As the coronavirus spreads, one of our most powerful tools for self-sufficiency and staying healthy might just be the humble bicycle. In New York, cycling has increased by 52 percent over the city’s bridges since social distancing protocols were put in place and in Chicago, bike share use doubled in early March.
Why are bikes so vital? Bicycles allow citizens to practice social distancing by avoiding crowded public transportation systems and can help those who live in rural areas or food deserts access critical supplies. If you don’t have a car and live far from the closest grocery store, biking to pick up food is a great way to stay healthy, get some exercise, and free up public transit space for those that really need it.
Cities are stepping up and recognizing the role bikes play in the day to day life, especially during a crisis. Bogotá, Colombia, is installing tens of kilometers of emergency cycleways and New York City is looking to build two emergency bicycle lanes as well. Cities, including San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, and Berlin, are recommending residents ride or walk to essential services, although it is still mandated that all cyclists remain at least a meter apart.
This is not the first time bicycles have come to the rescue. During the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, The Dutch government enacted a mass program of cycle track construction which boosted bike riding and, to this day, 30 percent of transportation in the country happens on bikes.
While biking is better than public transportation, it is still recommended that you only venture outside for necessary exercise and resupply trips. This is why France and Spain have banned recreational biking for the time being. Biking is great if you have to leave the house, but stay home if you can avoid it.
Since its invention, the bicycle has been one of humanity’s key transportation tools. They are efficient, accessible, and easy. And they reduce greenhouse gas emissions! Cycling will help get us through the COVID-19 pandemic, and expanding bike lanes and storage is a solution to get us through another global crisis: climate change.