In my early days as a young professional in London, budgeting was not my strong point… Often, there was too much month left at the end of my money!
Inevitabley, I woke up one morning without the funds I needed for my London commute. (This was before I realised how much money I could save with an annual travelcard). As I was considering my options of emergency same day funding, I saw a coworker whiz by as she cycled to work! We usually arrived at the same time, but she had figured out a way to commute without paying for public transport! Her creative mode of transportation inspired me think about way to save on my commute. It turns out I didn’t even need to have the money on hand to invest in this cheaper form of transport – I could be dead broke yet I could still purchase a bike through my company’s Cycle to Work scheme! I did some research which I am eager to share with you – so read on!
Is it worth it to cycle to work?
It is definitely healthier to cycle to work; however, the deciding factors for most commuters will be whether it saves them time and money.
As no two commutes are the same, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. You will have to do the maths yourself.
How much money will I save by cycling to work?
The amount of money you save depends on your commuter bike expenses as well as what you usually spend on transport.
- Work out your annual commuting cost. For many commuters – especially in London – this will be the cost of an annual pass.
- Calculate how much your commuter bike will cost you over 5 years. First add the expenses such as maintenance and gear (helmet, lights etc.), then divide it by 5 to get the yearly cost.
If this is too complex and time-consuming, you can use other people’s calculated annual costs: £268 (Merlin Cycles’s calculation) or £396 (Cycle Scheme’s calculation)
- Subtract step 2 from step 1 (step 1 – step 2 = total savings)
- Now you have the total amount you could saving by cycling.
You can also calculate your cycling savings by using an online calculator. I enjoyed putting the details of my commute into Cycle Republic’s Cyculator which told me how much time and money I could save by cycling to work
Did you know…
- If you pay upfront for a bike and cycle to work, it will cost you an average of 16p a mile – versus 25p a mile commuting by rail. (Source: CycleScheme)
- Every year that you commute by bike in London, you save enough money to buy 6 bikes! (source: BBC).
- If you live in London and usually take the zones 1 – 4 annual season ticket which cost £2,020, you can save at least £1624 a year by cycling to work.
Will cycling to work save me time?
Depending on where you live, cycling into work might also save you time! Think about it – no walking to public transport stations, no waiting between transfers, no escalators, no endless corridors… However, the answer truly depends on where you live. Use this online tool to see if its faster to cycle from your location.
Make sure you choose a route that actually saves you time. Utilise your own local knowledge and collaborate with fellow cyclers to find the quickest route. For example, a reddit user shared that it’s best to choose a route with less traffic lights. He found that his route through West End had red lights every 50m and it took him double the time to get to work. Another user concurred he too saved time by avoiding red lights and riding a less direct route along the Chelsea Embankment and CS8. You can find more resources to help plan your route below.
How to get a Commuter Bike
Buying a commuter bike
- Find out which cycle scheme your employers use.
Before redeeming your certificate on the Cycle to Work Scheme, check which stores your scheme provider partners with.This table will tell you where to shop for a commuter bike according to ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme provider
- Work out a budget to buy your bike. This depends on how much of your salary you want to sacrifice for a few months
You might want to factor in the amount you will pay in taxes after the hire period ends. The end-of-hire tax varies based on the price you paid for the bike (is it more or less than £500) and how long you leased the equipment for. Podium 4 Bikes has a calculator which will tell you how much it will cost to buy the bike back at the end
- Go to the bike store, pick out the bike you want, and get a written quote
- Request a Cycle to Work certificate from your company’s HR department. The certificate will be emailed or posted to you once your company has paid
- Take your certificate to the bike shop affiliated with your company’s scheme
- Use the Certificate to buy the bike and equipment
- When the hire period comes to an end, take the neccesary steps to take full ownership of the bike. You will need to pay taxes as well as a final payment to your company. Most companies would rather give it to you than keep a used bike, so the final amount won’t be too expensive. Check with your Cycle to Work provider if they have a discount programme to reduce the final payment.
Use a Bike Sharing scheme
A bike is an expense – but it is a one-time investment that will save you a lot in the long run. Just think – the amount you will save by biking instead of taking public transport will “pay” for the bike in just 2 months!
Another option is buying a second-hand bike – this will give you something that is good quality, yet budget-friendly. Some maintain that a hybrid bike works best for commuters in London. But if your commute entails public transport during peak hours – you might want a bike you can fold. There are all sorts of bikes, so do your research on what will work best for you.
Cycle to Work Scheme
The best way to buy a bike for your commute is through your company’s Cycle to Work Scheme.
Your company pays for the bike which you ‘hire’ from them through salary deductions. At the end of the hire period, (usually 12 -18 months), you get to buy it outright. If you can budget for a slightly reduced salary each month, this scheme can help you save tax on your bike. You can calculate your savings (including the tax cuts for you and your employer) using this calculator.
How to buy a bike with Cycle to Work Scheme
If you don’t want to commit to buying your own bike just yet, you still have other options to cycle to work. You can hire a bike in London using bike sharing companies like Santander Cycles and mobike. Bear in mind that you’ll have to factor in the extra time it might take to locate a bike and return it.
How to choose a bike share provider for your cycle to work
Weigh these factors to choose the right bike share for your commute.
The length of your commute and how much of it is covered by your annual pass.
Many bike share schemes have an annual pass that covers a window of time you can use the bike without paying an additional charge per hour. If your commute takes under an hour, then it doesn’t matter which bike share program you use. However, if each journey will take more than an hour, you might want consider bike shares that offer a longer window of free time.
- The distance between a docking station and your home and work:
Since different companies service each area, not all companies will have docking stations near you. It’s best to choose a provider who has bikes near both your places of work and residence with the least amount of walking.
- The availability of bikes at the nearest docking station:
Every bike share company has a certain amount of bikes in circulation. In general, the location of bikes at a particular time is governed by the travelling habits of users. Bike Share companies usually hire people to redistribute the bikes. However, some are more successful than others at keeping docking stations well stocked. Click here to read a cyclist’s review of different bike sharing companies, including general availability.
- The type of bike they offer:
The kind of bike you use will impact your speed and comfort. Cyclist UK gives you a rundown on the different types of bikes offered by various bike share providers. Use this guide to determine which one is right for your commute.
Choosing a Route for Your Cycle to Work:
You will need to decide what matters most to you – do you want the shortest or quietest commute?
Before you set out, look at some online cycle route planners to adjust the route to your liking. When you plan ahead of time, you can not only avoid surprises, but also feel confident navigating. This way, you will won’t waste time figuring out where you are – instead, you’ll be able to focus on safety.
You should also find out where you can keep your bike at work before leaving your house. If your work doesn’t have bike storage and you can’t stash it inside in a corner, you might have to park your bike outside. In that case, you’ll want to get a good quality padlock to ensure your bike won’t get stolen.
Things to know Before You Cycle To Work
- Watch the Commute Smart playlist before you set out. Created by British Cycling, the playlist gives you everything you need to know before you cycle to work.
- Partake in free or subsidised cycle training if your local council offers it. Many councils provide cycle training for people who live, work or study in the vicinity. These classes can significantly boost your confidence on a bike.
- Learn how to ride one handed to free your other hand for signals
- Read the ‘Bitesize Bikeability’ series on British Cycling which covers things like on-road positioning, dealing with side roads and parked cars, left turns and communication.
In this post, I shared with you the benefits of cycling to work. By biking to work, I could have avoided needing a payday loan to help me get to work when my funds ran dry. After that incident, I began paying a lot more attention to my budget, and I also purchased a Cycle to Work Scheme bike.
However, when I started working at Quick Loans Express, I bought an annual pass, as the office was too far for me to cycle.
Nevertheless, I am happy that I can show you how to map your cycling route for your commute and save money. Remember – don’t rely solely on your navigation device, as other bike commuters have a lot to share.
Interested in cycling to work? Here is a useful schedule to help you plan the first few weeks of cycling to work.