MPs join Bicycle Association members at drop-in event focused on improving access to bikes for children

February 22, 2024

MPs from across the house yesterday joined Bicycle Association members including Frog Bikes at an event focused on improving access to riding bikes for children.

Thirty MPs joined the drop-in event – kindly co-hosted by the Liberal Democrat’s MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse – to discuss practical ways to help all children and young people access a bike. This is to ensure that the next generation learns this essential life skill, and is able to enjoy greater transport freedom and choice.

Labour Shadow Ministers were strong in force, including: Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Kerry McCarthy; Shadow Minister for Science, Research & Innovation, Chi Onwurah; Shadow Minister for Sport and Media, Stephanie Peacock; and Shadow Minister without Portfolio in the Cabinet Office, Nick Thomas-Symonds and Shadow Minister for Farming, Daniel Zeichner.

Conservative MPs included Copeland’s Trudy Harrison, Hastings and Rye’s Sally-Ann Hart, Devizes’ Danny Kruger, Worcester’s Robin Walker, Warrington South’s Andy Carter and North Swindon’s Justin Tomlinson.

On behalf of the cycle industry, the Bicycle Association is urging the Government to zero-rate VAT on children’s bicycles to widen access to cycling. The evidence for action is strong, even when accounting for fiscal prudence.

Government and industry figures show that children cycling regularly has dropped from a quarter to a fifth in the UK in just five years whilst over the same period children’s bicycle sales have fallen by a third – and a quarter of children (aged 5-10) don’t have access to a bike. Examples of the decline in children’s health continue to build – with a fifth of all five year olds now being overweight or obese, say the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Zero-rating VAT on children’s bicycles would bring them into line with other essential children’s items such as children’s clothes, footwear and picture books, which all have a 0% VAT rate.

Polling suggests zero-rating VAT on children’s bicycles would be a popular policy decision – with over over two-thirds (69%) of UK adults supporting a reduction or removal of VAT from children’s bicycles (Savanta surveyed 2,295 UK adults online between 6th and 8th October 2023 for the BA, with data weighted to be representative of all UK adults).

Adding cycling to the National Curriculum, and ensuring all primary school children receive cycle training were among the other things championed, in partnership with Bikeability.

Drawing on the widely consulted Cycle Industry Growth Plan, profile was also given to the UK Cycle Industry Manifesto and its other quick wins, namely:

  • An e-bike subsidy to accelerate adoption, equivalent to those delivered to great effect all around the world, yet absent in the UK, slowing the transition to electric, low carbon personal transport.
  • Including the cycle industry in Science, Innovation and Technology funding to deliver jobs and growth, just as with other strategic industries like automotive.

Attendees from across both houses included Shadow DUP Treasury Spokesperson Sammy Wilson, Crossbench peer Lord Hampton and the Lib Dem’s Baroness Randerson, together with SNP representatives including spokesperson for Transport Gavin Newlands, Home Affairs Spokesperson Alison Thewliss as well as Falkirk’s SNP MP, John McNally.

Completing a particular strong representation from Labour MPs who discussed the £7.5bn value that the cycle industry generates annually for the UK economy, and the 64,000 jobs it supports, were APPG for Cycling Co-Chair and Labour MP for Leeds North East Fabian Hamilton, Labour Commons Whip and MP for Coventry North Taiwo Owatemi, MP for East Ham Stephen Timms, York Central MP Rachael Maskell and Ealing’s Virendra Sharma.