2021: Cycling will continue to be a la mode (of transport)

By Adrian Warren, senior product director at Cyclescheme and chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance

What a year 2020 was for cycling. One of the positive effects of the pandemic was the amount of free time that lockdown afforded people to pick up old hobbies. In fact, 83% of us said that we had more time to get on our bikes and rediscover the simple pleasure of cycling! But has the increase in cycling been a fad, or will it still be as popular this time next year?

The cycling boom will continue
The fact that 72% of us positively changed our lifestyle and became more active last year is phenomenal. Where people have struggled through isolation or the general restrictions placed upon us, cycling and exercise have had hugely beneficial impacts on the nation’s physical and mental health.

After lockdowns begin to ease, and as offices reopen later in the year, people will be considering how to avoid the risk of getting caught up in overcrowding on trains or buses – while also keeping fit. I think these benefits will continue to spur the growing trend of cycling, both for leisure and travelling to work. For those of us who are parents, it could even transform the school run as we know it and help the whole family live a more active lifestyle.

More generally, we will also see bikes become more affordable. No matter whether it’s a road bike or an e-bike you’re after, there is a growing number of bike hire and bike subscription schemes becoming available that can be personalised to your needs.

This year it would be brilliant to see these being normalised, used nationwide, and to an extent, even become as popular as our current car leasing market. In addition to this, Cyclescheme recently announced a partnership with TfL to offer Santander Cycle hire membership for as little as £1 per week. This will contribute to one of many reasons that cycling will be more affordable, and remain a favoured mode of transport.

At the end of the day, cycling is an activity that can be enjoyed across all ages and has huge health and financial benefits, so this year will be all about people finding ways to make the most of it when they can.

Better infrastructure must be built
With cycling becoming more popular both with seasoned cyclists and those who haven’t done it for a while, a safe, comprehensive network of cycleways is essential. Particularly if the school run is to become the school cycle, parents must feel confident taking young children out on the routes.

Last year placed demand on the Government to accelerate much-needed work on cycling infrastructure, and it’s essential this continues this year. In November, the Government pledged to spend a further £95 million in London over the next six months to continue its work on the ‘golden age’ of cycling. This is good news for the capital, however, this needs to be translated across the country and supported by local authorities and councils too.

It’s in the Government’s best interest to see these changes through, as creating safe, protected and extensive networks will have huge rewards. It will not only encourage people who are doing their bit to keep cities and economies moving post-COVID by using their bikes, but also free up road space and help the environment.

The impact more active travel will have on mental wellness and fitness will also see less strain on the NHS in the long term – the benefits are tenfold. 

Use of e-bikes will surge
While the thought of cycling to work is the perfect commute for some, for others it can conjure up mental images of arriving at the office with burning thighs and a sweaty brow. But the rise of e-bikes means these days are no more!

The benefits are well known: they make cycling more convenient, enjoyable and less taxing on the legs. In addition, riders don’t actually need insurance or a driving licence, nor do they require tax – as long as the motor doesn’t produce more than 250 watts of power, or offer assistance over 15.5mph.

Last year, we saw a rise in businesses and councils starting to use e-cargo bikes for local deliveries. Even our doctors are using e-bikes for deliveries! A new trial is aiming to help GPs use e-bikes to deliver COVID care and flu jabs to patients in their homes, to help reduce the number of patients in hospitals and A&E over the colder months. I think there’s potential for e-cargo bikes to become the favoured method of delivery, over the traditional white van, in 2021.

I believe that more people than ever will ditch the car or public transport in favour of using e-bikes, either through rental schemes, bike subscription services or investing in their own. Using an e-bike as a main method of transport comes with a host of benefits that both your body and wallet will thank you for. Other than being great fun, it boosts health and helps save money on fuel, road tax and train or bus fares in the long run.

At Cyclescheme, we’re already encouraging our participants to consider an e-bike, and the Freedom to Ride initiative has made them more affordable. I think it’s safe to say this is a trend which can only go upward from here.

Cyclists and drivers will finally get on
This one I certainly hope will be true. An unfortunate trend from last year is the constant media stories antagonising tensions between those people who drive and people who ride. Whether you’re on a bike or in a car, we all have a responsibility to protect each other. The duty must be shared, and the more people who remember to be considerate road users, the faster tensions will unwind.

Overall, 2020 rekindled the UK’s love for bikes and had huge benefits for our economy. We saw a lot of positive change last year, and I absolutely believe it will continue as we build up a healthier, more active nation in 2021.

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