25 June 2020

Admit it – you’re tempted to cycle to work

After three months in lockdown, the UK might be getting back to work but it’s clearly far from ‘business as usual’. While many things have changed on our streets, Covid-19 has brought out one unexpected positive. There are now bikes everywhere. Thousands of them…

You probably noticed it first outside your house and early on in the lockdown. With car traffic virtually ceasing overnight, parents started teaching their kids to ride bikes straight down the middle of empty side streets. Shops saw the upturn next, with the UK’s biggest cycle retailers, Halfords and Wiggle, reporting bike sales doubling during the lockdown, while local bike stores everywhere were overwhelmed by customers.

While the combination of traffic-free streets, increased free time and a need to get out of the house might have temporarily turned us into a nation of cyclists, could it be that the challenges of commuting during coronavirus will keep us at it? More importantly, what’s stopping you from giving it a go? Here are a few points to consider:

YOU NEED MORE EXERCISE – The gyms and pools are still closed, Joe Walsh’s YouTube routines are old news and you ate way too many frozen pizzas during lockdown. You need to get moving again, so why not efficiently combine your commute with exercise by cycling?

IT’S SAFER THAN YOU THINK – A 2010 report in the Netherlands examined all factors related to cycling and concluded that the benefit-to-risk ratio of cycling is seven to one. In other words, while there’s a slight risk of accident, the health benefits of daily exercise far outweigh the risks of injury, breathing car fumes and so on. Also, given the need for continued social distancing, what would you rather do – cycle down some back streets or cram onto a crowded Tube wearing a paper mask?

CREATE LASTING CHANGE – Do individuals have the power to change society? When enough of us want the same thing, yes we do. When NHS staff needed a safe way of getting to Leicester Royal Infirmary during the lockdown, the local council created a pop-up ‘keyworker corridor’ cycle lane using plastic barriers along a main road. It was so well used that it was quickly extended, the idea was adopted by other cities and councils across the country are now considering permanently reshaping inner-city roads to favour cyclists.

To see how changing behaviour can create lasting change, look at Paris, which introduced its Vélib’ public bikes scheme in 2007. After five years, 138 million people had used them, which in turn encouraged greater private bike use. Today, bike use has increased 41% since 2007 and motor traffic has decreased 25%, yet average journey times across Paris have stayed the same. It’s now a cleaner, quieter, safer and healthier city – all because individuals decided to start cycling to work.

THERE’S HELP IF YOU NEED IT – The Bike To Work scheme helps staff spread the cost of commuter bikes by having employers deduct a monthly amount from their salaries. It’s an easy and tax-free way to get a bike now and pay for it later. If you’re more worried about the actual pain of cycling than the cost, why not look into the ever-growing range of e-bikes? Modern battery and power-management systems on these things give you maximum range by seamlessly feeding power to your pedals, assisting you rather than propelling you.

THERE’S NOTHING STOPPING YOU – The roads are quiet, the weather’s great and public transport comes with its own set of coronavirus worries, so why aren’t you cycling? Even if you don’t already own a bike, you’ve got to know someone who can lend you one, so what’s stopping you? With the barriers to entry so low, just get up half an hour early one Monday, strap on a borrowed helmet and replace your stress-filled daily commute with a gentle cycle to work. You know what…? You’ll love it.


If you’re returning to work, here are some ways for you to manage your post-lockdown work worries