By: Andy Lambert, Global Sales Manager
Never have human beings needed an outlet for physical and mental health more than we do right now. Few have ever experienced a global health crisis where one of the most effective means of fighting back is to stay home and stay away from public gatherings. Don’t shake hands, hug or kiss anyone. Now isn’t a great time to be on the dating scene. An intentional depravity of human physical connection runs counter to our very nature of being Homo Sapiens. All of this makes the fight against the Covid-19 virus (and future pandemics) a daunting mental challenge, especially since no one knows what the time horizon is on this thing. Many are finding the “new normal” of social distancing/distant socializing and dealing with various degrees of “shelter in place” orders anxiety-inducing. Never have human beings needed a bike ride more than we do right now.
As public transit ridership slows, safe infrastructure for walking and biking become more important.
As of this writing, New York City has the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the United States. While the number of infected people continues to grow, something interesting is happening with respect to how people are getting around the city: bikes are booming. On March 12th Citi Bike announced that the number of paid rides are up 67% compared to a year ago. On March 13th, Grist reported a 50% increase in ridership at bridges connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn and Queens compared to March of 2019. As ridership increased, the number of motor vehicles on the road dropped by 15 percent during rush-hour traffic this week compared to the same time last year. New York City isn’t alone in this boom, other cities are seeing a surge in bicycle ridership which highlights the importance of protecting access to bicycles for transportation and recreation.
If this trend of more people choosing cycling rather than public transportation or driving a car continues, we will need the essential infrastructure to support this mode shift. Bicycle shops and service centers need to be classified as essential businesses that support a basic transportation option. On March 19th, Santa Clara County declared that bike repair shops will be treated as an essential business (the same as auto repair shops) because they are necessary to facilitate essential travel and remain open during their “shelter in place” order.
The cost of owning and maintaining a car dwarfs the cost of owning a cargo bike, especially considering the physical and mental benefits of cycling compared to driving.
In the U.K., a bicycle trade association known as the Bicycle Association is calling for government to treat cycling as a “strategic industry” amid growing concerns of Covid-19 spreading among the population. A list of 30 leading experts in health and transportation throughout England, Scotland and Ireland signed a joint letter delivered to Government officials that outlines the social and public health benefits of promoting walking and biking for recreation and transportation since both activities align with social distancing recommendations.
The myriad physical and mental health benefits of walking and cycling need to be protected by allowing recreation (at a safe social distance) to happen in a city even if a Shelter in Place type of order is declared. The Director of the National Institute of Allergies & Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is a workaholic and serious runner. He has relied on running and other daily exercise throughout his distinguished career for the stress relieving and immune system support benefits that come from daily exercise. Currently, he has taken to walking several miles on the weekends since dealing with a pandemic forces one to adjust their schedule.
In times of crisis, being able to do something about it often makes us feel better. Taking care of your body and mind whether through physical activity such as walking and cycling, or even prayer, and meditation are extremely helpful. As our communities face this challenge together, let’s make sure we support each other and ourselves by protecting access to essential infrastructure, services and support systems. Call your State Governor’s office right now and ask them to classify bicycle shops as an essential business that your community relies on because #bicyclesareessential