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On your bike: £50 million social enterprise aims to relieve the NHS from inactivity crisis through cycling

free2cycle launched to increase individuals’ productivity, physical and mental wellbeing, by encouraging more people to cycle regularly

05 February 2018

A revolutionary social enterprise has been launched, aiming to address the UK’s inactivity and weighty obesity issue which currently costs the UK economy £27 billion[1] per year. Bike schemes are not new, but this proposition is – by prioritising behaviour change over bike ownership – through incentivising individuals to get more active, more regularly; meaning they can obtain a bike funded purely by pedal power.

“Inactivity is causing severe and preventable pressure on the NHS and the wider economy, we need to address the cause of the problem rather than treating the symptoms” according to Eric Craig, CEO and founder of free2cycle.

free2cycle works in partnership with organisations, retailers, suppliers and particularly those individuals who don’t currently cycle, to incentivise regular bike use. The desired outcome is an increase in the nation’s physical activity levels, which will ultimately benefit individuals’ health and wellbeing, whilst improving their environment by reducing the amount of cars taking to the roads.

Unlike previous cycling schemes which relied on salary sacrifice, free2cycle gives users a bike which they are not expected to pay for, providing the individual pledges and commits to cycling at least 20 miles per week. The cost of the bike will instead be covered by the ‘Sponsor’ organisation*, which can use free2cycle to drive loyalty, engagement and a fitter workforce. The cycling start-up has calculated this could lead to a 10:1 return on investment via increased productivity.

The app-based programme allows users to log how far they’ve cycled, either to work or for leisure. The partnership also aims to have a positive impact on the environment, with the app calculating how much carbon has been offset against each mile pedalled, via reduced car and public transport journeys. For Sponsor organisations, this comprehensive reporting can work towards Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) pledges, along with the associated benefits to local air quality.

Craig, continued: “We’ve been staring down the barrel of the obesity crisis for decades; now it’s time to stop putting our heads in the sand. This country is losing money due to health problems fuelled by inactivity and an overweight nation, whilst businesses are battling a productivity issue that is not going away. It’s no surprise we lag behind our G7 peers – being the fat-folk of Europe will get us nowhere.”

Professor Jason Gill, University of Glasgow commented: “Lack of physical activity is a major public health concern.Many people struggle to find time to schedule exercise into their day, so cycling to work provides an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, by building activity into normal daily routines. There is clear evidence that cycling to work is associated with substantially lower risk of risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality.”[2]

Having secured partnerships with the leading bike manufacturers and retailers spanning the country, free2cycle is now urging organisations across the UK to sign up as Sponsors which incurs no cost to get people springing into action as the days get longer.

Craig continued: “For sponsoring organisations, it’s a win, win – healthier teams who are more energised and productive. Our solution incentivises people to not only take up cycling but to keep cycling, through a no cost entry and solutions to pain points, such as the option of no sweat cycling with e-bikes. No more excuses – we’re setting the wheels in motion for a revolution. We find organisations are getting involved for different reasons. For some, it’s health and wellbeing, for others, the environment or being more competitive as a result of a more creative, energised and fitter team; or the remainders who take a balanced view on the financials and realise that it’s a profitable thing to do. Doing something because it’s easy doesn’t inspire greatness, so business leaders should consider how changing this mind-set in individuals could ultimately benefit their business.”

Aside from increasing the health of the nation, free2cycle is looking to benefit our pockets too. It estimates cycling will save users £1,800 per year, on top of the value of a bike at no cost to the cyclist. Sponsoring organisations can expect a healthy return on investment, have no up-front costs or payroll complication and only pay for measurable results.

Craig concluded: “Often, the biggest challenge to a problem is the behaviour change needed to shift the status quo. That’s why this proposition is about making it as easy as possible for people to take up cycling in whichever guise they feel comfortable with, and sticking with it. We all have a responsibility to look after ourselves and not rely on the State to do it for us, so hopefully we can make a more sustainable change to a healthier, greener, more productive country.”


* As a sponsor organisation, you agree to fund the mileage-based payment of cyclists from any group of individuals you have chosen to support who sign up to free2cycle. These may be employees, but can extend to other groups, such as local community groups, membership groups or academic institutes. Sponsor organisations can benefit from the carbon offset achieved by fewer cars on the roads, with swapping a bus for a bike saving 300kg of carbon per annum. They also achieve a more productive team who require fewer sick days.

Sponsors contribute 20p plus VAT per mile up to a cap. A typical commitment of around 35 miles each week would enable the cyclist to get a bike worth £600 and cost sponsors £20 per month plus VAT. This investment typically provides a return of around 10 to 1.

About free2cycle

free2cycle is a social enterprise committed to transforming wellbeing through cycling. It does this by working in partnership with organisations, retailers, suppliers and particularly those who don’t currently cycle, to incentivise regular bike use. This increases physical activity levels and improve the environment. Established in 2017 with £50 million allocated to providing bikes in 2018, it is a technology enabled, financial services offering which will deliver substantial benefits; to not only sponsoring organisations but individuals too. It enables a healthier lifestyle while providing sponsors with a measurable wellbeing and environmental benefits and for those who sponsor their employee a more productive workforce.

The company’s objective is to provide the means and encourage employees to use a bike as their preferred mode of transport. Extensive research shows this will directly benefit their physical and mental health whilst reducing carbon emissions and congestion. Current return on investment is calculated at 10:1.

For more information, please contact:

Fiona McAra or Gemma Dilworth:

01865 770381