Following the pandemic governments in different countries have adopted measures to contain the spread of the virus. As stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures came into effect, automotive traffic drastically reduced in major cities. Many countries have been in either total lockdown or partial lockdown, which has led to decreased environmental pollution from vehicle emissions.
Many people have shunned public transport because of the higher risk of contracting the virus. Cycling has emerged as one of the best alternative methods of transportation. As the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many governments and organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) encourage people to embrace cycling.
Increase in Bike Usage During the Pandemic (Cause and Effect)
Some governments have responded to the increase in the demand for cycling by opening emergency bike lanes and providing essential workers with personal access to their bikes from shared fleets. The increasing demand, coupled with the disruptions in manufacturing, has led to a shortage of bicycles in several regions across the US.
The following are factors that led to the increase in the use of bikes during the COVID 19- pandemic.
Fear of Using Public Transport
Health experts have stated the significance of people staying away from overcrowded places to avoid the risk of contracting the virus. Public transport is one of the avenues people can be infected. As a result, cycling has emerged as the most preferred alternative means of transportation.
Many people found it necessary to purchase bikes. The choice of cycling as the best alternative is attributed to its ease in complying with the social distancing measures. Moreover, the stay-at-home order imposed in different countries has drastically reduced congestion in cities, making it convenient for people to use their bikes.
The pandemic has significantly increased the use of bicycles in many parts of the world. The bicycle industry has experienced a massive boom since the outbreak of the COVID-19. Bicycle sales across the world have hit a record high as the demand keeps on rising. For example, in the United States, bicycle shops have reported the double and triple sales since the pandemic outbreak.
Regions that Experienced a Surge of Bicycle Use
There is evidence suggesting that many people worldwide are turning to bicycles as a reliable means to replace public transport. Several urban cycling networks have increased significantly in countries such as:
- The US
- The UK
In early 2020, the city of Beijing experienced a 150% increase in bike-share use that began easing after the lockdown. In Europe, Nextbike, a bike-share operator, reported a 35% rise in ridership between April and May 2020. Similarly, the transit authority in London projected that there would be a 10-fold increase in cycling
There was an increase of more than 150% in cycling during the pandemic outbreak in Philadelphia alone.
The Desire to Keep Fit During the Pandemic
The other factor that has led to the increased use of bikes is the need for exercising. With social places such as gyms and recreational facilities remaining closed, people have turned to cycling as an alternative way to keep fit. Cycling has enabled many people to comply with the social distancing measures while exercising, which has increased the demand for bicycles.
One of the advantages of using a bike is that one can move out in the open alone during the partial lockdown and schedule the workout exercise. In Australia, for example, the bicycle has become one of the most coveted machines during the lockdown.
The Effects of Increase in Bike Use
The increased demand for the use of the bikes for transportation needs has increased significantly. Cycling has social, health, economic, and environmental benefits.
Improving Physical Health
Active traveling makes people lead a healthier life, and cycling has a wide range of health benefits. According to health experts, when seated on a bike, you put weight on the Ischial tuberosities, a pair of bones on the pelvis. Unlike when you're walking, when you're putting weight on the legs. Therefore. Cycling is suitable for anyone having joint pains or age-related stiffness.
Inactivity has been pointed to as one of the major causes of non-communicable diseases (NCD). Research has shown that cycling to work is linked to a 45% lower risk of developing cancer and 46% lower risk of cardiovascular diseases than commuting using a car or public transport.
Cycling is regarded as a low-impact aerobic exercise with numerous health benefits. Its intensity can vary significantly, making it suitable for almost everyone and can serve the purpose of transport, everyday activity, or as a competitive and intense endeavor.
Cycling plays a significant role in reducing carbon footprint because it's a significant replacement for transport options. The increase in the use of cycling implies that lower greenhouse gases are emitted into the environment. It is estimated that using a bicycle can save as much as 150g of carbon dioxide per kilometer. Similarly, every 7 kilometers covered on a bicycle will save an emission of 1kg of carbon dioxide compared to the same distance covered by a vehicle.
For instance, the Dutch people avoided 1.41 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year through cycling in a five-year period. The results were equivalent to planting 54.4 million trees yearly. Similarly, in the old town of Zanzibar, cycling has a climate value of 1,062.4 tons of carbon dioxide per annum, which is equivalent to $20,994 if they were traded in the carbon market. The figures are about ten times the average income in the country.
The Rise in Dedicated Infrastructure
The increased demand for bicycles has prompted many governments to reconsider their city plans to incorporate measures to promote cycling as a means of transportation. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to align their urban transport network and make it efficient for bicycle users.
Governments have also come up with creative strategies to spur economic recovery in post-COVID with the rise in bicycles. Massive investment in biking infrastructure is happening in different parts of the world by creating parking facilities and protected lanes.
Many governments have created bicycle lanes to keep up with the rise of bicycle usage. The creation of bicycle lanes has been one of the measures to ensure the safety of cyclists. According to European Cyclists Federation (ECF), in 2020, the European cities spent about €1bn on COVID related measures to create 1,000 km (600 miles) of cycle lanes, car-free streets, and traffic-calming measures.
Officials of the city of Barcelona are now constructing 100 miles of new, improved cycle lanes and are planning to increase the network to 190 miles by the year 2024. They're also planning to reduce the use of cars by 25% by 2024
Creation of Jobs
One of the most significant effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the massive loss of jobs as companies shut down their operations. The stay-at-home orders for non-essential service providers have also led to enormous loss of income for many workers globally.
However, in the bicycle industry, things have been different. The increased demand for bikes has led to a boom in the industry. Many people specializing in the biking industry have landed employment opportunities. Bicycle repair experts, bicycle sellers, and other stakeholders have reaped big during this pandemic. Bicycle industry stakeholders have highly commended the listing of the bicycle industry as an essential service provider in some countries.
How to Become a Responsible Bicycle Rider
Bicycle riding is an exciting recreational activity to let off steam, especially after a busy day. It helps in maintaining your physical and mental health. However, like any other means of transport, it is not guaranteed that you will be immune to accidents. You have to be responsible when riding to avoid causing harm to yourself or others. Being a responsible bicycle rider involves implementing the guidelines on social distancing to protect yourself and your loved ones from contracting the deadly virus.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the government has always insisted on personal responsibility. Everyone has a role in the fight against the pandemic with the assistance of health experts. As the use of bicycles continues to increase each day, knowing how to ride responsibly is essential in eliminating accidents and the risk of contracting the Coronavirus.
Ride in Less Traveled Routes
Bicycle riders should aim to try routes that are safe and less traveled by other people. Riding on less-traveled trails is not only adventurous but also effective in promoting social distancing measures. Bicycle riders should avoid busy streets since it will also help in curbing bicycle-related accidents.
Stick to Riding Alone
During this pandemic period, it is so important to plan a bicycle ride alone. It is your responsibility to ensure that you do not engage in social gatherings of any kind. Minimizing social interactions is a necessary step for us to win the war on the COVID-19 pandemic. Going for a ride alone helps you create time for yourself and let off steam and anxiety during these challenging times.
Always go for recreational cycling alone. If you meet people on your way, observe the six-foot social distance recommended by the government and health officials. Avoid going for a ride in groups. If group riding is inevitable, ensure you adhere to the social distancing requirements by riding in open spaces.
Always Remember to Wear Mask
Wearing masks has become part of our lives during this pandemic. When going for a bicycle ride, always remember to put on your masks since you do not know how many people you will encounter on your way.
Ride on Marked Bike Paths or Lanes
Responsible bicycle riding involves following the rules and regulations stipulated by the authorities. In most cities, governments have invested in improving bicycle infrastructure. As bicycles keep on increasing, temporary bike lanes have been made to ensure the safety of cyclists. You should use the marked paths for bicycles to enable other road users to traverse comfortably.
Riding on the right lanes will help in mitigating accidents. When riding, ensure you are on the right side of the lane. Observe the traffic lights and only move when it is your turn to do so. Being on a two-wheeled machine does not mean you are flexible to ignore the road signs. In areas where bike paths or lanes are unavailable, you should use your common sense in deciding the best route to follow.
Put On the Right Gear
Before going for a bicycle ride, ensure you have donned the right gear. A responsible cyclist should remember to carry safety equipment to prevent injury in case of an unforeseen accident. Some of the must-have safety equipment to carry may include;
- The helmet,
- Gloves and
- Reflector jacket
A helmet is essential in protecting your head from injury. Goggles will protect your eyes from dust and small insects while riding your bike. A reflector jacket is necessary to carry, especially during the night, since it makes you visible from far.
Service and Repair Your Bike
A responsible bicycle rider should ensure that their bike is in good condition before leaving home. To ensure your bike is ready for a ride:
- Check whether the brakes are working properly
- Ensure the bell or a horn is in order.
- Check the condition of the bicycle tires and the pressure
- Make sure the headlight is functioning properly
- You also need a toolkit
- Ensure the bicycle has a rear red light and front white light.
If you do not have the basic repair skills, ensure your bicycle is serviced by a professional. A bicycle with faulty brakes should be avoided.
Bicycle Safety Do's And Don'ts in this Pandemic Time
The war on the COVID-19 pandemic is not a responsibility of the government alone but a collective effort of everyone. Knowing the right and the wrong thing to do during this period is essential in the fight against this pandemic. Cycling, which has emerged as the most popular recreational activity, has its do's and don'ts as we strive to meet the social distancing measures. Let's examine some of these things.
Bicycle Safety Do's
Maintain Your Bike
Bicycle maintenance is an essential safety precaution to undertake to prevent accidents. It involves checking your bike regularly for faulty parts and replacing them. Bicycle riders should maintain the brakes, saddle, handlebars, tires and headlights. Cyclists should ensure their bikes are in good condition before moving out for a ride.
Put on Your Helmet Always
One of the leading causes of death among bicycle riders during accidents is head injuries. A helmet is an essential gear that will protect your head in case of an accident. Bicycle riders should have their helmets every time they are on the roads and ensure they are fitting. Old helmets need to be replaced with new ones.
Observe Your State Laws on Safe Cycling
Road safety rules differ from one state to another though they are common laws applicable to every road user. Bicycle riders should adhere to road safety laws such as respecting other road users, riding in the right lanes, and observing traffic lights and acting according to their instructions. Observing traffic laws will create order and avoid accidents.
Be Focused and Remain Alert
Bicycle riders should be sober when moving out of their homes. Avoid taking alcoholic substances when riding to remain alert during your cycling activity. On the roads, put your hands firmly on the handlebars, remember to wear your goggles and focus on the road. Before you cross the roads, look for any oncoming vehicles. As you ride, focus on the road surface for any debris or unstable surface that may destabilize you.
Bicycle Safety Don'ts
Don't Assume Road Signs
One of the leading causes of accidents on roads is ignoring signs. Bicycle riders should not assume any road signs or traffic lights. Another assumption that bicycle riders make is that drivers can see them. Bicycle riders should ride on their designated lanes without disregarding any road signs.
Avoid Sharing Bikes or Equipment
Do not share bikes or equipment with your colleagues or friends. This can be easy and straightforward if you're riding on your own. You Are advised to only use your own bike and your own equipment.
Don't Get Distracted While Riding
Distractions during cycling can cause accidents. Distractions come in numerous forms, such as answering phone calls while riding, listening to your favorite music on earphones or headphones, among other ways. To deal with these distractions, avoid carrying your headphones when setting out for a bicycle ride. Earphones and headphones will rob you of the focus required to concentrate on the road.
Don't Use Gas Station Air Pump
Avoid inflating your bike's tires using the gas station pump. It's risky because you can easily over-inflate and even blow out your bicycle tires. Always use the recommended bicycle bump.
During the pandemic period, there has been a significant increase in bicycle riding as a means of transportation. The trend could even increase further into the future, and many city planners around the world are creating bicycle lanes to encourage the use of bicycles. The benefits of cycling are enormous that include health, environmental and mitigating against COVID-19.
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