Cycling UK is celebrating the increasingly important role of bikes in the health of the nation during Bike Week, which runs from 6-14 June.
The charity will mark Bike Week with online events themed around the health and wellbeing benefits of cycling.
Amid the restrictions placed on people’s lives due to the coronavirus pandemic, cycling has experienced a boom. Data from both England and Scotland have shown a doubling in the numbers of people getting on their bikes since the lockdown started, and governments and public health bodies are promoting cycling as a safe and healthy alternative to public transport and private vehicle use.
Data from Sport England, based on surveys of 2,000 people in England, show that the number of people cycling each week rose from 8% during the first week of April to 16% by 18 May.
Figures from Transport Scotland showed that cycle journeys in the week of 20-26 April were up by 120% on typical figures.
To recognise the importance of cycling as a safe mode of transport for key workers, Cycling UK has been offering a three-month free membership to health and social care workers. By the end of the offer on 31 May, 2,857 of these key workers across the country had signed up.
Pete Fitzboydon, interim chief executive of Cycling UK, said: “The reduction in vehicle traffic and increase in cycling during lockdown has allowed a glimpse of a different, more active future, and it would be a great shame to turn our backs on this and return to business as usual. Bike Week is a chance to share the fun and freedom that cycling offers, but this year the real focus is on the health benefits – not only for the individual but for society as a whole.”
In London, two-thirds of car journeys are less than 3.1 miles (5kms), a distance that can be covered on a bike in 20 minutes, said Fitzboyon. Across the UK as a whole, the average journey to school could also be made with a 20-minute bike ride. While an average traffic lane can carry 2,000 cars per hour, it could carry 14,000 bicycles instead, said Fitzboyon.
“At a time when people are beginning to return to workplaces and schools, choosing cycling will have an enormous impact on congestion and the associated economic and societal costs.”
Supporting the launch of Bike Week, the Cycling Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said: “COVID-19 has made us rethink how we work, shop, and travel – and we have seen so many people over the past couple of months discovering or re-discovering a love of cycling as they look for new ways to get around.
“Bike Week is a great opportunity for people to give cycling a go, and be inspired to choose an environmentally friendly form of travel with major health benefits – improving the quality of air that we breathe and helping people to get fit and stay healthy. I hope that after the crisis, cycling becomes the natural choice for many more on short journeys so that we can keep these benefits for the longer term.”
Mónica Reus Boccherini, an A&E nurse at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London, said: “I took up cycling towards the beginning of lockdown, as after a long shift in A&E I didn’t want to run the risk of passing on the virus to my fellow passengers on public transport. I’ve been riding regularly ever since then and love it. I’d encourage everyone to use the opportunity of Bike Week to pick up your dusty bike and give cycling a go!”
Bike Week 2020 is being delivered by Cycling UK and supported in Scotland by Cycling Scotland.
Restrictions on group events mean that this year’s Bike Week is taking place digitally, with a programme of webinars, online workshops, Q&As and fun events.
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