Today (Thursday 5th August) is Cycle to Work Day on and comes as the Department for Transport just last week launched its Summer of Cycling and Walking campaign as part of the recent government push towards more cycling to ease congestion, promote fitness and mental health, and reduce climate change.
Now in its ninth year, Cycle to Work Day is the UK’s leading one-day commuting event to celebrate everyday cycling. Even if working from home, people can take the opportunity to get back on the saddle and ride their bike.
A survey by conducted by Cyclescheme, part of Blackhawk Network, of over 2000 employed respondents in the UK looked at how the pandemic has affected cycling habits and attitudes towards cycling as people return to work discovered:
- Over half (53%) of cyclists have cycled more since lockdowns started in March 2020
- Over half (52%) of cyclists used bike rides for exercise over lockdown. Almost half (48%) cycled to improve their mental health. And 44% used cycling to spend time with family and friends
- 10% of people in Yorkshire and Humberside cycle every day compared to only 2% of people in Wales and the South East respectively
Cllr Jo Rigby, Wandsworth Labour Speaker for Active Travel & Transport:
“I started to commute to work by bike during lockdown. I tried out the commute a couple of times over the weekend until I’d found the safest route and got an idea of how long it would take. I arrived at work that first day feeling euphoric – it was such a massive achievement. I carried on through winter, getting to grips with what to wear and different road conditions. What’s the best thing about cycling to work? Knowing with absolute certainty what time I’ll arrive home to see my kids!”
Cycling has boomed during lockdown
Much of the population used the various lockdowns as an opportunity to get back into the saddle. Almost two thirds (65%) of frequent cyclists took their bikes out even more often during the pandemic. In addition, over a third (35%) of less frequent cyclists used the various lockdowns as an opportunity for more bike rides.
On average, cyclists report getting out three times a week for 14 miles per week on average. The research also found that:
- Yorkshire and Humberside is the region with the most committed cyclists; 10% of locals cycle every day compared to 2% of people in Wales and the South East respectively
- 8% of males cycle every day compared to 2% of females
- 13% of cyclists in the North East clock up over 50 miles a week. This figure drops to 1% of cyclists in the South East and South West
- London-based cyclists are most likely to amass 12-15 miles a week. They seem to prefer shorter rides, with only 1% of capital-based cyclists hitting over 50 mils a week
But despite the proven health and mental wellbeing benefits, this cycling boom is at risk of coming to an end now lockdown has eased. Many cyclists anticipate running out of motivation, with over a third (35%) citing a lack of willpower as a barrier to cycling now lockdown has eased. Londoners are less concerned about motivation; only a quarter (26%) of cyclists in the capital see it as a barrier as opposed to 42% of people in the East Midlands. With people’s social lives opening up, a quarter of cyclists also claim they will struggle with having less spare time to cycle.
Accessibility is another issue when it comes to maintaining the cycling boom. Two fifths (41%) of people who are considering taking up cycling would make the leap if discounted bikes and accessories were available. This is where initiatives such as Cyclescheme, an employee benefit that saves riders 25-39% on a bike and accessories, can help.
Finally, safety concerns need to be managed if we want to keep Britain cycling. Almost half (49%) of respondents would be more likely to cycle if they had access to safer routes. Over half (55%) agree that more cycle lanes should be a top priority for local councils. However, it is positive to note that government and local councils already are committed to improving cycling infrastructure. Last year the Government devoted £2 billion to enhance cycling infrastructure across the UK via new cycle lanes, better-protected junctions and more parking spaces for bikes.
Derek Redmond, former Olympic athlete:
“Lockdown has been difficult, so it is inspiring to see how many people have found positives and turned to hobbies like cycling over the last 18 months. As an avid cyclist myself, I’m especially pleased to see people are taking to their bikes as a way to keep fit and stay active. Not only that, but it’s a fantastic way to get the family involved in the sport while spending time precious time together. Don’t let a lack of motivation undo all the gains that we have made; let’s keep on cycling!”