The government’s Fix Your Bike voucher scheme – which allows people to claim £50 to get a neglected old bike back on the road – continues to suffer a number of problems likely to hamper its fundamental goal of encouraging more people to cycle.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced in early May that the government would be providing vouchers to people in England to help them meet the cost of getting long-neglected bicycles repaired.
In all, 500,000 vouchers are due to be released, but the government has decided this should happen in stages to avoid overwhelming bike repairers and to assess public enthusiasm for the scheme.
While that interest is clearly significant, the scheme is not proving an unqualified success. Last month we reported how bike shops participating in the scheme were encountering problems being refunded money for the work they have carried out.
On top of this, one mechanic told road.cc that the way the vouchers are being released has slowed his workload as bike owners who aren’t lucky enough to get one end up forced to wait around for the following wave.
One of the lucky few to actually get a voucher was road.cc reader Patrick, who snaffled one the day after they were released.
“The first day it was chaos and the site went down, but the next day I had the site open again and refreshed it and it was right there for me to sign up,” he said.
“So I did so. It was pretty easy to sign up on the website. I saw that the mechanic I had my bike booked in to already was taking them, so I managed to use it and not pay anything additional for the basic service.”
Patrick did encounter teething problems though.
“Unfortunately I was the first person the mechanic had seen with one and he wasn't sure on the process at all. He wasn't sure about what he had to record, whether he had to take pictures of bike or get my proof of ID etc.”
He added: “I felt a little bad using it for my existing bike which just needed a service as the voucher is meant to get old bikes back out there, but seeing as the mechanic was taking it I wasn't going to turn it down.”
We have however had reports of mechanics refusing to do similar jobs on the grounds that the vouchers are only for making bikes roadworthy.
Duncan from Manchester-based Faction Bikes has fixed six bikes on the scheme and believes there are several fundamental issues.
“The opportunity to get old bikes roadworthy is passing us by,” he said. “Roads are returning to normal and the summer weather that encourages people to get their bike out the shed or back of the garage is leaving us.
“The government claims to be releasing the vouchers in waves to make sure capacity is there to fix the bikes. This seems to be driven by an assessment of one or two big providers’ ability to service demand (i.e. Halfords) and is not the reality on the ground.”
Duncan also feels that the initial technical difficulties when the site first launched will have put many people off.
“I’ve spoken to a number of customers who experienced the frustrations of trying to obtain a voucher the first time around and I wouldn’t expect many to try again.”
Finally, he echoed our previous reports about mechanics having difficulties getting vouchers redeemed.
“It’s six weeks since I first redeemed a voucher after repairing a bike,” he said. “I still haven’t received any payment from the government and have had to pay for parts for the bikes repaired.
“This makes participating in the scheme unnecessarily detrimental to cash flow. Working on bikes which aren’t in the scheme will be prioritised by many mechanics and shops if this isn’t urgently addressed.
“Why work on a bike which requires additional admin time and negatively impacts cash flow when there’s another one to work on which is simple to manage and will be paid for on completion?”