Desire to stay fit and improve mental health drive lockdown cycling boom

53% of cyclists have cycled more since lockdowns started in March 2020, according to new research, with the cycling boom driven by a desire to stay fit, improve mental health and spend time with loved ones.

In addition, 57% of people who were considering taking up cycling before the pandemic did so during lockdown, and now that lockdown has eased, people want to keep cycling for exercise (82%), to improve their mental health (73%), to spend time with friends and family (63%) and to cycle to work (51%).

The findings come from research conducted by Cyclescheme, part of Blackhawk Network, looking into how the pandemic has affected cycling habits ahead of today’s annual Cycle to Work Day.

Much of the population used the various lockdowns as an opportunity to get back into the saddle. Almost two thirds (65%) of frequent cyclists took their bikes out more often during the pandemic. In addition, over a third (35%) of less frequent cyclists used the various lockdowns as an opportunity for more bike rides.

On average, cyclists report getting out three times a week for 14 miles per week on average. The research also found that:
– Yorkshire and Humberside is the region with the most committed cyclists; 10% of locals cycle every day compared to 2% of people in Wales and the South East respectively
– 8% of males cycle every day compared to 2% of females
– 13% of cyclists in the North East clock up over 50 miles a week. This figure drops to 1% of cyclists in the South East and South West

Despite the proven health and mental wellbeing benefits, this cycling boom is ‘at risk’ of coming to an end now lockdown has eased. Many cyclists anticipate running out of motivation, according to the research, with over a third (35%) citing a lack of willpower as a barrier to cycling now lockdown has eased. Londoners are less concerned about motivation: only a quarter (26%) of cyclists in the capital see it as a barrier as opposed to 42% of people in the East Midlands.

Accessibility is another issue when it comes to maintaining the cycling boom. Two fifths (41%) of people who are considering taking up cycling would make the leap if discounted bikes and accessories were available. Finally, safety concerns need to be managed if we want to keep Britain cycling. Almost half (49%) of respondents would be more likely to cycle if they had access to safer routes. Over half (55%) agree that more cycle lanes should be a top priority for local councils.

Former Olympic athlete Derek Redmond said: “Lockdown has been difficult, so it is inspiring to see how many people have found positives and turned to hobbies like cycling over the last 18 months. As an avid cyclist myself, I’m especially pleased to see people are taking to their bikes as a way to keep fit and stay active.

“Not only that, but it’s a fantastic way to get the family involved in the sport while spending time precious time together. Don’t let a lack of motivation undo all the gains that we have made; let’s keep on cycling!”

Adrian Warren, director at Cyclescheme and chair of the Cycle to Work Alliance, added: “I’m delighted to see that the pandemic has encouraged more people to get cycling, but we need to keep it up! Exercise is hugely beneficial for our physical and mental health as a nation, but we know that motivation can dip when life gets busy.

“The key is to incorporate cycling into your lifestyle – for example, cycling to work or socialising by going on bike rides with family and friends. We also encourage people to look at initiatives such as Cyclescheme, an employee benefit that saves riders 25-39% on a bike and accessories.”

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