“Bicycle repair shops must remain open as long as possible, to ensure that transport for essential workers and last-mile deliveries is maintained”
Statement from the Bicycle Association, 23rd March 2020
After Boris Johnson’s announcement, we were pleased to see that one of the few business types excluded from compulsory closure is bicycle shops.
In fact, bicycles shops appear twice in the list of exceptions, but that’s probably a typo rather than an official acknowledgement of their importance.
What the lockdown means in practice at 50cycles
In practice, this will mean going about business a little differently here at 50cycles. First, those of us who can work from home are doing so.
Staff maintain at least full two metres distance from any visitor at all times. A very limited number of customers (i.e. one) is permitted to enter the premises at any one time. Bikes are disinfected between test rides, before and after services, and before despatch.
All this is very sensible and necessary for the foreseeable future.
What’s also sensible is the government’s support for cycling in general. In some countries, cycling and any outdoor exercise are forbidden.
This has not happened in the UK though it is possible if the situation deteriorates and the Government judges people are not isolating enough.
However, even then, cycling will remain an essential mode of transport for many people classed as key workers. The government’s exceptional treatment of bicycles shops recognises this: it’s important to continue to supply bicycles and to be able to service bicycles to ensure reliability and safety.
Even if you’re not a key worker, it will sometimes be necessary to leave the house to buy food and medicine or to visit the local post office or bank.
Travelling by bicycle offers a number of clear advantages in an exceptional time like this:
There’s rarely been a safer time to cycle
Road traffic is greatly diminished now and for the immediate future. Most accidents involving a cyclist also involve a motor vehicle. Fewer motor vehicles and cyclists on the road will mean fewer accidents and easier riding conditions for those who venture out.
The idea of cycling in heavy traffic puts many people off riding a bike. Could the nation’s empty streets encourage an increase in cycling now and forever?
Avoid public transport, this is individual transport
Perhaps the most important contribution electric bikes can make to society is to keep people off public transport. Trains and buses are still running but on reduced timetables with priority given to key workers travelling to hospitals and other essential jobs.
If you need to go out, going by bike means another seat on public transport left unoccupied.
Get around public transport closures for essential staff
What public transport remains is now running with a reduced timetable. Some services and stations have been closed completely. If you need to go out and taking the tube, train or bus is no longer an option (and you don’t own a car), bicycles are the only way to travel at a useful speed across a town or city.
Less risky than driving, refuelling and parking
It’s important to minimise points of contact with possible sources of infection. That’s why payment card companies have extended the contactless purchase limit to £45 from the previous £30 this week.
When you think about it, running a car forces you to come into close contact with other people and things they have handled, like fuel pumps and parking ticket machines.
Riding a bike greatly reduces these points of contact, especially if you’re the only person using your bike. Shared bike schemes might be in danger of being closed down soon because of the infection risk.
Bicycles are self-isolation machines
While we’re allowed to get out and about, alone or with members of our household, we still need to keep a safe distance from others. I know of no better way of doing this than going on a bike ride beyond the range of walkers or pedal cyclists, taking to hilltop trails and out-of-reach, car-free byways.
Electric cyclists reach parts other people lack the time or energy to reach. You’ll soon be cycling safely all by yourself. Make the most of it, it won’t last!
Sunshine, fresh air and immunity
Frankly, sunshine and fresh are powerful medicine. We’re moving into the season when a dose of sunlight also gives you a shot of Vitamin D, and Vitamin D is vital for maintaining a strong immune system, healthy circulation and strong bones.
There’s also something known as the “fresh air factor” that is effective at killing pathogens in the atmosphere long before that air reaches your lungs.
Cycling is a superb way of getting an effective amount of sunshine and fresh air during your daily exercise. We’re not saying either is a cure for coronavirus or even a way of avoiding catching it, but it is a surefire way to maximise your all-round fitness which, along with improved metabolic health from eating well and exercising, positively are linked to better outcomes in those who have become infected.
Cycling provides a good excuse to wear a facemask
In Western societies, it’s still, even now, very unusual to see people wearing protective breathing masks in public. This is very different to Asian societies and the prevalence of masks there may be helping to limit the impact of coronavirus in South Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
In the UK, especially in the big cities, it’s not uncommon to see cyclists, often cycle couriers or daily commuters, wearing masks to protect them from traffic pollution – particulates, nitrogen dioxide, etc.
Now the evidence is unclear to what degree such masks protect you from an airborne viral infection, but rather than wait to have that confirmed after this pandemic, we think wearing a mask during your ride and inside shops, banks, post offices and any other indoor public space is a case of better safe than sorry.
Being a cyclist gives you the perfect excuse to resist social and cultural pressure against wearing your mask in public.
Carry extra loads of provisions
This is a big advantage electric bikes have over pedal cycles (and walking, for that matter). You can load up an e-bike with a week’s worth of shopping packed into pannier bags. Even more with a trailer.
We’ve been instructed to visit shops as infrequently as possible. But carrying a week’s shopping home is beyond most people’s capabilities. Anyone who can ride an e-bike can safely carry a surprising amount of groceries with the right equipment.
Cheap to run
Riding a bike, any bike, is inexpensive. No fuel, insurance, parking costs are involved. No fares, tickets or tapping in and out. In a time of much-reduced incomes for many of us, cycling, especially cycling electrically, makes sound economic sense.
Share your electric bike with your family
Owning an electric bike can be a valuable asset for a family in lockdown. Unlike a car, anybody who can ride a bike can ride your bike if they need to go out or get some exercise. Just make sure you clean the handlebars and controls between rides to absolutely minimise any chance of spreading infection.