Growth in Cycle to Work scheme

Government subsidised initiative posts impressive 2012 figures

(L-R): Former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw, former transport secretary Lord Adonis, Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman, former health secretary Andy Burnham and former communities secretary John Denham outside the University College London Hospital at the launch of the Cycle to Work scheme in 2009

The bike-buying tax incentive scheme Cycle to Work saw a 7.9 percent increase in takeup during 2012 compared to 2011, according to newly published industry figures.


Members of the Cycle to Work Alliance (Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords) say 2012 saw more than 86,000 new cyclists commuting to work by bike, far exceeding the comparative figure for 2011. The fourth quarter of 2012 saw the largest increase, with 30 percent more individuals signing up than in the same 2011 period.

Under the Cycle to Work scheme, employees sacrifice some salary by leasing a bike from their employer (who must be scheme members), but benefit from tax and national insurance rebates in return. At the end of the hire period they buy the bike at a depreciated value. Higher rate tax payers can save up to 42 percent on the cost of a new bike and safety equipment.

The scheme was introduced by the 1999 Finance Act, and so far more than 500,000 people have signed up. That number involves over 2,220 bike retailers and 23,000 employers.

The Alliance puts the impressive growth down to the UK’s Olympic and Tour de France success, plus economic factors such as rail fare increases.

Steve Edgell, chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance and director of Cycle Solutions, said, “The Alliance has seen an increasing interest by both employers and employees in the benefit of commuting to work by bike. For employers, promoting cycling to work ensures a healthier and happier workforce, while employees see the scheme as beneficial to both their health and their finances.”

A behavioural impact analysis by the scheme made the following headline findings:

  • The Cycle to Work scheme is recognised as an important way to reduce carbon emissions – current users save 133,442 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is the equivalent of the total annual CO2 emissions of 24,000 homes.
  • 87 percent of participants noticed their health improving and 84 percent rated the scheme as an important and easy way to keep fit.
  • 61 percent of people did not cycle to work before they signed up to the scheme and 70 percent classed themselves as either novice or occasional cyclists. In other words, it’s a good way to get people cycling.
  • The scheme drives trade to the cycling industry, with 76 percent of participants stating they would not have bought their bicycle if it had not been offered it through the Cycle to Work scheme.
  • The financial benefits provided by the scheme are central to its success in delivering behavioural change, with 73 percent of respondents declaring that the savings they were offered through the scheme were the most important factor in their decision to take part.
  • 98 percent of respondents said they would encourage other colleagues to take part in the Cycle to Work scheme.