Of the many pandemic pastimes — baking bread, raising chickens or cutting your own hair — one that needs reintegration into whatever “normal” becomes is the surge in bike riding.
In 2020, when people began staying and working at home to reduce spread of COVID-19, cycling became a safe way to get outside for exercise. Gyms were closed. Biking was the go-to exercise, a pastime all the more fun because so few cars were on the road. Bikes ruled.
Tooling around on two wheels became so popular that bikes couldn’t be found. Shops sold out. No wonder, with sales up 120 percent over the previous year’s totals early in the pandemic, according to the Washington Post. Bike repair shops couldn’t always locate the parts to fix up old bikes. Everyone wanted to be atop a bike.
But biking is more than a way to exercise. It’s also is a way to move from point A to point B, traveling in a manner that helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decreases vehicle traffic.
For some, biking allows them the ability to get around without having to buy a car or purchase gas. It’s more affordable.
A key to creating cities where people can bike to work or pleasure, though, is to ensure riders are safe and don’t feel endangered by cars and trucks.
In Santa Fe, where people ride bikes to and from work despite the traffic, there long has been an effort to encourage sharing the road.
It’s part of the city’s campaign to become more sustainable. Santa Fe County also has pledged to support bicycle transportation as a key to sustainability.
The city has created bike trails. It has created lanes so cyclists can be protected from vehicle traffic. The goal is to develop a network of trails that connect neighborhoods with places of employment, plus parks, schools, shopping and other services across Santa Fe.
City trails also connect with those in Santa Fe County, an important link. This is a countywide effort, one that needs further support and infrastructure.
Simply put, the goal is straightforward: Anyone who wants to use a bike for transportation — not simply recreation — can do that here.
The surge in biking during the coronavirus pandemic likely will stick around. As people return to work in offices or stores, at least some of them are going to want to use their bikes to travel to and from work.
Lessons learned from the pandemic about transportation can help in the transition as we open up. Across the globe, some 291 cities, regions and nations created people-friendly street initiatives. Called the Slow Streets movement, the initiative sought to allow people to explore their neighborhoods by walking, jogging or biking.
Understanding that most car trips are close to home — 46 percent of vehicle trips in the U.S. are less than three miles — the idea is to save cars for longer journeys and encourage alternative transportation when possible.
In Europe, where cycling already is popular, cities such as Paris and Rome repurposed roads to create additional bike lanes during the pandemic. Across France, the government is helping towns and cities make pop-up bike lanes permanent. Some countries are offering subsidies to help individuals refurbish bikes or buy electric scooters.
Closer to home, our leaders can keep working to reduce reliance on cars and trucks offers by continuing to support bike trails and building dedicated lines — separated by a barrier on larger roads — to make it safer and easier to commute by bike.
Employers can encourage bike commuting and the federal government can provide tax incentives to employers who support cyclists. Cities also can offer bike-sharing programs, known to increase the number of people who commute. These programs allow bike rentals for a short period at low cost.
Policy, in other words, can affect individual actions. That momentum, in turn, can create a healthier community, one where cycling becomes an important transportation component and a way to improve fitness.
There are lessons to be learned — and applied — from life during the pandemic. Let’s keep the bike enthusiasm rolling.