The great bicycle boom of 2020

By Adrienne Bernhard

Where to cycle with kids - Sustrans.org.uk

Throughout lockdown, rusty bikes were dusted off in garages around the world and sales of new bikes surged. The question is now: can it last?

Covid-19 brought about a dramatic increase in bicycle sales in response to the pandemic. Heightened anxiety over public transportation and a surge in exercise has meant that more and more are choosing to use one of the most basic forms of mobility, leading to a so-called “bike boom”.

The phenomenon has been well-documented: suppliers have struggled to keep up with demand; cities have redesigned their streets to accommodate an influx of riders; manufacturers are trying to forecast the longevity of the bike’s newfound popularity; economists are considering whether e-bikes’ rising popularity will enable more commuters to get to work. An industry that was already thriving before the pandemic has suddenly accelerated. But what will that mean for the future of bicycles?

Cycling has long been one of the fastest, most flexible and reliable methods of transport. Even before the pandemic, millions relied on bicycles to do their jobs or get to work. But when stay-at-home orders temporarily curtailed daily life across the globe, the role of bicycles transformed. One in 10 American adults reported having ridden a bike for the first time in a year (or longer) since the onset of Covid-19, according to research by People for Bikes, an industry coalition based in Colorado, US. And in March 2020, ridership on trails in the US peaked at a threefold increase compared with the same period in 2019, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit promoting the development of disused rail lines into trails for walking and cycling in the US.

“People were at home with nothing to do, a bike sitting in their garage with flat tires,” says Morgan Lommele, director of state policy at People for Bikes. “One of the barriers to bicycling across the ages is anxiety about a thing with 100 moving parts: people worry, ‘How do I store it? How do I fix it?’” But lockdown changed that. “Suddenly, everyone had the time to tinker.”

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