HC 1048-III Health CommitteeWritten evidence from the Cycle to Work Alliance (PH 148)

Executive Summary

This submission is made on behalf of the Cycle to Work Alliance, a group of the leading providers of the government supported and industry-led cycle to work scheme, including Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords Plc.

We recommend the scheme should play a central role in the Government’s public health agenda, as we provide evidence to demonstrate the tangible impact the cycle to work scheme is having on public health, and the potential for achieving greater benefits by encouraging further take up.

Our submission focuses on the future role of local government in public health. We discuss Health and Wellbeing Boards and recommend the Committee calls for clarity about how local authorities’ duties on sustainable transport and public heath can be co-ordinate and consistent.

We demonstrate how the cycle to work scheme allows local authorities to encourage both active and sustainable travel while improving the health of local residents and show, through the findings from our recent survey, how encouraging people to cycle to work results in healthier lives and reduced CO2 emissions.

1. Introduction to the Cycle to Work Alliance

The Cycle to Work Alliance (the Alliance) is a group of the leading providers of the cycle to work scheme, including Cyclescheme, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords Plc.

To date over 400,000 people have taken advantage of the scheme, which involves over 2,220 bike retailers and 15,000 employers.

The cycle to work initiative is a tax-efficient, and on the whole, salary-sacrificed employee benefit that provides a way of encouraging more adults to take up cycling.

Introduced in the 1999 Finance Act, the scheme encourages employers to loan bicycles and cycling safety equipment to employees as a tax-exempt benefit for the purpose of cycling to work.

Under the scheme, employers buy cycling equipment from suppliers approved by their scheme administrator, and hire it to their employees. At the end of the loan period, the employer may choose to give the employee the option to purchase the equipment.

The savings that individuals make through the cycle to work scheme improves the affordability of, and access to, cycling. Employees who participant in the scheme on average 40% of the total cost of a new bike.

2. The Role of the Scheme in Improving Public Health

In a recent report, which surveyed over 44,500 cycle to work participants, the Alliance discovered that 87% of scheme users noticed an improvement in their health from their more active commute to work.

84% of users rated the scheme as an important and easy way to keep fit.

The health benefits noticed by scheme users include:

Increased fitness.

Weight loss.

Improved mental health, wellbeing and happiness.

The health benefits of the scheme are also noticed by businesses, with 97% of businesses believing that the scheme is an important way to encourage a healthy workforce.

The Alliance believes that making active travel and physical activity the norm in communities across the country is vital if the Government wants to achieve their commitments to encouraging people to take greater responsibility for their own health and to live healthier lifestyles.

By using the scheme, people are able to make exercise an everyday activity, rather than having to find additional time for it, changing their behaviour and ensuring that exercise becomes part of their daily routine.

Employers also recognise the benefits of the scheme in improving the health and productivity of their workforce. By working with employers the Government’s public health agenda will have an even greater impact on improving the health of individuals.

3. Wider Benefits of the Scheme - Sustainability, Affordability

The cycle to work scheme plays an important role in encouraging people to cycle instead of drive – particularly over short distances.

The majority of respondents to our survey (70%) said they had reduced the number of miles they drive per week as a result of using the cycle to work scheme. We have estimated that current users of the cycle to work scheme are saving 133,442 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is the equivalent of the CO2 emissions of 24,000 homes per year or a city larger than Hereford.

As well as encouraging individuals to reduce their carbon footprint the scheme makes cycling more affordable for lower paid employees. With the cost of living rising rapidly and petrol and rail fares on the increase, employees need to be supported with cost efficient modes of transport. The cycle to work scheme is used predominantly by basic rate taxpayers (73%) providing them with a low cost commute to work.

The reduction in car usage the cycle to work scheme encourages has a clear benefit to the environment. The scheme promotes sustainable commuting, reduces car use in towns and cities and therefore the level of carbon emissions.

4. The Need for Joint Working

New cyclists are encouraged to change their commuting habits through the cycle to work scheme. 61% respondents to our survey did not cycle to work before using the scheme. This equates to 158,000 new cyclists commuting every year.

76% of users also declared they would not have bought their bicycle if it had not been offered it through the cycle to work scheme.

The scheme plays a vital role in incentivising individuals to take greater responsibility for their health, reduce their carbon emissions and contribute to a more sustainable transport system.

Local authorities have an opportunity to develop a clear strategy, co-coordinating the efforts of the new Health and Wellbeing boards and their sustainable transport teams, to embed cycling as a core aspect of local travel strategies.

In particular, by engaging with local employers, promoting initiatives such as the cycle to work scheme, local authorities will be able to improve the health of their communities in a cost effective manner, while reducing the CO2 emission in their area.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

The cycle to work scheme is able to contribute to the Government’s goals for public health by providing a proven means to encourage individuals to live healthier lives.

Local authorities should encourage their Public Health and Wellbeing Boards to work collaboratively with their sustainable travel teams to achieve their common goals in a cost effective manner.

We call on the Health Select Committee to demonstrate to local authorities, that they have an opportunity to foster genuine joint working across health and transport.

The cycle to work scheme is a well established means of encouraging individuals, as well as businesses, to improve their health. The Alliance believes local authorities are best placed to delivery behavioural change. However, central Government needs to highlight the benefits schemes such as at the cycle to work scheme, to local authorities and cite them as a means to achieve their public health and sustainable transport duties.

June 2011

Prepared 28th November 2011