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On yer bike: it's official - cycle to work increases employee engagement and wellbeing

Siân Harrington , 09 Feb 2011

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Nearly nine in 10 employers believe offering a cycle-to-work scheme improves employee engagement, according to research released today from the Cycle to Work Alliance.


Some 98% of employees would encourage other colleagues to take part in the cycle-to-work scheme, finds its Behavioural Impact Analysis. The alliance, which includes cycle-to-work providers such as Halfords and Evans, surveyed more than 44,500 employees and examined the motivations that propel demand both from the users of the scheme and the employers who offer it.

The study shows that the UK’s cycle-to-work scheme, introduced by the Government in 1999 on environmental grounds, provides a direct health benefit, with 87% of participants noticing their health improving, while 84% of users rated the scheme as an important and easy way to keep fit. It can also play a role in encouraging new cyclists. The research found that almost two-thirds (61%) of people did not cycle to work before they signed up to the scheme and 70% classed themselves as either novice or occasional cyclists.

To date, more than 400,000 people have taken advantage of the scheme, which involves more than 2,220 bike retailers and 15,000 employers. Under the scheme, employers loan bicycles and cycling safety equipment to employees as a tax-exempt benefit for the purpose of cycling to work. 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 scheme is popular among employers – research by Towers Watson found it to be the second most popular salary sacrifice-based employee benefit, with 82% of employers that offer salary sacrifice schemes making it available to their staff.

The savings employees can gain via the salary sacrifice approach are vital to uptake. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said these savings were the most important factor in their decision to take part in the scheme. The majority of participants (73%) are men and a third are aged between 35 and 45. London and the south east have the largest take-up of cycle-to-work participants, at 30%.

As well as engagement and health benefits, cycle to work helps the environment. Users of the scheme save 133,442 tonnes of CO2 per year, according to the research.

Mark Smith, Cycle to Work Alliance representative and retail director of Evans Cycles, said: "Employers are seeing the benefits of a healthier and more engaged workforce – vital as the country moves out of recession."

Norman Baker MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport, aka ‘minister for cycling’, added: "The benefits of cycling run much deeper than balance sheets or carbon footprints. It is a crucial life skill as well as offering easy, exhilarating exercise. I would therefore like to congratulate the Alliance on the positive impact its businesses and services have had in generating awareness and raising cycling levels."

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