How long does your commute to work take? And have you ever looked up the actual distance? It might surprise you to find that the journey that takes you an hour each way is a mere five or so miles.
Now think about cycling to work. Does the thought fill you with fear? It’s a daunting thought to many, but an average cycling speed might be anything between 10-15mph, meaning that for many of us, cycling to work would be very little different in terms of time than your commute by car or public transport. In fact, in many cities, it would be faster.
There are huge benefits to cycling that have been proven again and again. Scientists at Stanford University found that cycling reduced the time it took sedentary insomniacs to fall asleep by half. Other studies suggest that increasing fitness leads to lower fatigue and stress, fewer sick days and reduces the likelihood of getting cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers while increasing mental performance, happiness, creativity and time/workload management. In fact, researchers at King’s College found that twins who cycled for 45 minutes 3 times a week were biologically younger by nine years than their more sedentary twins. Add this to the fact that cycling to work means saving large sums of money on commuting and is far more pleasant than crammed into a tube or bus and the fact that you’re using your commuting time to exercise, thus saving both time and money on that gym membership, and it starts to sound like quite an appealing prospect.
People are often put off the idea of cycling because they imagine themselves arriving at work a sweaty mess or ruining their work clothes, but even if you aren’t lucky enough to work in an office with a shower (we installed some at our HQ a few years ago), cycling at a more leisurely pace, and keeping smarter clothes at the office can easily solve these problems. And in really bad weather, there’s always the bus…
The Cycle to work Scheme
Rococo’s founder Chantal, Chairman (James) and MD (Richard) all cycle to work when possible, and because it’s something we’re keen to encourage though out the company for both health and environmental reasons, we joined the UK government’s Cycle To Work Scheme a few years ago.
Under the scheme, employers are able to loan bicycles and safety equipment like lights and helmets to employees as a tax-free benefit, making cycling a more affordable and accessible option for commuting. The cost of the bike (currently up to £1,000 including VAT) is taken off their gross salary in monthly instalments before tax and National Insurance are calculated. In practical terms, this means that an employee can choose a bike and pay it off in small monthly instalments, and that a portion of that monthly payment will be offset because the overall tax they pay will be reduced. At the end of the hire period (usually one year), an employee may be able to pay any outstanding money and buy the bike outright for a fair market value, or they may be able to return the bike.
The Cycle to Work Alliance, who say that 98% of scheme users would recommend it to colleagues, is a great place to look for more information. Cyclescheme, one of the UK’s providers of tax-free bikes for work, estimates that the scheme means that most people save around 32% on the cost of their bikes. Other providers include CycleSolutions, Ride2Work from Evans Cycles and Cycle2Work from Halfords.
If you were to spend £600 on a bike and safety equipment and pay it off in monthly instalments, your monthly transport cost would be £50 (and of course you would be not paying tax on that £50). At the end of that time you’d own a nice bike that you can use for many more years. Compared to the £140+ a zone 1-3 monthly travelcard in London costs, that’s a pretty reasonable commute cost.
“It’s brilliant,” Chantal told me. “I’ve been able to get a really good bike that’s light enough to carry about but sturdy enough to use anywhere at a huge discount. It’s by far the best way of getting around London, especially if I’m visiting the shops or have meetings in different places. I love it, and it’s made a huge difference, I’m so much fitter since I started cycling. I’ve started to enjoy it too, so much so that I rode to Paris for charity.”
The Cycle To Work scheme is free to employers and easy to set up, so if you’re interested in cycling to work, just put your HR department in touch with one of the organisations listed here.