Five million commuters could travel to work by bike following coronavirus lockdown

Cycling and walking will be encouraged as public transport capacity is limited to combat the virus

London commuters travelling by bike (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
(Image credit: Universal Images Group via Getty)

Up to five million people could be commuting by bicycle as the UK workforce begins to return amid the coronavirus pandemic, polling suggests.

17 per cent of commuters are more likely to cycle to work following the coronavirus pandemic, according to Shand Cycles, which would mean an extra 5.5 million bikes on the road if extrapolated across the nation's 32 million commuters.

The research found that people are on average willing to spend 29 minutes on a bike commuting each way, with commuters in the north of England, Scotland and the south-east the most receptive to now travel to work on two wheels.

Respondents pointed to dedicated cycle lanes, traffic calming and workplace facilities as crucial in changing their habits, with the UK Government recently announcing fast-tracked statutory guidance for councils to improve cycling infrastructure as well as accelerating a planned £2 billion spend.

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As the UK Government begins to encourage people to return to work, they have put an emphasis on completing journeys by walking and cycling, as public transport capacity will be limited due to social distancing measures in order to combat the coronavirus.

The increase will be most pronounced among people who already occassionally commute by bike, with half of those who cycled to work on average once per week more likely to do so more regularly. Of those who never cycled to work before, eight per cent say they are likely to do so following lockdown.

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK, said: "The huge increase in people cycling during this crisis demonstrates that people will change their travel behaviour and choose to cycle if it feels safe. For many, that means being separated from motor traffic as the roads become busier, otherwise cycling to work won’t look like the natural choice it should be for short journeys.

"It’s about enabling people to cycle not just encouraging, which means local authorities must act immediately to install pop-up cycle lanes and temporary infrastructure that makes cycling a safe, socially distancing alternative for their commute to work."

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.