There is a lot in the news at the moment about the introduction of a cap on benefits, with claimants being restricted to the overall amount they can claim. The basic idea is that those on benefits will not be eligible to claim more from the state than the average working household, specifically this amounts to a cap of £26,000 per year.

Politics to one side, I know a lot of people who would be very happy to be earning a full-time salary of that amount. However, the devil, as they say, is in the detail and controversy is likely to remain with this policy for some time.

Larger families and those living in and around London are expected to be hardest hit. The cap limits income from benefits to £500-a-week for couples or single parents and £350 for single people. The restrictions are being introduced to contribute to the spending cuts and aims to go someway to cut Britain’s vast welfare bill. It is also aimed at those voters who are in work and are opposed to the so-called easy lifestyle of the claim-dependent culture we now live in.

Travel to Interview Scheme

One such allowance is the Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) which is currently £56.80 for 16 to 24 year olds and £71.70 for anyone above 25 years. As part of this scheme, there have been (and still are) various additional allowances that may be claimed with regard to your travel to an interview.

The Travel to Interview Scheme has now closed but help with travel costs incurred while attending job interviews may still be available for claimants. Your local Job Centre Plus adviser will be able to give more information.

Travel costs are however incurred by most of us when travelling to an interview. Granted there are cheaper alternatives, public transport or riding a bike for example but unless you’re prepared to walk, it still costs money. In our 2011 Travel to Work by Bike Report we discovered that the average travel to work distance (for all modes of travel) was 7.7 miles, which is likely to be too far to walk for most people. But it may not be too far to cycle.

On Your Bike Mate

This got me thinking.

In the aftermath of the 1981 riots, a Young Conservative commented that rioting was the natural reaction to unemployment. The then Employment Secretary, Norman Tebbit (now Lord Tebbit) responded by saying; “I grew up in the ’30s with an unemployed father. He didn’t riot. He got on his bike and looked for work, and he kept looking till he found it.”

This exchange was the origin of the slogan On yer bike!, which was commonly thought to be a direct comment made by Tebbit to the unemployed.

In our recent Travel to Work in London Report, we discovered that there had been a significant increase over the past decade in the number of people who travel to work in London by Bicycle. Since 2001, the number has more than doubled (+109%), with some London Boroughs (Tower Hamlets, Hackney, City of London) tripling.

So much so that in Hackney and Islington outnumber Car Drivers.

Bicycles Not Public Transport

According to the Transport for London fare finder website [tfl.gov.uk] the journey from Hackney [for they are our cycle champions this week] to Oxford Circus, costs £4.50 for a single journey. A journey that is 6.7 miles and as such less than the 7.7 miles mentioned previously. This return journey is therefore £9.00 and whilst prices in other parts of the country may differ, we’ll stick with £9.00 for the purpose of this idea.

So here’s the point. Whichever way you travel; car, underground, train, bus, taxi, motorbike, scooter etc, they all pollute more than the carbon footprint of a bicycle. So, in order to reduce carbon emissions, improve the health of individuals and get some vehicles off the road, let’s buy some bikes.

Bike Scheme for the Unemployed

The Government could buy some bikes and loan them to job seekers. Money used for travel to interview schemes could be redirected to purchasing bikes. This helps people get to interviews and improves their health.

Purchasing bicycles from UK retailers would also inject some much need cash into the Cycling Industry at a time when it’s desperately needed.

This would not have to be an expensive exercise. A quick look across the Internet highlights a basic bike from Halfords at just £69.99 or £69.00 from Amazon.

So come on Mark Hoban [Minister for Employment] or Iain Duncan-Smith [Secretary of State for Work and Pensions], how about it, can we get Britain on a bike when it comes to looking for work?