Wednesday 3rd June is World Bicycle Day and this year comes at a time when cycling is on the increase.
Demand for alternative forms of exercise, while gyms are closed, has helped lead to an increase in bike sales. Only this week we have seen statements that suggest the increase in bicycle sales has gone beyond the normal spring surge https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-bike-sales-surge-as-commuters-search-for-new-isolated-travel-11997757
The increase in bicycle orders and cycle-to-work schemes is not just down to exercise regimes, but people looking for alternative ways of travelling and avoiding using public transport either through fears of catching coronavirus or to help free up space for physically distanced public transport for those with no other options.
When we are all back to work and it is business as usual, the big question is ‘will we see a complete change of behaviour?’, afterall facing gridlocked roads and poor air quality is not something many of us will want to experience.
To make this possible however, it is important that people have the ability to cycle safely as lockdown restrictions are lifted. The lack of segregated cycle facilities often makes this difficult and can put people off. Many UK cities have created extra cycle lanes through simple changes such as using use temporary traffic orders, traffic cones, lining or the use of planters to restrict access to motor vehicle – converting road space for cycling helps to make cyclists feel safe. It has been pleasing to see young children and their parents and other inexperienced cyclists feel safe enough to cycle, when previously they might not have done so.
What can be done to change behaviour and improve the safety for cyclists?
Bicycle trails can be installed in a matter of weeks or schemes already in planning can be brought forward.
New schemes can be set up quickly with technology already available. For example, the Propensity to Cycle Tool (www.pct.bike), an open source platform is designed to assist planners and policy to prioritise investments and interventions to promote cycling.
Another progressive project funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) the Cycling Infrastructure Prioritisation Toolkit (www.cyipt.bike) is a collection of tools to provide an evidence-base to assist in the design and planning of new cycling infrastructure and get more people cycling. Resources can therefore be targeted to where cycling has the greatest potential to grow. By building momentum and acting quickly we can capture the positives at this critical time.
The Mayor of London recently unveiled the London Streetspace programme (https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayors-bold-plan-will-overhaul-capitals-streets) with the aim of rapidly transforming London’s streets to accommodate a potential ten-fold increase in cycling and five-fold increase in walking when lockdown restrictions are lifted. This aims to fast-track new cycle schemes and provide wider pavements to enable social distancing.
Of course, there will be a concern that bike sales may drop off when the world gets back to normal but if people would like the choice post lockdown and we can continue to protect the environment, the emphasis for government should therefore be on urgently encouraging walking and cycling to work.