Experts back bike industry call for government to protect cycling as "strategic industry"

Bicycle Association asks government not to "inadvertently" ban cycling or close essential bike shops in COVID-19 response...

The cycling industry is calling for government to treat cycling as a ‘strategic industry’ and a tool for resilience during any potential ‘lock down’ in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, by excluding cycling from any transport bans and exempting bike shops from business closures.

The Bicycle Association says it doesn’t want cycling ‘inadvertently banned’ if transport is limited to restrict the spread of the virus. It says cycling has an essential role to play in both transport and exercise, and that cycle shops should be allowed to continue operating, to keep people riding.

The call follows a joint letter to government from 30 leading experts in health and transport advising policymakers “protect the right to walk and cycle safely (from risk of infection and traffic injury) for those who are not symptomatic”. 

The Bicycle Association’s Steve Garidis told road.cc: “Cycling has a huge role in the UK’s resilience against Coronavirus in terms of mobility and health and wellbeing because we can still exercise on a bike in relative isolation.”

“The bike industry is going to play a strategic role to keep people cycling,” he added. “To close all bike shops, or not exempt them from closure, would be a mistake. We would urge government to keep bike shops open because they maintain an important lifeline for mobility and health.”

“Ideally what we want to make sure is that cycling doesn’t get inadvertently banned and cycle shops don’t get caught up in some mass edict.”

Both Italy and Spain banned cycling in the past week. The UK may follow other countries in imposing further restrictions on people’s movements as the virus spreads.

Anecdotally, Garidis says, some bike shops have reported increased demand for repairs, and parts and accessory sales, potentially as people prepare for restrictions to other modes of transport.

The joint letter from the Bicycle Association, which represents 70+ leading companies in the UK cycle industry, says not only regular bicycles but cargo bikes could be vital in transporting people and goods, as well as giving people access to the countryside, in a restricted everyday travel scenario. 

The letter, titled COVID-19 and the UK cycle industry: Bicycle Association position statement, reads:

In the extraordinary current circumstances, bicycles and cycling will play a key role in maintaining local transport resilience in the UK, and for the population to maintain fitness and wellbeing without risking the health of others. The risk of infection when cycling at a good distance from others is very low.

For those who must still commute, or for shopping trips, cycling is a lower risk option than using public transport, where social distancing may be hard to maintain.

Furthermore, cargo bikes, and in fact any bike adapted to carry luggage, are a vital tool for resilient last mile deliveries, particularly of food. Cycle use can be ramped up fast, at low cost, for example for food outlets moving to a delivery model.

All of this essential cycle use depends on a reliable infrastructure of local bike shops, and their supply chains, to keep bicycles working and in good repair, and to provide the accessories needed to cycle safely and in all weathers.

For this reason we urge Government to recognise that the cycle industry is a strategic industry, especially during the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Government must ensure that lockdown policy measures recognise and safeguard the cycle industry’s continued operation as a strategic part of UK transport resilience.

The official advice is that you can still go outside for a walk, run, cycle - or any other way you normally get active outside - provided you are doing it in a way that meets the latest guidance on social distancing and advice on unnecessary social contact, found here.

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