The UK could see a huge rise in the number of people cycling to work after the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions ease as commuters look to avoid public transport, but only if more is done to encourage workers to use a bike rather than a car, new research from the HSBC UK and British Cycling partnership has found.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults across the UK found that while only 5% of UK workers used a bike as their primary mode of transport prior to COVID-19 lockdown measures, 19% of UK commuters say they are more likely to cycle to work after the lockdown is lifted. This figure rises to 31% amongst people who already own a bike and 23% for those who live within a four-mile commute of their workplace.
The increased appeal of cycling comes as UK commuters look to avoid public transport, with 35% less likely to use the tube and 32% saying they are less likely to use the bus or train after the lockdown is lifted. Nearly half (46%) of all respondents agreed that cycling is appealing as it helps avoid public transport where there is a higher risk of COVID-19 infection.
However, a bike is not the only alternative to public transport, with 26% also stating that they are now more likely to drive to work. Lockdown has had a positive impact on cycling in the UK, with 20% of respondents saying it has inspired them to cycle in the future, 43% saying lockdown has made them appreciate the benefits of having a bike and 32% saying it has been essential for getting around during lockdown.
The research forms part of the societal partnership between HSBC UK and British Cycling, which since launching in 2017 has helped over two million people in Britain get on a bike through its programmes and initiatives.
Julie Harrington, CEO of British Cycling, said: “It is important that as a country we take advantage of the enthusiasm for cycling over recent weeks to ensure it is a long-term trend rather than merely a flash in the pan. Government, businesses, and all of us have a responsibility to make the most of this moment to create a greener and safer commute for all.
“We need to enable those who can travel by bike to choose cycling in order to ease the pressure on public transport and create space for those for whom cycling is not an option. That means cycling must be a viable alternative wherever possible. Helping more people to get around by bike will ensure they do not turn to driving to work, which would be a terrible backwards step for the environment and the fitness of the country. Cycling can help create a greener, fitter and healthier nation, and at this time of real change for the country, now more than ever we know that cycling can be a force for good.”
The research also revealed several barriers which are stopping people from cycling more. 44% of UK adults said quieter cycle routes would encourage them to get more active on their bike, as well as less vehicle traffic on the roads (42%) and more cycle lanes (39%).
As well as cycling infrastructure, many respondents highlighted initiatives their employer could provide to encourage them to cycle more post lockdown, such as better bike storage facilities (37%) and better facilities at work for showering (36%). Confidence is still a major issue, with 15% revealing that not being confident in their cycling ability was their main barrier to cycling more. A further 12% did not feel there are enough dedicated cycling lanes or facilities nearby.
Luke Harper, head of British Cycling partnership, HSBC UK, added: “The lockdown period has, unsurprisingly, had a huge impact on how people across the UK expect to commute to work both now and in the future. As and when our staff begin to travel to work we hope as many as possible choose to cycle, both for their own personal health and so we can continue to work towards our goal of creating a greener, fitter, healthier nation.
“Employers have a part to play in helping their employees choose cycling as a way to travel to work by providing the right support and facilities. HSBC UK has several initiatives to encourage our staff to cycle to work when they return, including free liability insurance through the British Cycling membership, a subsidised cycle to work scheme, staff cycle clubs and advice on how to cycle safely on the roads to help with their confidence.
“However, employers cannot tackle all the barriers to cycling alone. As the nation returns to work it is important that the correct cycling infrastructure continues to be introduced to encourage more commuters to get onto two wheels.”
British Cycling’s #ChooseCycling campaign aims to support commuters, communities and councils to help more people get around by bike, with specific advice and guidance for those looking to commute to work by bike available at britishcycling.org.uk/commuting.
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