Covid-19 | Cycling Locally Has Been a Game-Changer and is Forming My New Normal
When lockdown happened in March, and we were only allowed to go outside to exercise or shop, I turned to my bicycle to combine both. I liked owning a bike but it was in the garage 99% of the time. I was a fair-weather cyclist. Why? Because it was too far to commute, busy and at weekends I would be too tired or have things to do. The diary of places to be, people to see, busy, not enough time…. everyone can relate to that.
But since lockdown, a chink of positive light has been that I have cycled every day for 100 days. Generally, 15-20km. Something I can manage in an hour which also includes stopping off for a rucksack full of groceries.
As lockdown restrictions have eased, I have added more and longer cycle rides (usually 2-3 hours or whole afternoons).
I moved from London about 12 years ago to enjoy my surroundings. Getting getting back on the bike has allowed me to do that and engage far more with my local areas; the Downs and the various seafronts (Brighton, Hove, Shoreham and Worthing) and their cycle paths. I now see and appreciate entire stretches of road that I would have whizzed along previously to/from work, paying no attention other than to the traffic conditions around me.
I have to say that at this point (July) I would be hard pressed to stop using my bike for those regular short-medium trips on a daily basis. The reason for this is that there was one government article I read and a graph in it that made me switch… and here it is.
For distances of 1–2 miles over 60% of journeys are made by motor vehicle.
I have to be honest. I felt ashamed when I read this. All those journeys where we hop in the car…. most are very short; under 2 miles, other merely 2-5 miles away and definitely under 10 miles.
My office is 16 miles away from home and I have cycled that journey a few times since lockdown. I would not want to do it every day but it is do-able. It’s an hour-1 hour 20 mins subject to the prevailing wind direction. Any route I take has a 50% chance of a head wind as most journeys are literally east or west (living coastal).
THE NEW NORMAL, THE GREEN RECOVERY, THE GREAT RE-SET
Pandora’s box is open now and it is possible to work from home more and to commute less. Isn’t that the beginning of the New Normal, The Green Recovery or the Great Reset?
- I would be happy doing the 32 mile bike round-commute to the office 1 or 2 days a week
- I have re-discovered the local village & small town centres of my sprawling Worthing-to-Brighton conurbation. It’s really really nice and all are much easier to access
- I cycle daily locally for most groceries
- On the dedicated cycle paths, fellow cyclists acknowledge each other, and it’s really warming. It’s rare to receive smile on bikes
- It’s nice to embrace the feeling or air, sun, wind or rain. That may sound strange but in a lockdown that has meant a lot. We spend our lives moving from one home box to another work or social box via a motorised box. The slower and more mindful mode of cycling has allowed me to embrace weather, take in where I am and what’s going on around me. I feel much more a part of my surroundings
- Overall, I’m a lot more active, healthier, happier, engaged in my locality and embracing the shoots of a greener conscious society
The only downside so far to cycling has been the negative reaction from car drivers and pedestrians. I have had several remarks thrown at me in the last 100 days as I cycle by people. Most of them generalising about cyclists and rules of the road. Believe me, I do not speed and I do not road hog. Unfortunately, the passing judgements bore nothing in reality to the road conditions or us all learning new road layouts as cycling pop up lanes materialise. There is a negative bias that needs to change and end.
On the road, cycling is a constant maneuvering of potholes or manholes or cars genuinely not realising how exposed a cyclist is as they whizz by. Drivers are encased in a safe space and less aware of what their speed feels like outside their increasingly cocooned shells and bigger chunkier vehicles. I am genuinely shocked by the bad state of many roads at the edge of the pavement. I can no longer justify trying to keep to these badly maintained and hard to cycle over areas.
I think that an historic issue is that local authorities expect cyclists to share the road with other types of road user who do not expect that. Shared footpaths have two different forms of traffic – pedestrian and cycle. Roads have cars, lorries and bicycles.
These hybrid solutions are cheap and have evolved slightly over the year. I think with better information now and more emphasis on integrated traffic plus commuting & health policies, we will all learn to appreciate that cycling helps the very local communities everyone is proud to support, is healthy for people near & longer-term, greener for the plant and a far more enjoyable local travelling experience. (see the Groningen example below).
Overall, more cycling is a no-brainer. I do hope the central and local governments embrace communicating these benefits more and more. They need to make a point of emphasising the current low cycling figures by journey type and the uplift needed in active travel all around.
GRONINGEN – The World’s Cycling City