According to a Guardian report Government departments, including those with a major presence in Bristol, are refusing to allow their own staff to take advantage of the Governments own Cycle to Work scheme, which is claimed to "promote healthier journeys to work and to reduce environmental pollution", despite encouraging thousands of companies in the private sector to participate.
Departments said to be blocking access to the scheme include the Department of Environment, Food and rural Affairs (which embraces the Environment Agency whose head office is at Aztec West in north Bristol) and the Ministry of Defence which employs thousands at its Abbey Wood complex in north Bristol. As an alternative to the scheme Departments offer employees wanting to buy bicycles interest-free loans and discounts at bike shops, but the savings under the Cycle to Work scheme could be four times as much, amounting to 40% of the cost of a new bicycle.
Personally I don't see why people should get tax breaks to buy bicycles, or anything else, in the first place. I don't want the government telling me how I should spend my money or how I should travel to work. Besides it's not the cost of bicycles that deters people from cycling, it's the behaviour of motorists which is something the government can legitimately do something about (but of course they do precious little).
In my admittedly limited experience the people taking advantage of the Cycle to Work scheme are relatively well paid and overwhelmingly middle class professionals. What's more they often buy very expensive bikes to supplement more prosaic bicycles that they already have. So it's very questionable whether the scheme actually delivers in terms of encouraging a modal shift towards cycling or helping people who genuinely cannot afford to buy a bicycle at the normal price.