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Cycling in Lockdown11th June 2020
Since originally drafting this blog, the weeks were going by and every day seemed the same. Restrictions remained in place and at least up until Monday 11 May 2020, there had been little sign of them being lifted. One continuing freedom though (if you want to call it that) has been the right to daily exercise. There has been a lot of confusion about what this can be, whether driving somewhere for a walk is okay, how long you can stop for a rest in the park before it becomes sunbathing and so on.
As of this week some of these restrictions have been lifted. Indeed the government guidance now seems to be that people should be starting to think about returning to their usual places of work. This will no doubt throw up new questions about how people get to and from work safely. Many won’t want to use public transport for obvious reasons.
Happily through the lockdown period many people have taken up cycling as their mode of choice. The benefits of cycling are too numerous to list here but for those unable to go to the gym, a decent ride can provide an equally effective cardio workout. There are of course the undoubted benefits to mental health. Undoubtedly the roads are much, much quieter and it is much more pleasurable for those not used to cycling on the road or indeed cycling at all. The weather conditions have helped of course. And without the traffic the air is naturally much cleaner.
Nevertheless we here have sadly noted a number of examples of poor driving standards and driver behaviours. With around 80% less traffic on the roads, some drivers seem to have forgotten that speed limits still exist. Levels of awareness and care have also dropped. We’ve seen and heard of instances of drivers pulling out of junctions without checking properly for oncoming traffic (including cyclists!) and failing to stop at stop lines. And there are also those drivers who don’t think cyclists should be on the road at all apparently.
We hope that the upsurge in cycling continues. The likelihood is that there will continue to be restrictions on public transport for some time yet so cycling in the cleaner, open air is highly likely to represent a much lower risk than commuting in a confined space on the Tube, bus, train or tram. Already we’ve seen some of the biggest cities in the UK considering and indeed making massive positive infrastructural changes.
In London the mayor is planning pavement widening and increased cycling routes to account for ongoing social distancing but more long term to increase safer active travel. In Manchester a decision has been taken by the Council to temporarily close part of Deansgate, the North-South central thoroughfare, to allow people to circulate and socially distance themselves. This will be all the more important as people return to their places of work. I hope this might be a prelude to permanent changes in the future.
In a world where the media is dominated by negative headlines and the sad news of those affected by the Covid 19 virus, the raised profile of cycling and its associated benefits is a rare silver cloud. As a final thought though, I would like to ask those who are using cycling as their daily exercise to be careful and to remain vigilant out there, even in seemingly much safer, quieter times. Make sure you are visible to other road users and comply with the Highway Code. Do be careful near junctions and don’t assume drivers will stop when they should. Make sure that if you are turning, you signal clearly and early. This gives those drivers who have seemingly forgotten speed limits more time to see what it is that you intend to do.
You might want to consider just how far from home you should ride and whether it is within your physical capabilities. If something was to go wrong with your bike or indeed you, would you be able to walk it back home or would you have to rely on help from someone in your household to come and get you? For those newer cyclists, can you deal with basic repairs such as changing a tyre? There are seemingly hundreds of YouTube videos to help you learn if you don’t.
Stay safe out there. And don’t forget to wash your hands!