Cycle to Work Scheme – German Model


Different countries feature a cycle to work day or cycle to work week, but the German Cycle to Work scheme is different and worth a look at.

As the German cycling club ADFC points out sitting in rush hour traffic followed by hours at a desk is not the best recipe for your health or mood. How do you break the habit and get people on to their bikes? Since 2001, the ADFC and health insurance company AOK have succeeded a few million times with their Cycle to Work scheme (“Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit” – literally “by bike to work”).

Cycle to Work Scheme: 20 days between May and August

We recently covered the UN announcement of World Bicycle Day followed rapidly by Bike Week 2018. The German cycle to work scheme runs for a longer period, starting on 1st May and running until 31st August. Anybody who registers and cycles at least part of their journey to work 20 times in that period doesn’t just improve their fitness and sense of well-being but is also in with a chance to win prizes, which include bike accessories right through to holidays.

The ADFC has got a growing number of employers including local authorities to support the cycle to work scheme and is encouraging the formation of “works teams” so colleagues can encourage each other. The use of social media is intended to widen the coverage and participation with the hashtag #mdrza (the initials of “Mit dem Rad zur Arbeit”). Posting photos with this hashtag increase the chances of winning one of the prizes.

Cycle to Work Scheme Success

People are creatures of habit and often find it difficult to break a habit, including the habit of getting in the car to go to work, with all its disadvantages for health and the environment. The scheme has been successful over the years by using small incentives that make a difference in behaviour. An evaluation by the AOK insurance shows that an incredible two-thirds of people who participated in a previous year’s cycle to work scheme have remained as bike commuters.

Slimmer, happier and two days less sickness

Studies have shown that employees who walk or cycle to work take on average two days less sick leave compared with colleagues who drive or take public transport. There’s also a positive effect on the waistline: year-round cycling commuters have an average Body Mass Index (BMI) of 24 compared with car drivers at 26. Researchers also established that people who commute by bike on a year-round basis are happier than their colleagues, scoring 61 on a Well-Being-Score compared to 55 for car drivers and 52 bus and train commuters.

11% Bike Commuters

The number of people cycling to work in Germany is growing year on year and the sales of E-bikes is booming. These two trends also apply to bike commuting, with the number of people cycling having grown in the last 10 years from 9 to 11 percent. This remains a long way behind the 70% who still drive but has now overtaken the numbers who commute by bus and/or tram. This growth applies to people who have mixed mode travel, cycling for example to a station. This particular increase has also led to the average distance for the cycling part growing from 4.7 km in 2011 to 5.6 km in 2015.

While the 11% of people cycling to work remains a long way behind the Netherlands – and cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen in particular – but is a long way ahead of the UK.

It does indicate what is possible though. Because of its huge car manufacturing companies, Germany has often been described as a “car country”. If they can get 11% of people using bikes to get to and from work, then so can we here in the UK. Perhaps we need some tweaks to our cycle to work scheme?


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