Halfords is calling on the Government to introduce new incentives to make it easier for people to use e-bikes to get to work.
Research commissioned by Halfords shows that six in ten UK workers are not able to work flexibly, meaning millions of people face a return to full time commuting.
With infections on the rise, one in three workers said they are apprehensive about returning to public transport. Data from the DfT shows that between 5th-9th July, passenger levels on the London tube were at around 43% of pre-pandemic levels on average, and around half of usual passenger numbers were being seen on national rail services.
“E-bikes can fill a huge hole in our national commuting strategy,” said Paul Tomlinson, Halfords cycling director. “We’ve seen demand for e-bikes grow 76% in the past year, but we’re still behind other countries where e-bikes are already making a major contribution to commuting.”
E-bike sales now represent 17% of all bicycles sales in the EU, versus 5% in the UK. France is offering motorists the chance to scrap their car in return for a €2,500 grant to buy an e-bike.
Halfords is launching a commuter campaign called Bike Back Better and is calling on the Government to:
– Accelerate the roll-out of e-bike subsidies, outlined in the most recent Cycling and Walking Strategy from the Department for Transport
– Assess the viability of a UK car-scrappage scheme in return for e-bike grants
– Incentivise cycling for business travel by bringing HMRC mileage rates for work travel by bike or e-bike in line with the rate per mile available when using a car – employees who drive their own car for work purposes can claim 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles, and 25p thereafter. The rate for cycling is currently just 20p
– Instruct local authorities to require high quality, secure cycle parking infrastructure, with charging points for e-bikes as a planning requirement for all new residential and commercial developments
– Introduce incentives such as tax relief for small and medium-sized businesses installing new bike storage for their employees
Such a package of measures would send a ‘strong signal’ about the need to adopt cleaner, greener ways of commuting ahead of the COP26 climate change summit this autumn.
Sales of mechanical bikes have soared since the first lockdown, but many people are put off cycling to work by steep hills and long distances. Halfords has identified the ten toughest places to live for cycling commuters. They include Muswell Hill in North London, Totterdown in Bristol and Leith in Edinburgh.
“Many people are put off cycling to work by a steep hill somewhere on the route,” said Tomlinson. “E-bikes provide the oomph you need to navigate those hills with ease.”
Victoria Pendleton, whose Pendleton Somerby hybrid electric bikes are available exclusively from Halfords, said: “Cycling has seen a massive renaissance over the past 18 months but for people who are less confident or face a tougher commute, an e-bike really is the perfect solution, especially with people reluctant to use public transport now. I truly believe e-bikes will be a massive part of commuting for the future.”
Halfords is now offering free e-bike trials in all of its stores. “I’d encourage anyone to try an e-bike so they can appreciate the benefits of using one for recreation and commuting,” said Pendleton.