During the pandemic more people have turned to cycling, for both leisure and everyday transport. This has helped their own wellbeing and that of the wider community.
At the same time, e-bicycles and e-scooters have extended the option of low-impact personal transport to more people. Uptake of these has increased during the pandemic.
Consequently, air pollution, carbon emissions, congestion, noise, and traffic danger have all been reduced. There is evidence that local businesses benefit from the switch to cycling.
There is an opportunity to retain and build on these benefits to achieve a permanent cultural shift away from the car. To do this, cycling needs to be seen as a seriously practical mode of transport, not just for leisure. The pandemic has made people wary of public transport, meaning that car usage could rebound to higher levels than before. Therefore we should seize this moment.
The National Cycle Network (NCN) has made cycling safer and more enjoyable for millions, but its routes are designed for leisure, not commuting or going shopping. They aim to be scenic and safe, with circuitous deviations to avoid busy roads and crossings. In cities, there is often no alternative to busy roads, with many hazards despite cycle lanes. Where there is a safer route at all, navigation is often intricate. Frequent road crossings, awkward barriers and tight corners take up time and energy. Most urban routes cannot provide the safety, speed and ease of use that would encourage more commuters and shoppers to use them.
The challenge is to provide dedicated traffic-free routes into towns and cities, for users of low-impact personal transport, that are not only safe, but direct and convenient.