Infographic: Get on your bike!
Cycle to work schemes are a really popular employee benefit, helping people to afford a bike for their commute to work – for a much better price than they may be able to find on their own, and with the benefit of paying monthly rather than with one up-front payment.
Both you and your staff will also save money on tax and NI, because the payments employees make for their bikes are deducted from their salaries before these come off – and this won’t be affected by this year’s changes to salary sacrifice rules either!
Cycling to work is a great way to help your employees stay healthy, while greatly reducing your organisation’s carbon footprint too. Cycle to work schemes make getting your staff on their bikes really simple from a practical point of view – but persuading them to swap the bus for two wheels, and providing facilities to make cycling in practical, will need some more thought – here are the things you’ll need to consider, or help your staff with.
Finding the right bike
Everyone will have different cycling needs, depending on their experience, ability, body type and where they live – there’s no one-size-fits-all for commuting bikes. And that's not to mention preference or style!
Road bikes with lightweight frames, thin tyres, and limited gears that are built for a speed that can keep up with traffic are usually pitched as commuter bikes – and for the majority of people living or working in large towns and cities, they’ll be exactly what they need.
But for anyone living in somewhere even slightly hilly (such as most of Yorkshire, for example...), a city bike will only be practical for the fittest and healthiest riders. For those living somewhere rural – maybe cycling from a village to work in an out-of-town trading estate – city bikes will be totally inappropriate. A mountain bike, with mudguards, heavier tyres and more gears, will do the job far better.
A mountain bike will work better in the city than a road bike in the countryside – but your employees don’t have to choose one or the other. Hybrid bikes feature the best of both worlds for those cycling between urban and rural environments and will easily handle both – but are usually a bit more expensive.
Folding bikes are often popular among commuters – particularly those who can’t replace public transport altogether, but still have a few miles to travel once they’ve got the train from the suburbs to the city centre, for example. Folding bikes are typically more geared towards the city bike style of wheels and gears, but their frames are totally different – and they can take some getting used to.
Bikes for women
Do women need specific bikes? The difference usually comes down to a smaller frame and a colour change (otherwise known as “shrink and pink”) but, depending on their build, most women will be more than comfortable on a non-gendered bike frame.
However, men and women do have some key differences in their... shall we say, more sensitive areas, so the type of saddle can make a real difference. Women riders will generally require a wider saddle with a cut-out section to reduce pressure, recommends Cycling Weekly.
Cycle-to-work schemes can also pay for cycling safety equipment – and while there’s no specific legislation which says what can and can’t be covered, the HMRC recommends a “common sense” approach, and lists the following as permitted safety gear:
- Cycle helmets
- Bells, bulb horns and lights
- Child safety seats
- Bike reflectors and reflective clothing
Add-ons such as a cycling computer, Sat Nav, Go Pro camera, or custom parts are unlikely to be covered – and neither is any cycle clothing that isn’t reflective.
Finding the right route to work is an important part of getting started with cycling. More experienced cyclists will be happy to just follow the same roads as they would when driving, but others will feel more confident starting out on a quieter route, or on dedicated cycle lanes or paths.
Obviously all of your employees will be taking slightly different routes to work, but you can help by getting in touch with your local council to see if they have any cycling maps or resources available. Also, remind your staff to be wary of light levels and weather – some routes may be safer or more dangerous at night, or in the rain. If you’re in a city with a tram system, warn your staff to be wary of tram tracks – a big danger in Edinburgh.
Bikes are popular targets for theft – they’re worth a lot of money and make for a quick getaway – with 400,000 stolen in the UK each year. Anything specialised, such as a city/mountain bike hybrid, will be particularly attractive to pesky bike thieves, too.
Your staff will all need locks, and will need to know how to use them properly – this guide from lifehacker is a good starting point on how to make a bike a bit more of a hassle to steal, even with heavy-duty tools.
For staff storing their bikes at home, a securely locking shed or garage are the best bets – or in the house or flat itself if that’s not possible. Leaving bikes in publicly accessible apartment building hallways – even if the building has secure entrances – is just asking for trouble!
At work, provide bike racks that allow people to securely double lock their bikes, with enough space for everyone to safely store their ride. If you have a secure car park where the rack can live, all the better.
It’s also important to encourage staff to insure their bikes – as the terms of the cycle-to-work scheme will mean they will keep having to make repayments even if it’s stolen. And no one wants that.
Facilities at work
Finally, cycling to work is a sweaty business – so make sure your staff have adequate hygiene facilities to make sure it’s pleasant for everyone! Access to a shower is essential, lockers to store a change of dry clothes or hang a suit can also be helpful – and all part of making sure cycling to work is as easy as possible for your employees.
Cycling is just one way to improve employee wellebeing, too - there's many more tips to be found in our free ebook, which you can download below.