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blog: Ready, steady, pedal!

Author: Georgia Taylor
Active Travel New Dimensions

Last year, nationwide gym closures and evidence linking Covid-19 with carrying extra pounds, led to people escaping their lockdown-era strongholds at home and taking to the streets for exercise and fresh air. We rediscovered the joys of cycling, walking, running, and roller-skating, bike sales boomed, and the park and the promenade were places to be seen, socialise and break a sweat. 

Whilst eager to refamiliarise ourselves with shops, restaurants and socialising, little thought has been given to how we will get there. As transport planners, we have a golden opportunity to nurture newfound interests in outdoor activity and cement active travel as a cultural norm for future generations through well-thought-out ‘behaviour change’ campaigns.

Action Activity Adventure 1374543

The UK Government is investing £2 billion in active travel through Local Authority delivered schemes and cities are ready to welcome back work-bound cyclists with a red carpet of new dedicated ‘safe space’ infrastructure such as segregated cycle lanes and safe cycle parking. With flexible working arrangements forecast for many industries, some of the barriers to sustainable transport have fallen away and a healthy work-life balance is now top of the agenda. Freed from our rigid old routines, we now have real choices when it comes to how and when we exercise and travel as we explore our ‘new normal’. 

Cargo Bike

Meanwhile, multiple industries are stepping up to meet the surge in demand for home deliveries with more sustainable approaches to last-mile deliveries in the form of e-bikes and cargo-bikes. 

Many job roles that traditionally required a car, such as food delivery services, are now being fulfilled by cyclists, as businesses seek to entice new riders with offers of free safety kits and subsidised costs for the purchase of a branded e-bike. 

It’s not all bad news for the high street either, those shops that have weathered the storm of recurring lockdowns, are seeing more people choosing to shop local; and some recent studies show that pedestrians and cyclists spend more in shops than those arriving by car. Retailers have an opportunity to attract new shoppers by providing nearby cycle storage, add in a little extra ‘oomf’ from an e-bike and we can fill up our saddle bags and shopper baskets and still make it home without breaking a sweat. 

Healthy vibrant places are, above all, places where mobility is diverse and integrated transport systems can be effortlessly navigated by all but, all too often, new infrastructure arrives unannounced on our streets and the public are both unaware and uninspired. Infrastructure launch events and promotion campaigns that celebrate the cyclist and the public transport user can reward positive behaviours and encourage longer lasting behaviour change.

Cycle Path

The cycling renaissance promises more time, better health, stronger communities, cleaner air and safer streets, but when the temptation comes knocking to clamber back into our cars we need to take off the rose tinted glasses of pre-pandemic travel and ask ourselves whether we truly prefer the world we left behind to the one that is now just a few breaths of fresh air away. 

If you've missed the other blogs we've shared for ITP's Active Travel Month, visit our website or follow us on social media.


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