Boom time for bikes as coronavirus changes lifestyles

Islanders locked down during the coronavirus crisis have been getting on their bikes, new figures reveal.

Research has shown that in some parts of the Island, those taking up cycling has dramatically increased since government lockdown measures were introduced in March.

Daily average cycle volumes recorded by off-road counters at Ladies Walk, Ryde, Island Harbour and along the Newport to Sandown cycle track doubled last month compared to previous years.

On Saturday 9 May, the Red Squirrel Trail (Newport-Cowes section) saw its busiest day since data collection began in 2014 with 718 people recorded cycling on this section.

Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure, said the lockdown had inspired a new generation of cyclists on the Island.

He said: “Cycling is a low cost mode of transport which can make a positive contribution to physical and mental health, and can be an attractive mode of transport for many short distance journeys on the Island.

“The council welcomes the recent government announcement on cycling and walking and is actively considering which additional measures to progress on the Island.”

The council’s Key Worker Scheme, part of its Access Fund programme, has now provided more than 100 loan bikes and over 500 £50 cycle repair vouchers to key workers since mid-April.

Bicycles have become a key social distancing tool as residents try to avoid crowded spaces on buses and trains.

People choosing cycling for their daily exercise and others shifting from public transport to cycling for essential journeys, could also account for the recent cycling boom.

This is all in the context that 44 per cent of people are now working from home, compared to 12 per cent this time last year.

Councillor John Hobart, Cabinet member for heritage and the environment, highlighted the positive environmental impact of more people choosing pedal power over the car.

He said: “If there is something positive to take from this terrible crisis, it could be that it’s offered a taste of the air we might breathe in a low-carbon future. I think we have all noticed the improvement in air quality with less carbon emissions from motor vehicles on our roads.

“The challenge now is to maintain mode share as the lockdown measures are eased.

“To assist with this, the Department for Transport has recently announced a new £2 billion package to create a new era for walking and cycling.

“The announcement includes new statutory guidance which instructs councils to reallocate road space for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians.

“I also think it is a time to consider our connecting routes, such as The Gunville Greenway, aimed to run from Newport, through Gunville and on out to the West Wight, following the railway track as close as possible.

“Routes like this, if designed correctly for multi users, would take cyclists, horse riders and walkers off our roads as well as making a great way to connect parts of the Island and work well with our tourism offer.”