Fiona Forster had by no means felt comfy biking on the busy roads close to her house in St Albans, however when the vehicles disappeared throughout lockdown final 12 months it opened up an entire new world.
“I might by no means have gone out within the visitors ranges like they’re now. I used to be too frightened that I’d get knocked off by a automobile or somebody would drive previous me too shortly, I simply by no means had the arrogance,” stated the 40-year-old who’s self-employed. “However I by no means noticed a automobile most likely for many of April.”
She began biking longer distances, taken half in a 100km sportive, and over a 12 months later she continues to cycle twice per week, regardless of visitors ranges going again up. “I don’t really feel weak now on the highway the place as I might have earlier than,” she stated. “And with out the lockdown, I don’t assume I might ever have achieved it.”
New information reveals Forster is considered one of many ladies to have gotten on to a motorbike saddle throughout lockdown. The variety of biking journeys made by girls in England rose by greater than 50% in 2020, with quieter roads serving to to open up biking to a demographic identified to be extra cautious of the hazards of the highway. Ladies’s biking elevated from 1 / 4 of all journeys in 2019, to simply beneath a 3rd in 2020.
“I wasn’t a bicycle owner in any respect, however it was made a lot simpler as a result of there weren’t vehicles far and wide. I feel I can solely address them now as a result of they’ve come again regularly and I began with out them,” stated Louise Watson, a 54-year-old trainer in Leeds. She began biking simply after the primary lockdown started, getting down to experience 5 miles and ending up doing 20. Over the summer time she accomplished a 100 mile cycle.
However now that visitors has resumed in full drive, Watson – like many – has discovered it tough to maintain up her new ardour as a lot as she would love. “I’d like to exit and cycle straight after work however it’s simply so busy and I don’t wish to put myself in that place as a result of there are simply too many vehicles.”
Lizzie Harris, a 38-year-old physician in Newcastle upon Tyne, began biking to work throughout lockdown with a view to keep away from public transport. She stated the quiet roads and further cycle paths which have been put in remodeled her expertise: “I felt a lot safer and I seen that the persistent cough I had disappeared when the visitors disappeared.”
Whereas she feels the state of affairs has improved, she would welcome stronger biking infrastructure now that the roads are busy once more – she was knocked off her bike by a automobile earlier this 12 months.
“If folks really feel the situations are protected sufficient – as many felt they have been throughout lockdown – we are going to see extra biking and never simply the identical largely male demographic,” stated Duncan Dollimore, Biking UK’s head of campaigns. “It shouldn’t take a pandemic to supply a rise in biking, however it’s a chance to construct on the federal government can be mad to disregard.”
It wasn’t simply metropolis cyclists who discovered lockdown liberating. Tracy Park, 55, lives within the Lake District the place many cycle routes would normally be clogged with vacationers. “Biking within the Lake District pre-Covid, in the summertime months you wouldn’t exit over the mountain passes as a result of there can be tens of millions of vacationers there, driving actually badly and stopping and parking within the unsuitable locations.
She began going out on bike rides three to 4 occasions per week and says the expertise meant she lastly ‘bought’ biking. “I lastly labored out what all these folks in Lycra have been on about and I haven’t seemed again.” Earlier this month she took two weeks off work to cycle from Lands Finish to John o’Groats.
She nonetheless cycles frequently however has needed to discover different routes now that the crowds are again. “They’ve all arrived again of their hordes, and I completely get that as a result of folks can’t go overseas. So I’m afraid they’ve reclaimed it once more so we have now to go and discover the quiet roads they aren’t on,” she stated. “However I really feel like biking has opened up an entire new world for me in a extremely optimistic manner.”