We live in a world where everything is instant, fast-paced, and constantly moving forwards. A world where car manufacturers are constantly competing to produce the quickest, sleekest product. But during the lockdown, as the world slowed to a halt, the humble bicycle, that was once our standard form of transport, made a comeback.
Last year, thousands of people dusted down their frames and got back on their bikes. In 2020, the sales of bikes boomed globally, with e-bike sales growing by 145% in the US. Getting your hands on a bike was like catching gold dust. Why? Because public transport ceased, fewer cars filled the roads, and people were bored of lying around at home. We had time to slow down, reflect on our health and wellbeing, and head out for a spin. Campaigns such as ‘Better by Bike’ and ‘Bike is Best’, encouraged people to hop on their bikes. Some nations including France and Italy even created riding initiatives such as a cash-back programme, where Italian or French residents who purchased an engineless vehicle were eligible for a €500 stipend. But as restrictions ease, people are asking are bikes back? Or were they simply a pandemic coping-mechanism?
Well, according to Forbes, it’s predicted that twice as many bikes as cars will be registered per year in the EU. The bike hype woke many of us up to the wonders of the two-wheeled vehicle. The mode of transport that reduces our carbon emissions, eases traffic congestion, and significantly improves our physical and mental health. The dramatic growth of the cycling industry is predicted to last beyond the pandemic. However, as ‘normality’ returns, so do some of the problems that stop people pedalling. Most prominently, heavy traffic flow and the absence of allocated lanes. Most towns and cities worldwide lack a bike-friendly infrastructure. As people go back to work, the roads are filled with cars, putting newly keen cyclists off the prospect of commuting by bike.
So, what can we do about it? We need to look to cities across the world that take cycling into account: Oxford have dedicated cycle lanes on pavements and roads; Copenhagen invest in bicycle bridges and highways, as well as cargo bikes; Amsterdam are widening their tracks for rush hour, and building low speed cycle lanes; Utrech politicians lead by example, prioritising cycling over driving and Bordeaux have banned cars from historic Pont de Pierre bridge. Many towns and cities also offer residents the chance to trail an E-Bike, allowing people to tackle hills and increase their cycling confidence. However, access to charging points and space for bikes on public transport needs to improve in most countries, if we want to truly embrace the e-bike. People for Bikes are researching whether temporary changes made in cities because of Covid-19 will soon become permanent.
If the demand is there, cities need to build infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the bicycle as an everyday mode of transportation. It’s a fast, affordable, environmental, healthy way to travel. We just need to make it accessible. As Ina-Yoko Teutenberg says, ‘the bike will transform anyone who is willing to let it happen.’ Long live the 21st Century Bike Boom!