London gears up for cycling surge beyond lockdown

By George Ramsay
June 30 2020, 10.25

Cycling has grown in popularity during the coronavirus lockdown as people make the most of quieter streets and reduced access to public transport.

According to a survey of around 2,000 adults by Sport England, the number of people cycling on a weekly basis grew from 8% at the start of April – a week after lockdown measures were introduced – to 16% in the middle of May.

This uptick has been noticeable in the borough of Richmond.

“Richmond Cycling Campaign (RCC) is really excited by the number of people we see out on bikes, and how the demographic has expanded,” said Tim Lennon, borough coordinator for RCC, part of a London-wide charity that aims to make cycling safe and inviting across the city.

“With quieter roads in the early part of lockdown, we quickly began to see families and children as young as five getting around together by bike.”

Across London, the number of Boris Bikes being hired has also risen.

According to the London Datastore, 1,120,620 bikes were hired out in May – more than any other May total since the concept was launched in July 2010.

Moreover, bikes were hired for an average time of 35 minutes compared to the historic monthly average of 19.

April and May’s average hire times of 36 and 35 minutes respectively are the only occasions the monthly average has been more than 27 minutes.

This comes as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced a “London Streetspace” programme alongside Transport for London, which intends to accommodate London’s streets for a potential 10-fold increase in cycling after lockdown.

It includes rapid construction of cycling networks to reduce crowding on the Underground and a reduction of traffic on residential streets to make walking and cycling easier in the city.

“The capacity of our public transport will be dramatically reduced post-coronavirus as a result of the huge challenges we face around social distancing,” Mr Khan said when the programme was announced at the start of May.

“Many Londoners have rediscovered the joys of walking and cycling during lockdown and, by quickly and cheaply widening pavements, creating temporary cycle lanes and closing roads to through traffic, we will enable millions more people to change the way they get around our city.”

A two-metre social distancing requirement means that TfL can only carry 13-15% of the normal number of passengers on Tube and bus networks.

Current guidance is to wear a face covering and avoid public transport if possible.

Santander Cycles
BORIS BIKING: Santander Cycles usage has been on the up during lockdown. Credit: Transport for London

As for Richmond, Mr Lennon thinks improvements can be made to ensure the area is more bike friendly.

“The borough – like the rest of London – needs to act quickly,” he continued.

“We’re in constant communication with councillors and members, and working hard to support the myriad changes needed – whether this is additional bike parking, more cycle lanes to discourage cycling on the pavement, more pavement space to make walking to and from places more attractive, and measures like school streets to support behaviour change in September.”

London is not the only capital that plans to accommodate an increase in cycling.

Paris has recently re-elected Anne Hidalgo as Mayor, part of whose manifesto was to make every street in the city fit for cycling by 2024.

Related Articles