Mayors of Europe Blog
Cycling: just a passing trend or a legacy of pandemic?
The Covid-19 pandemic is something that nobody could ever imagine would happen, however we have been living in this somehow parallel world for over a year now. So many things changed for everyone, not just business related for all those who are in the hospitality, event, tourism and other most hit industries, but also our personal lifestyles changed a lot. Restrictions are all around us, we cannot go out without a mask, but also the public transport has been proclaimed as a place where the infection risk is very high. Many people around the world lean toward subways, buses and trams to get around their cities for many reasons: it is more environmental friendly than using a personal car, it can be time consuming but also cheaper than driving. However, it is amazing to investigate the fact that so many people around the world turned to cycling instead of driving as an alternative to public transport.
There are a lot of advantages for cycling: it is a form of safe mobility with regards to the virus, it keeps you healthy and in shape, it doesn’t cost barely anything and more bikes mean better air quality and lower pollution. At the same time, many cities around the world recognized the benefits of cycling as socially distanced mobility, so local governments invested more money in new pop-up bike lanes and cycle-only corridors in order for cyclists to feel safe on the roads. There are some European cities as Copenhagen and Amsterdam where cycling has been a part of their culture and the main mean of transport long before the pandemic, however it’s great to see that many other cities have been investing in cycling infrastructure in the past few years and especially during these covid times.
In 2019, mayor of London introduced “Cycling Action Plan» in order to increase the percentage of people walking and cycling, with the aim of providing the citizens with safety and comfort. To support this goal, in May 2020 the government established a £250 million emergency active travel fund, they kept bicycle shops open, and also issued £50 bicycle repair vouchers to encourage people to cycle.
Furthermore, Paris is also working hard on reducing car traffic in the City and mayor Hidalgo devoted a lot of effort to significantly improve cycling-specific infrastructure. For example, The Rue de Rivoli was already reconfigured to reduce traffic and prioritise cycling before the Coronavirus. When the pandemic broke out, an entire lane once dedicated to car traffic got removed. The long-term goal is that even when the pandemic ends, the pop-up cycling lanes should become permanent.
A city which probably would never come to your mind when talking about cycling is New York. However, ever prior to the pandemic, they decided to join the “cycling-friendly” cities’ club and ensured a budget of $1.7 billion for 250 miles of new cycle lanes. As the pandemic started, New York closed some of their streets for safer cycling and walking, with the main goal of closing 100 miles of streets in total.
Now, the real test will be to see what will happen in the post-covid period. Will more cities follow these leads and invest in the cycling infrastructure or will the people return to public transport and driving their cars? I hope that the so called “cycling boom” will become permanent and will not be declared just as a pandemic passing consequence.
Photo Chris Barbalis for Unsplash