One of the main types of new bike sale nowadays seems to come from the various cycle to work initiatives. However I have a problem with these initiatives for a number of reasons both generally and specifically with how it impacts my business:
- The scheme seems very open to abuse. Nobody is really keeping score of how often the bikes acquired under this scheme are being used for their intended purpose, and other forms of abuse are possible. This may lead to a political backlash against bike to work initiatives
- Access to the scheme is dependent on whether your employer decides to participate in one of the schemes
- Although Cyclescheme is open to all retailers, many of the competing schemes tie the purchaser into buying their bike with one particular retailer
My suggestion for an alternative is to use a scrappage scheme. Scrappage has, from our point of view, been successfully piloted within the automotive trade and found to be successful, so with a few tweaks scrappage may be suitable for rolling out into a dynamic sector such as the cycle industry. The alterations I would make would be to target the scheme so as to scrap the countless Bicycle Shaped Objects on british roads - perhaps by defining a "bare-bike" weight above which a bike becomes eligible for scrapping (BSO's are notoriously heavy). The bikes ellegible for grant assistance could also be defined so as to ensure that impractical bikes are not simply traded in for newer impractical bikes. Maybe set a minimum price, also make mudguard and rack braze-ons mandatory?
As I see it, the advantage of scrappage would be as follows
- More equitable amongst the consumer - it is not dependent on the workplace policy or intended use of the bike
- Removes heavy impractical bikes from the road, similar how the car scrappage scheme was claimed to rid the streets of polluting cars
- Fairer for the independent bicycle dealer - if done correctly it would put local stores on an even footing with large retailers
- Would reduce the opportunity for abuse of the scheme that exists in current initiatives
I would be interested to hear what other CTC members would like to say on the above suggestion, and any comments that they could add. If the response is positive I will consider writing to the Association of Cycle Traders and the CTC proper to suggest this change to bicycle purchase assistance. Of course the larger retailers are unlikely to support any change to the current workplace bike initiatives, becasue a lot of bikes are sold under these initiatives, with the sales skewed more than average to big retailers who are able to cherry pick the large employers by offering exclusive contracts that are very attractive to these employers.