Due to climate change and the global pandemic we are experiencing, it is no wonder that cycling has become so popular over the last few months. Globally governments have encouraged the use of bicycles as a healthier mode of transport.
Climate change is a persisting transformation that needs to be slowed dramatically and quickly. Cycling cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions by reducing noise and air pollution levels. It also reduces congestion with less gridlock traffic during rush hours. With more cycle lanes being signed off every year, this has increased the number of cyclists on the roads and meant people are abandoning the expense of running cars.
To encourage more people to dust off their riding skills, many cities around the world have increased their cycle lane capacities. This extension has been crucial in encouraging all ages to feel safe in cycling on busy city roads. Before lockdown, city roads in London were notorious for being packed at all hours of the day, but particularly during rush hours, few cyclists felt comfortable riding alongside cars and buses.
However, London Mayor and planning agencies have fast-tracked new cycle routes and widened pavements to encourage more cyclists to ditch their cars for bicycles. The government has also introduced a fix your bike voucher scheme to encourage the use of older bikes being mended. With social distancing set to last until the end of this year, cycling will allow people to travel without fear of coming into unnecessary contact with large volumes of people. Notably as lockdown is eased, more workers are likely to be encouraged to head back to the office, so cycling is an efficient and healthy way to travel.
Not only is cycling helping to reduce pollution, but it is also a great way to stay fit. As many people have taken up new sports during lockdown, cycling should be the next on your list. Over the past few weeks, the Prime Minister has launched a new family fitness scheme to encourage more people to work out. This new initiative has started due to the recent links between increased risks of covid-19 and obesity.
Obesity is linked to a list of health issues, primarily including heart and circulatory problems. But now studies covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland from the Intensive Care National Audit Research Centre suggest that at least two-thirds of people who have fallen seriously ill with covid-19 were overweight or obese. The OpenSAFELY collaborative also found an increasing risk of death concerning how obese people were. Therefore, cycling is a perfect solution to getting healthier while also staying safe during this global pandemic.
As well as physical health, mental health can also significantly be increased. As lockdown is eased, mental health is beginning to improve as fewer people are reportedly suffering from anxiety. As of the third week of June, 49% of the population had felt anxious or worried in the past two weeks due to the pandemic, down from 62% in mid-March. However, many people are still struggling, and these are possible long-term effects of the pandemic. Proven to help reduce stress hormone levels that can make it difficult to sleep, cycling is ideal for relaxing after a busy day at work. This relaxing and rejuvenating sport is excellent to encourage creative thinking time too with uniform movement encouraging relaxation.
The UK should follow the Netherlands’ footsteps, which has just built one of the largest bicycle garages in Europe. The Hague parking is bright and modern, with space for 8,000 bicycles. Visitors can check in using OV chip cards, which is the public transit payment method in the Netherlands. This space encourages a new form of public transport better for the planet and our health.
Similar to this scheme London introduced ‘Boris Bikes’ in July 2010. As the government has increased congestion charges in London, more people are looking for alternative ways to travel. With over 750 docking stations around central London and more than 11,500 bicycles, you will be sure to find one ready and waiting for you. These bicycles are perfect for travel to work or even a fun addition to days out. With London filled with green parks and spaces, you don’t have to stick to the road. My favourite route has to be from Hyde Park through the royal parks to St James Park.
Cycling is emerging as part of the ‘new normal’. With more people prioritising their health, buying or renting bicycles is becoming a travel norm.
Unlike many sports, cycling does not require contact with others or access to a gym. All you need is a bike and a helmet. I can only encourage you to join this rising trend, you’ll be helping your health and the environment into the bargain.
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