Coronavirus is undoubtedly going to leave its mark on our societies in many ways, but for cycling and active transportation the impact may turn out to be a positive one.
One of the few industries to benefit from social distancing as a consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic is cycling. Bike shops were termed ‘essential businesses’ in the very first week of lockdown. Bike sales and repairs were in such demand that the national chain, Evans Cycles, initially opened eleven stores and then reopened a further nine more stores as lockdown continued, to help serve the needs of the cycling public.
Reasons for cycling during the pandemic are varied. In the early days it seemed that avoidance of public transport was the most likely reason, with those unable to work from home and key workers, favouring bike over trains or buses. However, the ongoing flurry of bike sales, particularly at the cheaper end of the market, suggests people are taking to cycling for exercise, possibly due to the closure of gyms and sports centres.
Enforced lockdown has allowed many cities to see what their streets would be like with severely reduced numbers of vehicles. The air has reportedly cleared of much pollution and those walking or cycling have benefited from the increased space on the roads. Whilst not everyone is able, or choosing to exercise outside at this time, many cyclists are taking advantage of the absence of cars to explore their local area, in line with safe social distancing guidelines.
Around the World, cities are seeing this same trend and allocating more space for cycling and walking to facilitate social distancing, encourage active transport and recognise the need for exercise to maintain physical and mental health. Milan has put measures in place to increase space for cycling, 35km of city streets are to be converted into cycle lanes over the summer to ease traffic congestion and pollution. Bogota has already converted 75 kilometres of road to cycle lanes to ease pressure on public transport and Berlin has added temporary bike lanes. Here in the UK, parts of Brighton sea front have been closed to allow more space for people to exercise safely and ensure appropriate social distancing.
Lockdown has achieved what many active transport campaigners have longed for, significantly reduced road traffic and an increase in cycling and walking. We can only hope that as we recover from the effects of this hideous pandemic, this is a positive change we can carry with us into the future.