This month, we celebrate Cyclescheme’s 15th birthday.
Cyclescheme was conceived by Gary Cooper and Richard Grigsby, co-owners of a relatively successful bike shop in Bath. Always innovative and with an eager spirit of entrepreneurism, they launched a plan to deliver an end to end service for local employers seeking to offer the ‘cycle to work scheme’ – an incentive introduced by the government in 1999.
Born out of a passion for cycling as a practical and sustainable form of transport, Cyclescheme Limited was incorporated in February 2005, meeting the government’s three cycle to work objectives: CO2 emission reduction, congestion reduction, and improved public health and wellbeing.
10 months later, I (Jeremy) found myself drafted in and assigned as Cyclescheme’s first official employee, taking on the disconcertingly vague title of ‘Office Manager’; a role that involved everything from maintaining the accounts to sticking security stickers on paper collection certificates.
Very soon we were laying the foundations for a level of success that none of us had anticipated or hoped to expect. A three-year annualised growth of 348% saw Cyclescheme recognised as the fastest growing private company in the UK by the Times and Virgin in 2009 (FastTrack100).
The key to this growth lay in two areas: Finding employers to take up the scheme and seeking out retailers to form our partnerships.
Richard and Gary had a tenacious ability to sell the concept with their powers of persuasion, accompanied by endless mile-munching around the UK where they’d present client employers with assurances of local independent cycle retailer support.
They’d then hit the independent bike shops with offers to guarantee increased footfall, revenue, and the benefit of lifelong custom; a delicate balancing act that required a sense of urgency and hard graft to deliver on those pledges. It’s these local cycle retailer partnerships that remain the lifeblood of Cyclescheme’s service all these years later.
'We have dealt with Cyclescheme from the start and they remain our biggest ride to work provider. The back-office system is the most efficient one we use and the payments to us always arrive on time.' - Paul Kenchington, Director, The Bicycle Chain Ltd
The heart of the product was expertly constructed from scratch by other local business partnerships in our hometown of Bath. Enter Loft Digital as the creators of our back-end system and Road.cc as our customer-facing online presence. Thanks to their skills and innovation, Cyclescheme had an increasing ability to capture online sign-ups with simplified and automated processes, helping us to maintain a turnover of £25M+ in 2010, with no more than 25 team members.
Suffice to say we were no longer manually posting paper certificates!
Of course, there’s so much more that goes into building and maintaining a market leading service, but the passion for change, combined with the spirit of partnership is the glue that has held it together from the start.
With our extensive network of cycle retailers, alongside prominent cycling advocacy groups and support from the legislative ‘holy trinity’ of the Cycle to Work Scheme – the Department for Transport, HMRC, and the FCA - the common goal of positively promoting cycling as a sustainable transport solution has delivered unprecedented industry growth.
The foundation of the Cycle to Work Alliance was a big win for the industry; creating a positive lobbying voice for cycling to work, formed by the top 4 scheme providers (Cyclescheme, CycleSolutions, Evans Cycles and Halfords). The spirit of collaboration and co-operation has helped to make a significant contribution to a better and healthier environment for all.
‘With clear Government support, the alliance members contributed to updating legal guidance focussed on making cycling to work more accessible to employees, in line with changing bike prices and employee behaviour. In 2019 this was rewarded with the removal of the £1,000 limit, in place for over 10 years, enabling e-bikes, adapted cycles and family cargo bikes to become accessible via the scheme.
Cyclescheme and the Cycle to Work Alliance look forward to leveraging the new guidance and seeing a rise in the number of employees that turn to cycling as their favoured commuting method.’ – Adrian Warren, Chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance
Our 15 years have only been a roaring success thanks to the passionate individuals, past and present, who continue to contribute amidst an ever-changing landscape; transforming us from a single product solution provider to an important component of an ever-expanding global portfolio of products and services under the wing of Blackhawk Network.
‘During the 11 years I have worked for the business, one of the key words that can be associated with our company is ‘growth’. Cyclescheme itself has grown massively during that period and has consistently recognised new opportunities to expand in the benefits market; allowing us to develop other industry leading products such as care-4 (childcare scheme) and Techscheme.
Most importantly though, Cyclescheme has always offered its employees the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, nurturing us to move into new roles with different challenges. It is this ethos that has marked it out as such a rewarding place to work.’ – Paul Swift, Techscheme Product Manager
By all accounts, Cyclescheme has reached some incredible milestones in the last 15 years. I (Laurence) have now been here for 10 of those and it’s been a delight to see us go from strength to strength.
We've united over 835,000 bikes and accessory packages with riders, we've had over 50,000 employers entrust their cycle to work scheme to us and we've built lasting business relationships with over 2,000 bike retailers and brands.
Hopefully, these significant accomplishments will pale in comparison to the potential impact that Cyclescheme will have in the next 15 years - 2.67 million businesses operate with Pay as You Earn (PAYE) salary options in the UK yet currently cycling only has a modal share at 2% of all commutes made - our ambitions far outweigh our current results.
How are we going to make an even bigger impact in the future? The answer is that we will relentlessly focus on bringing new cyclists into the fold. One of the key ambitions of the cycle to work scheme exists to encourage new people on to bikes and we aim to do this with a range of ever-evolving enhancements.
Our most recent initiative is the Into-Cyclescheme programme, this unique scheme extension means that we can now help low wage earners get a bike of their choosing, even if they fall outside of the normal eligibility criteria. By doing this, Cyclescheme hopes to support this important group of cyclists in becoming lifelong advocates for two-wheeling.
We also have our incoming e-bike programme – we’re aiming to be the UK centre of excellence for commuting by e-bike. The capacity for e-bikes to encourage and support new and returning cyclists into the saddle is only just starting to be understood and we intend to ensure the maximum number of potential cyclists get a chance to experience the benefits of e-biking thanks to Cyclescheme.
With 15 years of experience, a wealth of strong relationships and a global parent company to guide us along the way, we’re excited to see what the next chapter of our story brings. We hope as many people as possible will come along for the ride as we continue to lead innovation in our space.
Jeremy Persad, affectionately known as ‘employee number 1’ is now one of our Regulatory Compliance Managers. Based in Bath, Jeremy’s focus is to work across all of our Blackhawk Network products, to ensure we are up to date with UK and European data privacy legislation at all times.
Laurence Boon is our Cyclescheme Product Manager, also based in Bath. With over 10 years in the business, Laurence’s passion for cycling extends far beyond office hours, making him an expert in his field.