The 'fix your bike scheme' forms part of the UK Conservative government's range of economic populist measures in response to covid-19 (which included 'eat out to help out', a scheme which gave discounts for restaurant meals to support the restaurant industry, but may have led to more covid cases https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/oct/30/treasury-rejects-theory-eat-out-to-help-out-caused-rise-in-covid).
Essentially the thinking was 'people will avoid public transport and we should encourage more cycling'. This may relate also to Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, getting covid-19, and feeling that his obesity was a factor in the severity of his illness (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/boris-johnson-obesity-coronavirus/2020/07/27/d5d0221c-cff0-11ea-826b-cc394d824e35_story.html)
Other measures have included 'pop-up cycle lanes' https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-53105020 but many have been removed following complaints from motorists (https://www.worthingherald.co.uk/news/politics/pop-covid-cycle-lanes-chichester-removed-no-longer-needed-could-worthings-be-next-3014037 https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/remove-the-pop-up-covid-19-cycle-lanes)
The 'fix your bike' scheme is an appealing idea as there are probably a few million bikes around in bad condition that could be put back on the road but probably they aren't going to that.
Anyway, because 500,000 bikes (the total number of vouchers) is a lot to repair all at once, they are releasing them in batches of 50,000. Only around 4.5 million people in England ride bikes at least weekly
so those vouchers all at once would be overwhelming given the normal volume of work for bike shops/mechanics
There have been two releases so far:
- 28 July 2020 at 23:45
- 16 November 2020 around noon (not announced in advance)
The long gap between the first two releases was due to the overwhelming demand for bikes globally due to covid-19, and massive demand for paid work, so adding more 'free' work into the system had no benefit to mechanics/bike shops at the top, since they had more work than they could perform.
Now that it is dark and cold in England, the bike industry, including repair, has calmed down massively, and government-funded repairs are more welcome.
However with several million cyclists, 50,000 vouchers will not go far.
Since the vouchers are 'free money', the government does not seem to be pre-announcing them, since they demand will vastly overwhelm supply.
I had a look on Twitter, and found:
It was also mentioned slightly earlier by Grant Shapps, Minister for Transport (12:31pm) https://twitter.com/grantshapps/status/1328314766121644032, and Cycling Industry News (12:06pm) https://twitter.com/cyclingindustry/status/1328308340292792320
This page should be updated with the new details:
A service such as this one, could keep track https://visualping.io/
The vouchers ran out by 9pm and there were also website problems https://twitter.com/transportgovuk/status/1328445587432337410
Given that there are 390,000 vouchers remaining, so 7 or 8 more releases, then you have some chance of getting them if you are subscribed to places that will notify you when the vouchers come out. Tracking the gov.uk page and also maybe https://fixyourbikevoucherscheme.est.org.uk/ for changes might give you a head start, as the pages will obviously be 'live' for some minutes before it is publicly announced. If you wait till the public announcement it's possible that the server will be overwhelmed....
I would note once you have the voucher to shop around carefully, as a lot of repair places will still charge you £££ even with the voucher. They don't expire till March. It is 'real money', albeit possibly paid slowly by the government, so don't be fobbed off with any place that wants to treat it like some kind of dodgy discount voucher - this is paid for by £50 (plus admin!) of taxpayers' cash, it's not like a groupon or something where there is a fat commission to a third party. Obviously though busy repair shops might still prefer upfront cash, hence shopping around....
Note also that the money is for repairs which must include some element of labour, can include parts, but not accessories. Those who are handy with a spanner looking to get some value out of the voucher might find that something like a new tyre (but only if the existing one has perished), chain or cassette would maximise the value of the 'parts' rather than the 'labour', but this is something to be discussed with the shop after you have obtained the voucher
Eligible Repairs include repairing or replacing:
o tyres, tubes, wheels and related components;
o braking system components;
o transmission system components;
o components for permanently fitted lighting systems.
o other essential components which prevent safe use of the cycle e.g.
deteriorated grips or saddle;
• The following are not Eligible Repairs:
o a sale of replacement parts without any repair work.
o replacement or upgrade of existing safe and roadworthy components
or of removeable lighting accessories.