By Tom Hares, CEO and co-founder, Buzzbike
We’re all too aware of how the coronavirus pandemic has radically disrupted the lives of people living and working in the UK. Perhaps more than any event before it, the lockdown has required us to reconfigure our idea of cities and, in particular, the way we get around them. It’s clear that commuter habits are set to change and, with cycling at the forefront of this transport revolution, the ‘new normal’ stands every chance of being a greener normal. There remains, however, the opportunity for the cycling industry to play a far bigger role in this narrative than it currently is. In order to become an even greater part of this green transformation, the cycling world needs to address its own environmental impact.
The rise of cycling
Many have adopted alternative methods of travel as an immediate response to the dangers of using public transport during the pandemic; the abrupt change has only served to highlight how behind our cities are in terms of accommodating cycling. Unlike most European capitals, the cycling culture and systems of UK cities are largely underdeveloped, making it an option for only a small group of commuters.
Yet, in recent weeks, bike lanes have been popping up everywhere and more people than ever have been getting into cycling, many for the first time. As the streets begin to be reimagined to meet the increasing demands of a cycling public, the Government has pledged £2 billion to improve existing infrastructure and top businesses have called for the pandemic recovery efforts to have an environmental focus.
With the backing of both Government and business, achieving a greener normal should be within our grasp. Cycling enjoys a wealth of environmental benefits, so it’s only right that it be looked to as the answer to a more sustainable commute. But promoting cycling as an exemplary green alternative is somewhat undermined by the fact that the cycling industry itself is long overdue for a sustainable shake-up.
What a greener normal means for the cycling industry
Making a standard bike is an energy-intensive process. Add to that the tyres, lights, and then shipping these products around the world. It seems so wasteful that many bikes are then left to deteriorate in sheds up and down the country.
The makeup of cycling products is derived from a need for function, durability and, above all, safety, but technology has developed such that these can remain priorities while still finding more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Some cycling brands such as Green Oil and Presca Teamware are pursuing such efforts, placing sustainability at the core of what they do. There’s been a clear shift in the public consciousness within the last few years that we have been slow to follow; it’s now time to catch up and enable consumers to make greener choices when cycling.
There is so much to be celebrated about this recent surge in cycling; it has demonstrated that there is a real opportunity for a green future, and by reassessing our ethics, practices and supply chains, cycling can really lead the change that is to come.