Adrian Warren, senior product director at Cyclescheme, talks to Rebecca Morley about the benefits of cycling to work and winning Best Retailer Services at the BikeBiz Awards 2021
This piece first appeared in the August edition of BikeBiz magazine – get your free subscription here
With reports of rising costs for many reasons recently dominating headlines, there has seemingly never been a better time to look into cycling as an alternative method of getting into work. Bikes offer a lower cost and more environmentally-friendly form of travel, with people realising their benefits especially after two years of Covid-related restrictions.
So what is the current outlook for 2021 Best Retailer Services winner Cyclescheme? “We definitely have been seeing a rebalance in terms of the number of cyclists,” senior product director Adrian Warren told BikeBiz. “But once one crisis goes, another one sweeps in and now we’re now seeing the financial crisis and the cost of living driving a different reason for people to look at cycling to work.
“It’s great that Cyclescheme and Cycle to Work can be there with a service during a pandemic, but also in a financial crisis as well, which demonstrates the applicability of this benefit as it can serve a multitude of solutions.
“We’re not necessarily seeing the dizzy heights of the number of cyclists that we saw in the pandemic, but we are still double digits up on 2019. We jumped with the pandemic, but we’ve come back down to a level that was still a lot higher than what we were seeing pre-pandemic.
“It’s hopefully a case of those people that got into cycling to work or cycling over the pandemic, a big portion of those have maintained it. Part of our focus for this last six months is, and continues to be, how we maintain that motivation. How do we ensure that people who are currently cycling now continue to cycle and don’t fall back into the pre-cycling habits?”
Cyclescheme has existed since 1999 and grew in popularity from 2005 when it became the first cycle to work provider. The cycle to work scheme offers an end-to-end service for employers, a simple way for businesses to provide employees with savings on a bike or bike accessory purchased tax-efficiently via salary sacrifice.
Cyclescheme won the Best Retailer Services Award at last year’s BikeBiz Awards, a trophy Warren says sits beside the desk and proudly shows me during our video call. “It’s a recognition by retailers and the trade of the efforts and the contribution that Cyclescheme has made and continues to make,” said Warren.
“Particularly last year, we’d received some bad press and we were able to hopefully counter some of that with revisiting our commercial model, so the bike retailers, the independent bike dealers, they are all central to Cyclescheme and what we do.
“To receive that recognition after a couple years of not having it was a huge achievement for the team. It reinvigorated them after a tough year dealing with just the volume of things. It felt like a real pat on the back in terms of the service that we deliver to the bike trade and to those bike retailers.”
Earlier this year, Cyclescheme also announced that it had reached one million cycle to work certificate requests. And in 2021, shortly before the BikeBiz Awards were announced online, Cyclescheme partnered with Citrus-Lime to offer a new e-commerce feature to independent bike shops across the UK.
“We also continue to support the growing omnichannel,” continued Warren. “We’re very much an advocate of choice and sometimes there’s a fine line to offer that choice. But as brands continue to diversify and go direct-to-consumer as well as offering click and collect, we are able to continue to serve that need in the market from the customer, so it’s been great to build that up.
“We’ve grown our network now to 2,600 partners. We’ve increased our bike rental offering as well. Throughout 2021 we’ve mainly focused on Santander bikes, which obviously really only covers the London area, but we’ve now increased our network to include people like Buzzbike and Brompton and we’re looking at others to expand that out.”
Cost of living crisis
Rising bills have left businesses and consumers up and down the country strapped for cash, but the cost of living crisis has presented the bike industry with an opportunity to promote cycling as a more affordable form of transport.
“There have been various different calculators over the years that have demonstrated how cycling to work is gonna save you X on a train ticket, or using the bus or driving the car, but they’ve never really cut through,” said Warren. “I think people acknowledge it, but that habit they have of using the car is quite a difficult one to change.
“However, that whole topic is really coming to the fore at the moment with the cost of living crisis. It’s not just how much things cost now in a supermarket, but the effect that has on your other expenditure.
“Aside from walking, there is no more efficient way of travelling to work than a bicycle. That’s where we want to make sure that positioning, that education is given to all of our bike retailers through Cyclescheme so that they can serve that customer in the best possible way.
“There’s going to be an element of the customers going into those bike shops hoping for an answer to some of their financial problems. There are going to be some tough decisions that people are going to have to make as to do they continue to run a second car, or even a car, or do they look at an alternative way of getting to work.”
Looking forward, Warren said there will be an element of uncertainty, particularly with all the changes going on in Government at the moment. But we’ll also continue to see consumer behaviour becoming more and more diverse, with people wanting to shop in various different ways, and Cyclescheme will need to continue to support that. “The key for us is how do we support that with our bicycle retailers and going on that journey with them?
“Clearly, e-bikes will continue to be a trend that gets a lot of focus,” Warren continued. “For Cyclescheme, we want to be a key part of helping demonstrate that e-bikes are part of the solution. And actually, an e-cargo bike is a very good way of solving the second family car type problem.
“I think the other big thing that we see on our horizon is how do we continue to make relevant, in today’s climate, cycle to work as a benefit. And there is a huge cohort of employees on national minimum wage that can’t partake. There’s a growing number of people that are self-employed
that can’t benefit.
“And we’re still really only reaching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to small-medium businesses that are rolling this benefit out. My ambition is to continue to lobby so that cycle to work is a bit like our pension in auto enrolment – every employer has to offer it.
“I’d love to see every employee, whether they’re self employed, on national minimum wage, or not, be able to make a decision over choosing cycling to work and make the savings as opposed to being excluded.
“Those are all areas that we really want to focus on and deliver on in the next 12 months. But just as important is to keep the number of people cycling that are cycling now and were during the pandemic.”