Cycling to work

Here’s everything you need to know to cut your bicycle commuting costs.

A close up pitcture of a bicycle seat and back tyre.

Now that we’re being slowly encouraged to stop working from home and return to the office, many are taking the opportunity to cycle to work, ditching cars and public transport.

Local councils across the country have installed ‘pop-up’ bike lanes in some areas to encourage more people to cycle to work safely.

Here are some tips to help you get the most out of cycling to work. We’ll help you lose the pounds from your waist, and not your wallet.  

Cycle to Work schemes

First things first, you need a bike. If you’re looking to use it to commute to work, there are a range of government-backed Cycle to Work schemes designed to make it cheaper for you to do so.

The scheme helps you save money by spreading the cost of a bike used to travel to work over monthly tax-free instalments. 

Your workplace registers with one of the scheme providers. You then choose the bike and any accessories you want and your employer pays for them. You then pay your employer back in monthly chunks taken out of your salary, before any tax is deducted. 

By registering with a scheme provider your employer can also make savings. This is because the monthly payments you make from your pre-tax salary reduces the amount your employer has to pay in employer national insurance contributions. 

So it’s in their interests to help you get a bike through the scheme too.

Going back to work: A guide for employers

Scheme providers include Cyclescheme, the Green Commute Initiative, and Bike2Work.

A number of bike retailers provide their own versions of the scheme, including Chain Reaction Cycles, Cycle Solutions, Evans Cycles, and Halfords.  

How much of a saving you’ll make will depend on how much tax you usually pay on your salary and the price of the bike you want to buy. 

Your monthly payments are made from your gross salary. This means you save the income tax and national insurance contributions you would have otherwise paid on that amount over the course of your Cycle to Work agreement. 

The Green Commute Initiative has a savings calculator on its website to help you understand how much you could potentially save on the cost of a bike, by taking part in the scheme. 

Technically speaking, you’ll be paying to hire the bike from your employer, until the end of your repayment plan. The plan can last anything between 12 and 24 months. Speak to your employer about the timescale that works for you.

It’s worth noting that because you’re paying off the cost of the bike to your employer, if your bike goes missing or is stolen, you’ll still need to keep making payments.

Buying a bike through a Cycle to Work scheme 

The mechanics of the way each scheme works can vary. Typically, once your employer has registered with a scheme provider, they’ll be provided with a code which you can use to keep track of your Cycle to Work agreement online. 

You may also be given a letter or voucher that can be presented at checkout either in-store or online when paying for your bike. 

When Cycle to Work was originally launched in 1999, a limit of £1,000 was placed on the total price you were able to spend on your bike and accessories through the initiative. 

That upper limit has since been removed, so it is up to you and your employer to agree how much to spend on your Cycle to Work package.

Remember, everything needs to be paid for eventually, so think clearly about how much you want to spend through the scheme. 

Cycle to Work scheme providers also allow you to buy accessories to make your commute safer and to keep your bike in good condition as part of your package.

This includes helmets, bike lights, reflectors, mirrors, bells, child safety seats, bike locks, mudguards, panniers, backpacks and panniers. 

You can also get your hands on components and tools, like wheels, bicycle pumps, puncture repair kits, cycle tool kits and tyre sealant. 

However, your Cycle to Work scheme package cannot include GPS devices or ‘action’ cameras. 

Each of the Cycle to Work Scheme providers have a directory on their websites of the retailers that take part in their scheme.  

Is it worth insuring your bike?

Bikes can potentially cost thousands of pounds to replace if they are damaged or stolen, but having a bicycle insurance policy could cover the cost. 

It can give you financial protection against: 

  • Theft

  • Accidental or malicious damage

  • Personal accidents

  • Third party liability

Some policies can also cover things like bike hire and accessories.

An insurance policy might be worth buying if you use the bike every day. If you are injured in a road accident, or damage someone else's property while riding, bike insurance can cover the costs.

Some bike insurance policies also give you the option to cover:

  • Just your bike

  • Just yourself

  • Both in a combined policy

Not all bike insurers offer separate policies, so use our bicycle insurance comparison to find those that can.

Here is an in depth look at everything a bicycle insurance policy can cover

Are you already covered? 

If you have an existing home contents insurance policy, you might find that you’re already covered against theft and malicious damage of possessions like bicycles. 

However, most home contents policies will not cover expensive bikes. They’re also unlikely to cover your bike unless it’s securely stored at home, unless you pay extra.

Make sure you check your policy documents carefully to understand your existing level of cover.

What does home insurance cover?

Cycle hire schemes 

If you prefer the flexibility of being able to use a bike without the associated costs, or you simply don’t have space to store a bike, you may be interested to hire a bike for short journeys.

Santander London Cycle Hire

There are a range of cycle hire schemes across the country. Perhaps the most well known is the Santander London Cycle Hire scheme across Central London.

According to charity Cycling UK, the scheme offers access to more than 11,500 bikes across the capital.

You can hire one of these bikes from a docking station. It costs £2 for unlimited journeys up to 30 minutes. For longer journeys, you’re charged £2 for each extra 30 minute period of use.

Simply head to one of the 750 docking stations. Once you’ve paid an initial access you’ll receive a 5-digit code, which you use to unlock the bike. Once you’re finished riding, simply return the bike to a docking station.

For more details, to set up an account and to download the Santander Cycles app, go to Transport for London’s website.

Jump (London)

There is also the ‘Jump’ electric-assist bike share scheme. The scheme, run by Uber, allows you to rent bikes via the Uber smartphone app. 

The bikes typically cost £1 to unlock and 12p per minute to ride. The first 5 minutes of riding are usually free of charge.

There are fewer of these bikes across London compared to the Santander London Cycle Hire Scheme. The bikes can typically be rented from more central areas, however this can vary.

Uber asks all Jump bike users to end their journeys responsibly, by ensuring that bikes are locked using the cable lock on the back wheel.

The bikes must not be locked in a position that would obstruct pathways and accessibility ramps. The Uber app is supposed to instruct you on the correct area to set down your bike once you’ve finished your journey. 

Some areas of the city are marked on the Uber app as being ‘no-parking zones’. If riders try and park in these restricted areas, they can face fines, so be careful where you park your bike. 

Full details on the Uber website

Hourbike network (Selected towns and cities)

Outside of London, Hourbike is a large public bike share scheme operating across a range of cities and large towns across the UK. 

It offers bikes for rent across Brighton, Derby, Lincoln, Liverpool, Northampton, the Norfolk Broads, Oxford, Reading and Southport - among other places.

 Like the Santander scheme, Hourbike uses a system of dedicated docking stations.

The schemes operate independently in each hire area, so you’ll need to check your 

local scheme for details on how to register.

Full details on the Hourbike network’s website.

Nextbike

Nextbike operates a range of cycle hire schemes across the urban hubs in the UK and abroad. Here they run schemes in Cardiff, Glasgow, London, Milton Keynes, Stirling, Swansea and on some university campuses.

They offer the ability to rent both conventional and electric bikes, depending on availability in each location.  

You can also pay for monthly or annual memberships, which give you unlimited 30-minute rentals.  

Annual membership usually costs £5 a month with a 12-month commitment, while monthly membership costs £10 a month and can be cancelled at any time. 

For those without memberships and for members who use a bike for more than 30 minutes at a time, there are standard pay as you go rates, which depending on the type of bike you ride.  

Prices and membership costs can vary across different locations. 

Full details on the Nextbike UK website.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of cycle hire schemes across the UK. Cycling UK has a detailed list of bike share and hire schemes across the UK and the Republic of Ireland

Lime (London and Milton Keynes) 

Lime is a bike-share and electric scooter rental business, which allows users to access these vehicles via a smartphone app. 

In a similar way to Jump (which the firm acquired from Uber last month), Lime helps smartphone users identify a bike parked near them and to unlock it with their device’s bluetooth function. 

Users can choose between electric-assist bikes and standard pedal bikes, as well as e-scooters.

Bikes cost £1 to unlock and then 15p per minute of use. Lime also offers ‘LimePasses’, which, for a single fee, let you ride a certain number of times or for a fixed period.

A Day pass is £11.99 and gives you unlimited access to Lime bikes for 24 hours. 

You can also monthly passes which offer the following choices: 

  • 5 rides of up to 30 minutes each for £14.99 per month

  • 10 rides of up to 30 minutes each for £22.99 per month

  • 25 rides of up to 30 minutes each for £44.99 per month

Lime divides up the areas where its bikes can be used into ‘ride zones’. These are areas where Lime may restrict your speed or your ability to end a ride (i.e. park a bike). If you try and park a Lime bike in a ‘No-parking zone’, which is highlighted in the Lime app, you may incur a fine. 

The company asks all riders to refrain from parking bikes on main pedestrian walkways, and also to not park in areas including:

  • Wheelchair ramps

  • The middle of cycle or pedestrian pathways

  • Hospital entrances

  • Fire stations

  • Inside gated residential areas

  • No-parking zones

If you're planning to hire a bike in order to travel to work, you might want to set up contactless payment via your banking app. You could consider using a cashback credit card to earn rewards whilst you cycle.