Interest and participation in cycling is arguably higher than it has been for a number of years. This is certainly the case with the cycle to work scheme (a tax-efficient employee benefit that encourages greater numbers of commuters to take up cycling to work), where the number of employees participating has grown by 40% during the period 2011 to 2014. With the devolution – over the past few years – of sustainable transport and public health responsibilities to local authorities, it is clear that local government will be at the heart of attempts to continue the growth of cycling in the UK over the coming period.
The Cycle to Work Alliance (which brings together leading providers of the cycle to work scheme) has welcomed this devolution – local authorities are best placed to deliver initiatives that improve public health outcomes and sustainable transport levels in their locality. The Alliance believes that a central priority for the new government must be to build on this and to facilitate a greater integration between transport and health at a local level. With its impact on both public health and sustainable transport objectives, cycling is perfectly placed to support local authorities meet local challenges in these areas. Equally, given the continued budgetary pressures facing councils, greater promotion of cycling has the potential to deliver on health and transport issues in a cost-effective manner.
Local authorities are well placed to engage with local employers to promote the cycle to work scheme. Research from the Cycle to Work Alliance has demonstrated that 70% of current participants were either occasional, novice or non-cyclists prior to joining the scheme. As such, engagement with employers has the potential to encourage behavioural change at a local level towards more active and sustainable forms of commuting. Currently, Freedom of Information data suggests that approximately 45% of local authorities promote the scheme to local employers. Greater support to enable all local authorities to promote the cycle to work scheme – and other cycling initiatives – is crucial. The Alliance believes increased joint working and partnerships with wider stakeholders are central to increasing cycling uptake locally and, ultimately, contributing to increased public health outcomes and improved sustainable transport levels.