What do you get if you put the head honchos of two of the most significant cycle retailers into a room with a bunch of MPs, a cycling Olympian, the associate director of the British Heart Foundation, media types and business leaders? The answer: the first official meeting of the Cycle to Work Alliance.
Created three months ago by the three largest Cycle to Work providers in the country – Halfords, Evans Cycles and Cyclescheme – the alliance was established to speak up for the good works of the Cycle to Work initiative.
The Alliance held its first meeting one afternoon at the end of July, filling the aforementioned room (Stranger’s Dining Room, House of Commons) with representatives from founder members Halfords, Evans and Cyclescheme alongside MPs – including Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the Cycling APPG.
He insisted: “The coalition is committed to sustainable travel and being green. Cycling helps in so many ways.”
Halfords CEO David Wild also addressed the room: “Three months ago we decided with some of the most important retailers in cycling to form the Cycle to Work Alliance. We wanted to accelerate the interest in Cycle to Work and to help the Government more successfully achieve the objectives that it has set around health, emissions and easing congestion.”
Wild described the Government as being positive about cycling: “It is building on success. It’s always easier to build on something that is already doing well.”
“The administrative cost of Cycle to Work is born by the private sector entirely. It’s a great example of collaboration in Whitehall, the public and the private sector.”
To underline the positive message about cycling – and specifically the way encouraging cycling can make good on Government health targets – associate medical director of prevention and care at the British Heart Foundation, Dr Mike Knapton addressed the room. Dr Knapton stressed the benefits of cycling in tackling cardiac-inducing inactivity and also psychological conditions like depression.
Chris Boardman also lent his voice to the Alliance meeting, telling the attendees: “Regardless of the fact I am now working with one particular retailer, I am very much behind the scheme from a personal perspective.
“I’m glad to see the new Government is behind a culture change for cycling and I hope that won’t be eroded. We have to provide a benefit for consumers to make sure that culture change happens.”
“This scheme has been running for ten years. We have to help more people understand what it is. I believe communicating the scheme and explaining it is essential.”
The survival of Cycle to Work – ultimately the key objective of the Alliance – was the subject of an impassioned plea from Halfords boss David Wild. He said: “In these times the C2W scheme demands ongoing support. It is very important that the scheme is not in any way eroded. It is essential.
“We believe it is the glue that helps Government deliver its objectives of increasing cycling. It has to remain economically attractive to participants and it is very important that the collaboration between the Department for Health, the Department for Transport and her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs service continues to be a work in unison.
“For customers, and frankly for those retailers and those that participate, the scheme has to remain simple and understandable – by doing that there will be a higher degree of participation,” he concluded.
Despite being praised as the glue that brings together the Government’s objectives on health, emissions and easing congestion, the future appeal of the Cycle to Work initiative was thrown into doubt with the arrival of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs new guidance.
With the scheme set to cost the consumer more, some sections of the industry fear for the future of Cycle to Work.