all types of businesses from both the public and private sector. Cycling is good for business; it has been proved to save money through reduced costs for sickness absence and can help makes employees feel more productive.

All of this makes a fantastic business case, particularly as for many young people entering the workplace for the first time, green transport options are increasingly important. However, being a cycle-friendly employer will only bear fruit if cycling is made to feel normal, safe and a natural choice.

Businesses can help, they can encourage, exemplify and enable their workforce to cycle. Cycling UK is seeing this from the many businesses we work with including Swansea University who have not only put in a public bike hire scheme but train their employees to lead rides for those who are less confident. And in the private sector, a high street bank who have more bike parking than car parking in their Bristol office.

Encouragingly, Cycling UK is also seeing the public sector companies in Cardiff coming together to promote active and sustainable travel to their employees, combined they make up nearly a third of the city’s workforce. These companies are getting on with the job of encouraging cycling, simply because they know that it makes sense for their employers, their location and ultimately their business.

I asked at the beginning of this article ’what can any of us do to save the planet?’ well… get on your bikes and talk to your employers and get them to make the case for better cycling (and walking) provision. Ultimately, it’s businesses that governments listen to and if having a healthier, happier and more productive workforce is important to you, then it will become a priority for them. The added benefit is that it will also make our streets greener and safer for everyone all the time – not just when we’re making the journey to work.

Contributor Profile

CFE-UK Project Manager
Cycling UK
Phone: +44 (0)1483 238 300
Email: cycling@cyclingUK.org
Website: Visit Website

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