The Benefits of Cycling during Lockdown

Posted - February 24, 2021


Cycling. On the surface that word seems simple, but cycling isn’t just that. Riding a bike can mean multiple things to a person. It can be purely recreational, just for transport, an occasional hobby, or so much more. Whatever cycling is to an individual, right now it allows us all an escape.

In 2020, cycling boomed. With a surge in the number of people cycling since the first lockdown last March. Whether it was buying a bike for the first time, getting back into the sport, or cycling more, the demand for bikes soared. According to the 2020 ‘Year in Sport’ data report from Strava, in the UK, outdoor activity grew by 82% between March and May 2020.

Throughout lockdown, bicycle retailers have been marked as essential during the crisis, meaning more people have been relying on bike shops to sell and repair bikes. The repeated lockdowns have also seen a decline in people driving, certainly in the first lockdown, the environmental benefits were evident. A report into air quality in the South East of the UK found that volumes of traffic fell between 70-80% (levels not seen since the 1950s). The study also found that between March and June 2020, ‘nitrogen dioxide (NO2) concentrations fell by between 14% and 38% compared to the preceding five-year baseline for the same period owing to a significant decrease in vehicle movements.’

To make sustained change to help the environment, cycling should be at the forefront. It’s a sustainable method of transport that can have a big impact. A recent study published in the Global Environmental Change journal, has shown that swapping one journey a week can make a difference. The study shows that changing habits benefit both mental health and environment, with a small change resulting in reducing the participants carbon footprint by around 0.5 tonnes a year. 

2020 saw record levels of demand for bikes. This in turn saw many retailers and manufacturers in a unique position. Going into 2021, the cycling industry, however prepared, has seen demand continue but stock levels remain uncertain. The main growth areas within cycling were seen in electric bikes, with a reported growth of 63% in September 2020 (vs September 2019). Further to this data, the Bicycle Association’s Covid impact report released in November 2020 revealed that retailers reported a 60% growth in sales since March 2020.

From a mental health perspective, a survey by BikeRadar and charity partner, CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) found that nine out of ten participants said cycling has a positive impact on their mental health. It was also found that 91% of participants would recommend cycling to friends and family as a way of managing their mental health.

So what does this mean for cycling? Moving forward, there are tangible benefits for people and the environment. There is work to be done on infrastructure to make cycling safer, more accessible and the most obvious choice for commuting and recreation. It’s about choice, something we must all make together. What does the future look like? It’s time for us to decide, for ourselves, and our planet. 


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