The new normal; rethinking future commuting

Posted - July 7, 2020

The cycling industry has seen an unprecedented boom as a result of the Coronavirus lockdowns. In April and May 2020, the fair-weather coupled with restrictions on exercise meant that many of us rediscovered cycling for our ‘once a day’ foray into the outdoors. Further lockdowns and restrictions on journeys have caused significant disruption to everyday life, and now many workers are seriously considering their future transport habits and are finding a ‘new normal’ for the daily commute.

The Cycle to Work scheme has always been the easiest way for people to access cycling, and data from June 2020 suggests that the number of employees taking advantage of this benefit has more than doubled in a year-on-year comparison. This surge in numbers is driven by a strong desire by commuters to ditch the overcrowded public transport options in favour of cycling. As we have all become more aware of our surroundings and hygiene, the thought of a ‘traditional’ commute on overcrowded trains and buses is proving even less appealing with record numbers now looking to embrace cycling as the UK loosens its lockdown regulations. 

This public-driven cycling revolution is being further supported by a landmark announcement from the Government, proposing a £2bn package to help ‘increase cycling and walking capacity’. For the first time in generations, the UK Government is actively encouraging more people to really consider their travel options. Investments in improved cycling routes and infrastructure are intended to make the switch to a pedal-powered commute easier than ever before.

Refreshed Cycle to Work scheme guidance published by the Department for Transport in June 2019, removed the previous £1000 cap on the value of bikes available through the scheme. This enables employers to offer their employees a much greater choice than ever before. From electric bikes to tackle longer or hilly commutes, folding bikes to be able to split up long journeys, or just to be able to get all the equipment needed to commute safely as part of a single package and maximise their savings, the flexibility of the scheme is proving essential. Yet we still feel there is more that can be done.

As one of the leading Cycle to Work scheme providers and a founding member of the Cycle to Work Alliance, Cycle Solutions is calling for further support from the Government to help this shift towards a more holistic cycling culture in the UK. To get even more people considering this active travel option for their commute, and beyond.

UK workers are ready to embrace cycling like never before. 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 £250 million investment in temporary cycling infrastructure to support cycling to work. 

That’s why, along with the Cycle to Work Alliance, Cycle Solutions is 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. 

We should be doing all we can to encourage the significant shift towards cycling that’s taking place across the country and widening the scheme to include self-employed workers is such a simple, easy solution.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed), said: 

“Extending the Cycle to Work scheme to the self-employed would be a timely change. 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 scheme has long proven itself as an extremely effective mechanism of getting more people on bikes and those who already cycle, cycling more. The opportunity presented by the public demand for cycling is key to unlocking a cultural shift in the UK and we believe should be fully supported at all levels.

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