Call for tax-free “Bike to School” scheme for Irish school children

A ‘Bike to School’ scheme should mirror the success of the Bike to Work scheme, Senator Ivana Bacik (Labour) said yesterday.

Bacik said if the Bike to Work scheme Revenue mechanism “is not considered appropriate, then a different means of providing tax exemptions could be used” for where the bicycles and cycling equipment are purchased for children through schools. But Bike to Work scheme is linked to employee’s tax and she did not explain exactly how such a mechanism could work when parents of such children may not be pay much or any employee tax.

Speaking in the Seanad yesterday she said: “The introduction of a scheme that would encourage higher levels of cycling among schoolchildren would be very welcome. It would be a really good initiative. I will be writing to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to suggest that he take up this initiative, but I ask that the Leader also support it and that we might have a debate in September on how to improve children’s health and how to improve health in the population generally through greater promotion of cycling.”

She added: “We have seen great things like the dublinbikes scheme working to improve levels of cycling, but a bike to school scheme would also be a great idea. It is always hard for schoolchildren to see back-to-school things at this stage of the summer, when September seems so far off, but “bike to school” would be a good play on the words “back to school” and would be a very welcome initiative for children and parents alike.”

5 Comments

  1. This might encourage parents to buy good quality bikes for their children instead of the cheap BSOs that most children are given. Islabikes and Frog bikes are very good but expensive.

  2. Great idea they should start by putting in Bicycle Parking Sheffield Stands in every school in the Land first. The local schools where I live has a big Carpark but no Bicycle Parking. The area is flooded with Cars parked on the Roads at School drop off time and pick up times. On the side road beside the Entrance to Schools the cars are actually parked on the Paths.

    This is multiplied everywhere there is Schools with Cars parked and huge Traffic jams.

  3. This is a really good proposal. There are however certain problems with it.

    One valid criticism of the Bike to Work Scheme is that it is not socially progressive (i.e. it tends to benefit higher earners more). A remedy to this could be to reduce the Bike to Work scheme to €500 (a €500 bike is perfectly adequate for commuting) and make it extendable to also include bikes for kids.

    In my view, however, the best proposal would be to EXEMPT V.A.T. ON ALL BIKES AND BIKE PARTS, in just the same way we exempt V.A.T. on children’s clothes. This would be easiest to administer and would have a hugely positive effect on health, mobility, climate change and social integration.

    I understand that Revenue resist such exemptions stringently but this one merits consideration. If modelled correctly (pricing in, for example, health benefits and reduced future expenditure on health) it should prove to be revenue positive to the economy and viable in the long term.

    In any respect, congratulations to Senator Bacik for putting forward debate on this important subject. Perhaps the above suggestions can be considered in the debate which she is calling for in September.

  4. I think this proposal is well-intentioned but misguided.

    Firstly, what evaluation has been conducted to assess the impact of the Bike to work scheme? How many commuters have switched from car to bike as a result? How many bikes have been bought purely for leisure use? How many BTW bikes are left unused altogether, perhaps rusting in sheds? How many strimmers and ride-on lawmowers were purchased from “bicycle shops” under the guise of BTW?

    Secondly, what evidence is there that not owning a bike is a significant barrier discouraging cycling to school? How many families already have bikes for the school-going children? Are their children using them to cycle to school? If not, why not? How will buying new bikes on a tax-incentivised scheme change that situation? How will a Bike to School scheme address the traffic and infrastructure barriers currently deterring parents from letting their children cycle around the corner, never mind the whole way to school and back again?

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