While COVID-19 delivered a hard hit to the UK economy, the cycling industry has been booming – with a little added acceleration from Loft.
With lockdowns limiting people’s leisure activities, people have turned to cycling. Between April and September 2020, total bike sales were up 27 per cent for the period year on year. Similarly, there was a 92 per cent jump in the number of e-bikes sold, according to figures from the Bicycle Association.
Meanwhile, those who have been allowed to go to work have been wary of public transport making the bicycle a very popular option. Cyclescheme, the leading provider of the government’s Cycle to Work employee benefit scheme, experienced an unprecedented spike in demand during the 2020 lockdowns.
Through the scheme, employees can purchase a bike and pay for it tax-free through their company’s payroll. Cyclescheme runs on a technology platform built by Loft, and with the huge growth in bike purchases through Cyclescheme in 2020 we helped the company manage the unprecedented demand by updating its systems using the latest cloud technology. This ensured that, for Cyclescheme at least, it was business as usual while bike sales spiked.
Later in 2020, it became apparent that demand for bikes would outstrip supply. Across the industry, firms were reporting shortages and stockpiles that had been put aside for Brexit were quickly sold. Further growth towards the end of the year was choked off by a lack of supply, which has run into 2021.
And the longer term prospects for the cycling and e-bike market remain strong. The UK government has signaled its intention to build on the popularity cycling gained during the pandemic by announcing plans to invest £2 billion in improving the country’s cycle paths and walkways. It wants to double cycling as a means of transport by 2040, reducing traffic, reducing emissions and improving health and wellbeing.
We are also starting to see initiatives that make cycling accessible and affordable to those who don’t own a bike. In 2020, Loft helped Cyclescheme develop the City Bike Hire platform, which is run in conjunction with TfL. Supported by employers and HMRC, membership can cost as little as £1 a week, enabling people to book and rent Santander Cycles as and when they need them. With Loft’s technology at its core, the City Bike Hire scheme will be relatively easy to replicate in other cities.