Despite getting off to a slow start when it was introduced over a decade ago, Cycle to Work has been regularly referred to as a key driver of bicycle sales in the UK and also as a sign that Westminster has the genuine will to back the cycle industry.
Over the past six years or so, since the DfT helped provide improved guidance and implementation for it, the scheme has seen well-organised providers work with cycle retailers big and small, attracting huge employers and large numbers of would-be cyclists to the world of cycling. Last year we saw over 70 significant companies pledge to the Cycle to Work Guarantee and promise to improve cyclist facilities in the workplace – surely a winner for everyone in the bike industry.
But at a time when the national deficit is so big it’d make a banker blush, fears for the future of the scheme have been uppermost, prompting the formation of the C2W Alliance. With that in mind the HMRC-imposed changes were not entirely unforeseen.
On the flip side of the coin, the fact that Cycle to Work has sorely been in need of some clarification is hard to deny. The value of the bike at the end of the hire period has long been a moot point and August’s developments will help to clear that up at least, if nothing else.
Is it really the death knell for the scheme? Cycle to Work has survived objections from the Department of Fair Trading and the culling of its sister scheme to encourage computer selling (see our history of Cycle to Work on page five).
And while the HMRC appears to have lessened the amount of savings available to customers in buying a bike through the scheme, is it really significant enough to discourage them from using Cycle to Work? Especially when the scheme is more widely available than it ever has been?
The jury is out on how the changes will impact on bike sales, but the whole affair shows that C2W is still a work in progress, a decade after its conception.
Meanwhile, don’t forget to snap up your ticket for the BikeBiz Awards night on Wednesday October 6th, the night before Cycle Show’s trade day. For a mere ten pounds you’ll have chance to cheer the winners and to celebrate with a beer and buffet. See you there!