Cycle to Work Scheme for small businesses

More cyclists means more business, and not just for bike repair shops

The government is keen for us to get on our bikes. It introduced the Cycle to Work Scheme some 20 years ago now to encourage more of the nation’s employees to ditch their cars, or public transport, in favour of pedal power. No surprises why: cycling is a method of transport that is low-cost, zero-emission and good for our health and wellbeing. But did you know that cycling is also good for small local businesses including, but not exclusively, bike repair shops?

Studies have shown that, while cyclists may spend less than shoppers who travel by car, their total expenditure is greater because they visit the shops more. So, if you’re thinking of buying a coffee shop – make space outside for visitors to safely leave their bikes. Or if you’re the local newsagent, make sure you stock the latest biking magazines – and that you supply the right food and drink to fuel a fatigued cyclist.

As a form of physical activity, cycling has a hugely positive impact on our fitness and that means, of course, that it reduces the risk of us getting ill. And that, in turn, reduces the burden on our National Health Service as well as increasing productivity for employers – including the 5.5 million micro businesses (those with 0-9 employees) – since their staff won’t take as much time off sick. In short, cycling is good for us and good for the economy. By default, it is good for any small business that employs staff.

So, has the government’s Cycle to Work Scheme really made a difference to small businesses? Each year, an estimated 180,000 people participate in the scheme, saving up to 40 per cent off a new bicycle through reductions in their income tax and National Insurance. And today, there are more new bicycles bought than there are new cars registered. So that’s good news for the bike industry – and bike repair shops, of course – but also good news for small businesses if it means their employees are fitter and off sick less of the time.

The Institute for Employment Studies produced a report assessing the impact of the Cycle to Work Scheme. And it found that the most significant rise in employees cycling to work has, naturally, been observed in cities, with London seeing a 70% increase in workers riding to their place of work. Other cities such as Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Exeter and Oxford saw a boost in employees take up the scheme.

The survey concluded that there is evidence to suggest that participating in the Cycle to Work Scheme “is associated with increased cycling to work particularly amongst previous non-cyclists or occasional cyclists”. What’s more, the survey also proved that the amount of cycling in terms of miles cycled is rising. Data from this study, and also from Cycling UK’s briefing on cycling and the economy, reported the following:

• The Cycle to Work Scheme generates at least £72m a year in economic benefits for the UK economy and employers through improved physical fitness and associated health benefits.
• On average, cycle commuting employees take one less sick day p.a. than non-cyclists and save the UK economy almost £83m.

Forget the facts for a minute, though. How many more bikes do you see every day? It’s not just commuters and school kids; what about the weekend warriors in their Lycra, pushing themselves harder each time they tackle those hills? Then there’s the muddier side of cycling, with thousands of mountain bike riders hitting the trails every week. All these bikes need maintenance and, with more complex components released every season, much of the upkeep is beyond the basic home mechanic – so, again, good news for bike repair shops.

Cycling is about much more than just travelling to work, and there’s no doubt that a large proportion of those 180,000 bikes bought each year through the Cycle to Work Scheme see more than just the daily commute. In fact, some of them might not see the commute at all!

Cycling is a leisure activity for most. And plenty of bikes bought through the Cycle to Work Scheme will be used for weekend riding. Whether that’s a gentle potter with the family, or a competitive spin with friends, the longer the journey, the more refreshment stops are needed – all of which generates additional income for bike-friendly pubs, cafes and tea rooms. And what about overnight stays? There are hundreds of Bed & Breakfasts, hotels, guest houses and apartments that, quite literally, cater for cyclists and cycling holidays.

It’s clear, then, that the more the nation gets comfortable in the saddle, then the better it is for us all. The Cycle to Work Scheme seems to be working well, but there are other initiatives that will encourage more people to get out and get peddling. Cycling UK runs the Big Bike Revival each year, with the aim of getting tens-of-thousands people back on their bikes. And it reports that “around 42 per cent of the population own a bike but never use it, often citing a lack of mechanical skills to get their bike back up and running.”

Even more encouraging news for bike mechanics then, and more reason to expect a boom in business if you’re planning on starting or buying a bike repair shop. And remember, as a small business owner, the more bike friendly you are, the more time and money cyclists will spend with you.





Cycle to Work Scheme for small businesses