Whether they’re used as an alternative transportation method or for exercise, bikes have become increasingly popular during the coronavirus pandemic.
The reason for the spike in bike riders is multifaceted, said Ralph Buehler, an associate professor and chair of urban affairs and planning in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech’s Research Center in Arlington, Virginia.
“People … don’t feel comfortable at the moment to ride public transport, or public transport has cut down service so much that it’s not convenient for them anymore or does not take them where they need to go,” Buehler told WTOP. “So they are switching to bicycles often for work trips or for short trips.”
People who are now at home more often or working at home with children in the house and looking for physical activities have also turned to biking, Buehler said.
“It allows you to do social distancing and it allows you to go longer distances than on foot,” he said. “It allows you to ride on trails. It allows you to ride in streets. So these people and often families are taking to the bike just to get physical activity and improve their physical and mental health.”
For others, he believes in the past they were on the fence about bike riding because of the threat to their safety trying to ride with so much traffic on the roads.
“Now, with most of the cars gone from the streets, they feel comfortable to ride,” he said.
The change in bicycle usage is evident at bike stores and repair shops. New bike sales are surging, and some customers are seeking tuneups for old bikes pulled out of storage.
Buehler thinks the trend to ride bicycles will continue even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted, so local governments need to consider how to offer safe riding for their citizens.
“The increase may stay to some level because people really like what they are doing or because they may not want to go back to public transport immediately, or they feel uneasy about it,” said Buehler. “But having a system that accommodates those new riders could be very helpful for cities.”
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