The global Covid-19 pandemic is changing the world in ways that would have been wholly unforeseeable just a few months ago, and there will almost certainly be further huge impacts to come.
The vast majority of consequences are of course negative as lives, business, educations and so much more are disrupted and ripped apart. To be honest, it can be hard to see any positives and any small positives can feel utterly irrelevant.
However, ultimately a form of normality will return and we will all adjust to the changed environment.
One small change that seems almost inevitable is that many people will start prioritising different forms of transport. For years, there has been a general push in many areas to get out of our cars and use public transport, now, with a highly contagious pathogen in circulation, the thought of using packed public transport is hugely concerning to many.
In major cities, though, they were often the two main options – drive to work or take the tube, train or bus. There is now a great deal of evidence that many more people will ditch these options in favour of cycling to work, potentially utilising cycle to work schemes.
We believe that there are a number of factors that will make this change a reality, many of these backed by hard evidence and official statistics.
The first major reason, though, is harder to quantify in terms of numbers, it is simply that so many people’s mindsets will have changed. For those who had the option of cycling to work but chose not to, I.e. they lived close enough, there was perhaps a trade off. Cycling would bring health benefits, it would avoid the crowds and it could potentially be cheaper than paying for a car or public transport.
However, it can also mean arriving at work hot and sweaty and requiring a shower (assuming the workplace even had those facilities). It may mean setting off earlier and getting home later, it also, let’s face it, requires significant effort. It can be easy to think on a Sunday that cycling to work would be nice, but less appealing to actually do so on a cold Monday morning.
That balance will now change for many people. The thought of having to get up a bit earlier and cycle in the cold will seem a better option than getting on a packed train. Former problems such as the workplace not having sufficient, if any, showering facilities will change as employers react to the new normality.
For a huge number of people, the dial will swing in favour of cycling.
Another huge change will be in the form of town and city planning.
Many cities have cycle lanes but some have only paid lip service to really prioritising cycling as a form of transport. It can require real confidence to cycle to work with transport and road networks forcing the cyclist to mix with road traffic at rush hour through busy junctions.
The reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic suggests this will change. In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced plans to make a huge car free zone in central London, with walking and cycling to the fore. The option to drive in will be removed, at the same time one of the factors putting so many off – the traffic – is removed.
Expect all other major cities to at least consider similar and then this to have a huge knock-on effect. If you can’t drive into city centres, then the roads from commuter towns and nearby suburbs will also see far fewer cars on the road, they won’t be setting off on those commuter journeys. Cycling will simply become a lot more pleasant with the ratio of bikes to cars radically changed in many areas.
A third potential change is that fewer journeys will actually be required.
The pandemic and requirement to work from home has shown that many roles can be performed from home, even if with some difficulty. The ability to work from home will be further refined and it may be that a large number of employees spend a considerable amount of their working week at home.
This, in turn, will further reduce traffic on the road and also lead people to consider their route in. If heading to the office becomes something that occurs just two or three times per week cycling might be more appealing than as a five-day choice.
Central government support will also accelerate the shift to cycling. The UK government has announced £2 billion to fund alternates forms of transport – this is not solely for cycling, it also includes recharging points for electric vehicles, widening footpaths and more – but cycling is central to the change.
Meat will need adding to the broad proposals, but there may well be further steps too both at national and local level – one certainty is that authorities at all levels are going to encourage cycling and so allocate some funds accordingly.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that if funding is spent in this way it could also lead to a shortfall in other areas, if cycling and electric cars are among options to be prioritised then might some road repairs suffer? Might planned for investment in the rail network lapse? Again, the balance will shift that bit further towards cycling.
Greater awareness of cycle to work schemes will be a final factor that creates a tipping point that sees so many more cycle to work.
Cycle to work schemes enable those wishing to commute in this way to buy their bike as a salary sacrifice and, in doing, so, effectively save greatly with their tax burden reduced.
Currently, not all firms have cycle to work schemes and some that do don’t go out of their way to advertise it. Again, this will change. With more employees wanting to cycle to work, there will be greater pressure placed on employers to facilitate this option – failure to offer this benefit could be a factor potential new recruits consider on looking for their next job.
New bikes do not come cheap, many who would consider cycling might be put off by a large initial outlay they may come to regret. A cycle to work scheme makes the purchase far more manageable.
If incorporating a cycle to work scheme is of interest, please read the information below and see our dedicated section on site.
At Enjoy Benefits, we have great experience in helping companies of all sizes introduce benefits that are suitable for their workplace, these including cycle to work schemes.
Benefits are easy to set ups and ongoing administration is then run through a hub, this allowing employees to manage their own benefits while the employer can see which benefits are proving popular and what level of take-up each has had.
If you would like an obligation free chat to discuss which benefits might work for your business and your employees, please contact us by calling 0800 088 7315 or using our Contact Form.