Cycle to Work

I was struck by the amount of press coverage of the Cycle to Work scheme (C2W). The Irish Bicycle Business Association (IBBA, which seems to have no website) launched a report (which cannot be found online) praising the virtues of C2W.

The report in the Irish Times is brief. 90,000 bikes have been sold since the scheme was introduced. There is no estimate of how many bikes would have been sold without C2W. The IBBA spokesperson claimed that “cycling journeys have increased by more than 50 per cent”, which may or may not be due to C2W, and may not be true as Irish data on travel and transport are sparse. The Dublin Canal Crossing counts (h/t Ossian Smyth) surely do not support a 50% increase.

RTE, BusinessWorld and the Irish Examiner add that 50 new bicycle shops have been established, and 767 new jobs created. They note the increase in the number of bike-based charitable events. And they cite the example of Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, which apparently has kept excellent records of how its employees travel to work.

SiliconRepublic has the most extensive story. It cites a LSE study that shows the commuting by bike improves your health. Such studies are plagued by endogeneity: Are cycling people fit, or do fit people cycle? McNabola et al. (2008) show, for Dublin, that cyclists (who breathe differently) are particularly exposed to PM2.5 and VOC.

The Irish Independent interviewed a bike shop owner. He notes that, since C2W, people buy more expensive bikes and that the success of his business is due to C2W.

C2W is a subsidy on the purchase of a new bicycle. You would indeed expect that people would then buy more and more expensive bikes, which is good for bike shop owners. C2W was one of the first policies introduced by then-Minister Eamon Ryan, who once owned a bike shop (see here).

C2W is unrelated to the use of the bike. Even without the C2W, bicycles beat cars on cost. I find it hard to believe that C2W has induced many to cycle to work instead, but I am aware that there no data to support this.