Official figures show 120 per cent year-on-year increase in applications to the government's Cycle to Work scheme during June, as commuters embrace greener transport options
The number of employees joining the Cycle to Work scheme has more than doubled, as commuters make plans for returning to the workplace that allow them to avoid public transport as the coronavirus lockdown eases.
New data from the Cycle to Work Alliance released today shows that in June there was a more than 120 per cent increase in the number of people joining the scheme compared to the previous year, as nearly 40,000 employees took advantage of the scheme's tax breaks.
The rapid growth in demand follows a 52 per cent year-on-year increase in participation in the scheme in May, which saw the number of new participants rise by 26,300.
The government-backed Cycle to Work scheme allows employees to take advantage of a salary sacrifice mechanism that means they can purchase approved bicycles and cycling equipment tax free.
The news represents a further boost to the government's plans to encourage more people to embrace active transport as the lockdown eases, so as to reduce demand on public transport and potentially retain some of the air quality improvements that were experienced during the lockdown.
It follow a recent announcement from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that the government has assigned £2bn of funding to improve cycling and walking infrastructure and provided councils with new powers to fast track the development of cycle lanes and close some streets to traffic.
However, the Cycle to Work Alliance, which is made up of the leading cycling providers, is now calling on the government to further support the growing demand for bicycles by extending the Cycle to Work scheme to include the self-employed.
"UK workers are ready to embrace cycling like never before," said Adrian Warren, chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance. "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 £250m 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."
The Alliance's proposal to extend the scheme has also been backed by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).
"Extending the Cycle to Work scheme to the self-employed would be a timely change," said Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE. "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."
The Cycle to Work Alliance today also published a survey of the scheme's users and employers that further highlighted how it is playing a key role in encouraging more people to cycle.
Six in 10 users of the scheme said they would drive to work if they did not use the scheme, while two thirds said that since taking advantage of the scheme's tax break they were cycling more than they were before.
The report also confirmed that the scheme is encouraging people from all backgrounds to get cycling, with more than seven in 10 participants paying basic rate tax and a third of scheme users being over 50 years old.
And there is good news for the nascent e-mobility sector, with three in 10 scheme users saying they were considering purchasing an e-bike through the scheme in the future.
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