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Saturday 27 May 2017

'Bike to Work' scheme not being tracked by State

No one knows how much plan has cost

Edel O'Connell

THE Government has no idea how successful a plan to encourage people to cycle to work has been -- or how much it has cost.

The 'Bike to Work' scheme was introduced two-and-a-half years ago, allowing employees and employers to claim tax back when they bought a bike or equipment.

On a spend of €1,000 -- the maximum permitted under the scheme -- employees could claw back up to €500 on tax and levies.

And one of the companies administrating the scheme believes around 50,000 people have taken advantage.

But the Irish Independent has learnt that no procedure to measure the scheme was put in place.

So there is no way to accurately gauge take-up, or to estimate the cost to the Exchequer of the tax breaks.

According to the Department for Finance, which oversees the scheme, there was no formal notification procedure set up for employers to tell Revenue that they were offering the scheme to employees.

This was to cut down on "regulatory overhead and paperwork".

The October 2008 Budget estimated the scheme would cost €200,000 in 2009 and €400,000 last year.

However, when asked how much the scheme has, in fact, cost the Exchequer in the two-and-a-half years to date, the department had no figure.

"There is a loss to the Exchequer in terms of tax and PRSI foregone," a spokeswoman confirmed.

"However, the total value of the bicycle and associated equipment is capped at €1,000 and an employee may only avail of the scheme once every five years," she added.

The stated aim of 'Bike to Work' is to have bicycles used for 10pc of all journeys by 2020 -- or 150,000 commuters cycling to work every day.

Jobs

More than 20,000 people are cycling into Dublin city every day, a 35pc increase in the five years to 2010, according to Dublin City Council.

The 'Bike to Work' scheme has also led to a surge in bike stores opening up around the country.

Three independent Irish companies are facilitating hundreds of employers to administer the scheme -- supplying bikes through a network of independent shops.

A spokesman for one, Bike To Work Ltd, said it was accepted that the scheme was an "enormous success".

However, he added it was impossible to know just how many had signed up for it -- and his firm was currently attempting to conduct its own survey to estimate the take-up.

"The scheme has led to a boom in bike shops and created up to 1,000 jobs," the spokesman said.

Dublin City Council bike officer Ciaran Fallon said infrastructure would have to be enhanced for cyclists if the scheme was to be sustainable in the long term.

"The Bike to Work scheme in terms of its operation is very simple to use, but we have to up our game in terms of our infrastructure," he said.

"A total of 40pc of all trips into the city every morning are less than five kilometres -- this is a distance you could comfortably cycle in 25 minutes. The potential for cycling in Dublin is great," Mr Fallon added.

A series of events is planned across the country during National Cycling Week this week, with Bike to Work day taking place in Dublin next Wednesday.

Irish Independent

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