Monday June 01 2020
While public transport use has dropped by more than 90 per cent since lockdown began, and car journeys by 60 per cent, cycling has risen. Last month there were a record 170,000 extra bicycle trips in Greater Manchester in just one day. That’s the equivalent of 1,950 tightly packed double decker buses — or thousands more if social distancing measures were in place. It’s a similar picture across the country. Why, then, are cycling statistics excluded from the daily ministerial briefings?
About 40 per cent of trips are under two miles, so an increase in cycling is entirely practical. It’s also socially just. One in four households have no access to a car. These people would normally rely on public transport to get to work, but that option will only be available to about 10 per cent for the foreseeable future.
Denying people safe routes to travel to work by bike will leave them with a stark choice: overcrowded buses and trains, putting us all at risk; or not going to work at all. Expanding access to cycling is not only desirable, it’s our civic duty and we are almost out of time to do it.
This week, schools begin to reopen; in two weeks, non-essential retailers will start trading again. The roads will once again fill up with cars, and unless we take immediate action there will be no room for those that have rediscovered this marvellous means of transport. It’s not easy for councils to make such big changes and even harder when they have just days to do it but if we don’t try to lock-in this newfound love of riding bikes, what does that say about us?
The decisions made in the next two weeks will set the transport agenda for the next two decades. If cycling really counts, it’s time to count cycling.