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The outbreak of the Covid-19 still spreading throughout the world. People begin to adapt to new lifestyles: social distancing, staying at home, reducing activities such as traveling and consumption are reduced to only what is necessary. 

(photo by: Stefano De Grandis)

In a city that may be a little sluggish, our way of life is slow life gradually. People use less public transport, and use bicycles and walk instead. People live in the only neighborhood area which is within walking and cycling distance. Many cities use the Coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to develop the city, it is beginning to be seen that bicycles seem to be both short-term and long-term solutions. In fact, it encourages social distancing, promotes health, and improves quality of life. As the number of cars decreased, reduced activity, people stay at home, and some of them would like to exercise, so the bicycle can easily become a new trend. People use bicycles to go to nearby grocery or delivery food. It was reported that in New York the use of bicycles increased by 52% during the Covid-19 crisis. In Chicago, bicycle rental numbers have doubled in early March. In Australia, people buy bicycles to the point of almost a shortage. The New Zealand government expanded the footpaths and created a temporary bike route to help people maintain 2 m. social distancing. At the same time, the UK government has a trend to promote the use of bicycles instead of private cars and public vehicles. 

London car-free plans  Source: London Mayor’s office

Actually, bicycles have played a role in many times of crisis. For example, in 1973 Netherlands faced an energy crisis due to the OPEC oil crisis, it has impacted the transportation system in the country. The Netherlands government revolutionized the country’s transportation, turning the crisis into opportunity. There are many projects that promote bicycle, bicycle lanes, and relevant projects were created at that time. Moreover, they can make bicycles to be a main transport, and many cities are known as cycling cities.

Italy is dramatically facing Covid-19, people are using more bicycles in their daily life. Many cities also have developed plans to deal with this issue such as Milan using this opportunity to set up a traffic adjustment plan in the centre of the city. The roads in the city were changed to be suitable for bicycles, and wider the pedestrian pavement for an alternative path that will be driven as the next primary method.

Plans for Corso Buenos Aires before and after the Strade Aperte project  Source: (Laura Laker, 2020)

In a time when the world is facing a crisis of coronavirus and global warming. I think the use of bicycles could be another solution, and it could be the main vehicle for our future cities.


References:

  • Orsman, B., 2020. Covid 19 Coronavirus: Government To Fund Extra Wide Footpaths To Maintain 2M Distancing. [online] NZ Herald. Available at: <https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12324256> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Laker, L., 2020. Milan Announces Ambitious Scheme To Reduce Car Use After Lockdown. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/21/milan-seeks-to-prevent-post-crisis-return-of-traffic-pollution> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Taylor, M., 2020. Large Areas Of London To Be Made Car-Free As Lockdown Eased. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/may/15/large-areas-of-london-to-be-made-car-free-as-lockdown-eased> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Laker, L., 2020. Calls For More Space For Walking And Cycling In UK During Lockdown. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/28/calls-for-more-space-walking-cycling-uk-during-lockdown-coronavirus> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Laker, L., 2020. In A Global Health Emergency, The Bicycle Shines – Citylab. [online] Citylab.com. Available at: <https://www.citylab.com/perspective/2020/03/coronavirus-bike-lane-emergency-transportation-covid-19/608725/?fbclid=IwAR3b2OyMs2HsPTxN_L0gsVC83KdXDubrX9l7IqnrAcEnxFLC5rVu-tWncQA> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Landis-Hanley, J., 2020. ‘Bicycles Are The New Toilet Paper’: Bike Sales Boom As Coronavirus Lockdown Residents Crave Exercise. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/apr/22/bicycles-are-the-new-toilet-paper-bike-sales-boom-as-coronavirus-lockdown-residents-crave-exercise> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Harrouk, C., 2020. People To Reclaim Streets In Milan In Post Covid-19 Vision Of The City. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/938202/people-to-reclaim-streets-in-milan-in-post-covid-19-vision-of-the-city?fbclid=IwAR0H_FswLBGsmLMneW8GnwMdYwdLqLUlK33anzLGEL4LX5A8MVFcyX8kYUo> [Accessed 21 May 2020].
  • Schwedhelm, A., Li, W., Harms, L. and Adriazola-Steil, C., 2020. Biking Provides A Critical Lifeline During The Coronavirus Crisis. [online] World Resources Institute. Available at: <https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/04/coronavirus-biking-critical-in-cities> [Accessed 21 May 2020].

2 responses to “Bicycles: The alternative vehicle during the crisis”

  1. Hi Mark! Thank you for this post! It’s a very interesting perspective to see the relevance of cycling now with the pandemic into question. The thing that I’ve considered regarding this topic is how things such as the transport ban make cycling a much more viable option. In the past cycling schemes in the UK have failed, ReadyBike ended in reading in 2019 with a lack of interest and funding to support the Cycle hire scheme. [1] And likewise Mobike ended in 2019 in Newcastle due to a lack of road safety. [2]

    Particularly looking at the Newcastle case, with less cars on the roads people will be much more likely to cycle, as a means of transportation and also exercise, as shown by your stats that show the increase usage of cycling. But of course, this is just a contemporary result from a temporary problem, when ‘normal life’ resumes, what will come of cycling again in places like Newcastle where it is less common?

    The only real way that we will be able to maintain the usage of bikes will be with improved roads and cycling routes, to drastically overall the safety of cycling. Otherwise this increased usage across the world could drop off once again, which would be a shame given the benefits, but without the infrastructure to support them, I fear it won’t be maintained. [3]

    References:

    [1] BBC (2019) Reading cycle hire scheme ReadyBike to end (Online) Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-47588853 Accessed 23/05/2020.

    [2] ChronicleLive (2019) ‘A real shame’ – cyclists react to Mobike’s Newcastle exit and demand action from council (Online) Available at: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/how-cyclists-reacted-mobikes-newcastle-16206172 Accessed 23/05/2020.

    [3] Making Space for Cycling (2014) A Guide for new developments and street renewals (Online) Available at: https://www.makingspaceforcycling.org/ Accessed 23/05/2020

  2. Thank you for this stimulating and very topical post.

    Research shows people are willing to walk approximately 1,200m and cycle around 5,000m in urban areas, with greater distances seen as off-putting (Bunn and Wakenshaw, 2017). However other factors, such as the weather, can have a huge influence on this causing people to use public transport or drive instead (Stone, 1973). In cities, such as London, there are “low car ownership levels” due to the easy access to public transport (Hass-Klau, 2003). In an attempt to socially distance, during the Covid-19 pandemic, commuters have avoided public transport and there has been a massive uptake in active transport methods, which explains your observation. It is predicted that these trends will continue for a significant period (De Vos, 2020). However, I question how we can encourage people to continue cycling and walking, and not return to old habits, when conditions return to normal?

    With the cost of car ownership being substantial, if public transport is cheap and plentiful it makes them a luxury rather than a necessity. As we inevitably enter a recession and with this uptake in walking and cycling, will the number of cars in cities rapidly decline (Mavroudis, 2020)? How will the decline in car usage change our cities?

    Around the world, cities were already implementing schemes “to reduce the dependence on cars”, such as “Birmingham Connected” (Moss, 2015). Will Covid-19’s push towards sustainable transport methods help further popularise these schemes? Or will we only see a temporary change?

    References:

    Bunn, G. and Wakenshaw, G. (2017). Distance guidelines not fair reflection on how far people are willing to cycle and walk. Available at: https://www.transportxtra.com/publications/local-transport-today/news/54898/distance-guidelines-not-fair-reflection-on-how-far-people-are-willing-to-cycle-and-walk/. Accessed on: 23/05/20.

    De Vos, J. (2020). The effect of COVID-19 and subsequent social distancing on travel behaviour. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7180344/ . Accessed on: 23/05/20.
    Hass-Klau, C. (2003). ‘Walking and its relationship to public transport’, in Sustainable Transport. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/earth-and-planetary-sciences/car-ownership. Accessed on: 23/05/20.

    Mavroudis, A. (2020). Is car ownership worth it for city dwellers? Available at: https://www.citymetric.com/skylines/car-ownership-worth-it-city-dwellers-4888. Accessed on: 23/05/20.

    Moss, S. (2015). End of the car age: how cities are outgrowing the automobile. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/apr/28/end-of-the-car-age-how-cities-outgrew-the-automobile. Accessed on: 23/05/20.

    Stone, P. (1973). The Structure, Size and Costs of Urban Settlements. Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=MDpo-sfpZykC&pg=PA74&lpg=PA74&dq=weathers+effect+on+distance+people+are+willing+to+walk+/+cycle&source=bl&ots=ustIbfY51n&sig=ACfU3U3AdebFmVeEz8jpQkNw-WerodJbmg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj-iOTWpcrpAhWDURUIHRRlCYEQ6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=weathers%20effect%20on%20distance%20people%20are%20willing%20to%20walk%20%2F%20cycle&f=false. Accessed on: 23/05/20.

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Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
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Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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