Weekend biking has been booming over the past two years, with new data suggesting that leisure time biking has increased by up to 60% in some areas.
However, the number of bikes per week in the UK remains at pre-pandemic levels, and activists warn that more people will be moving by car for daily travel as traffic returns to normal without investment in safe cycling infrastructure.
An analysis of government cycle count data from March to July showed that across the UK pedal-powered travel increased by 28% on Saturdays and Sundays and decreased by 3% during the week. Cycling was 300% higher than pre-pandemic levels one day in 2020 as people ride their bikes for daily exercise on quiet roads.
Cycling UKs CEO Sarah Mitchell said: Pre-pandemic cycling levels have been static for decades. Long-distance leisure riding has been on the rise, rather than short trips for activities such as shopping or going to work. Over the past few years quieter roads have shown that anyone can ride a bike, provided the conditions are right, but this will require both a vision and a decent investment from all UK governments.
Cycling and walking increased by 25% in 2020 compared to 2019 figures, according to the latest Sustrans data from the National Cycle Network (NCN), which covers a total of 12,000 miles across the UK. Similarly, usage increased during the week, but the biggest increase was on weekends, with many automatic counters including Devon and Argyll & Bute doubling at the cycling and walking levels.
Xavier Brice, CEO of Sustrans, a walking and biking charity, said:
We must build on the cycling boom we saw last year as part of a lasting change that enables people to lead an active lifestyle. Proper infrastructure and safety measures can make it easier for people to walk and cycle their day-to-day journeys.
Cycling Scotland reported a 47% increase in cycling in Scotland from March 2020 to March 2021 and a 52% increase in the number of cyclists from March 1 to 22, 2021 compared to March 2020. In October-December 2020, the level of cycling also increased by 14% compared to the previous year.
However, despite growth exceeding the 2019 figures, the jump isn’t as big as we saw in some areas last summer, as traffic levels have slowly returned to normal. Many people who started biking on secluded roads last year stopped due to traffic jams, and many cities such as London, Manchester and Leicester are investing heavily in bike lanes, but building a complete network takes time and money.
Transport for London said the number of weekday bike rides in the capital decreased by 12% due to rain and reduced commuting trips, but even on rainy weekends over the weekend by 47% compared to the pre-pandemic figure. Overall, flow over the week was down 3%.
Jo Rigby, an active travel and transportation speaker at Wandsworth Labor, had this to say about riding a bike in the capital. Corona and use of the bicycle hangar [secure cycle parking] Changed my travel habits.
According to the latest figures, cycling in Scotland increased by 14-15% compared to 2019 in June and April of this year, but decreased by 34% and 13%, respectively, during the early peak of the epidemic in 2020. Cycling Scotland believes that the decline in May 2021, when cycling fell 12% in May 2019 and 48% in May 2020, is probably due to the very wet month with 109.5mm of rain in Scotland.
Nick Montgomery, Head of Monitoring and Development at Cycling Scotland, said: “Data from the National Monitoring Framework shows that cycling is at pre-pandemic levels. Naturally, last year’s closure levels weren’t the best, but it shows that the overall increase is continuing. Other factors also had an impact, for example a significant increase in rainfall in May 2021. The evidence of a climate emergency is becoming more evident every day. Every journey on a bike makes a difference.
Cycling activity in Manchester is slightly below the highs set during the heat wave of the first national lockdown, but current levels of cycling activity are estimated to be 20% higher than during the same period in 2019, with many tally sites indicating an increase. Weekend cycling activity is estimated to have increased by 62% over the same period in 2019 and is over 50%.
Manchester-based Paul Smith started commuting about six miles to downtown by bike last year, thanks to the A56’s pop-up bike path. After the lane was cleared, he started driving again because the traffic made it uncomfortable to ride his bike.
He said: I’ve been driving for quite some time, but I started biking again a few months ago. It was much more enjoyable than tea. I’ve managed to find a less direct route that feels safe enough, so I use it instead for now.
Bicycle sales continue fast, even compared to figures for 2020, when people rushed on two wheels to avoid public transport, according to the Bicycle Association, with sales of value increasing by 40% and sales by 25% in the 12 months to May 2021.
And for some, electric bikes have helped them pedal again. Pete Cousins said: I’ve been biking for a while. My wife hates biking, but she wanted to go out with me. I rented an electric bike for her two months ago. she liked it So I bought one. We’ve just returned from our 200 mile cycling vacation in Devon, back and forth from shore to shore. Both loved it. 50+km/day. Plus she carried most of our gear!
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