Last week, British retailer Halfords said that “underlying sales of cycling goods surged 59.1% in the 20 weeks to Aug. 21, as people continued to shy away from public transport.”
Until recently, the main reason for encouraging people to use bikes was to fight pollution. Nowadays, bicycles are recommended as a measure to reduce private vehicle use and ease public transport.
Cycling has never felt more relevant or encouraged in the UK. Since May, the London Councils have upgraded 60 km of bike lanes throughout the capital city, added 20,000 sq metres of extra pavement space, and installed 1,500+ additional cycle parking spaces.
These additional facilities have not been the only incentives for Londoners to start cycling more. Transport for London (TfL) has also launched a creative campaign to promote a car-free city. Until Sept. 22 (World Car Free Day), Londoners are being encouraged to share a photo or video of their car-free journeys on social media.
To enter a giveaway competition, all they need to do is use the hashtag #MyCarFreeTrip, tag @transporforlondon. Prizes vary from 10 pairs of London underground socks to a GoPro camera bundle to an electric Brompton Bicycle.
TfL is determined to help Londoners to include more car-free rides into their regular commutes. Aside from these measures and marketing campaigns, TfL has also created a free bicycle course to aid people in becoming more confident cyclists. This became an objective as they found out that many Londoners were reluctant to cycle in the city due to concerns about negotiating traffic on a bike.
Another idea that contributed to this objective was the TfL Go App. This acts as a journey planner that enables London residents to plan more walking and cycling routes to work and other destinations.
While London seems to be the most active city when it comes to bike use encouragement, different initiatives have sprung up all over the UK.
For instance, the Fix Your Bike Voucher Scheme took place in over 1,300 locations across England. The British government started this scheme earlier this year to reduce the number of short journeys made by private cars. It also aimed to get more people to embrace cycling. The scheme offers a £50 voucher towards repairing any unused bike. The number of coupons was limited, and no more than two vouchers per household could be claimed. Yet, the government encouraged everyone to plan the repair of their bicycles and apply for the scheme.
This initiative has proven a great success, as the first batch of vouchers were scooped up right away. At the moment, people are waiting for the second round of the scheme to be launched.
Another successful initiative has been the Big Bike Revival campaign. In 2018, it reached over 40,000 people in England alone, who benefited from 1,077 free events such as leading bike rides, fixing bike hubs, and teaching workshops.
The campaign objective was to incentivise people with access to bikes but who didn’t cycle, to start pedalling — almost half of the population (42%). The results were encouraging across England. The program inspired 7,334 non-regular cyclists to increase their cycling activity and 20,908 people reported they exercised more after the programme.
While the UK hasn’t moved away from the automotive culture, its efforts are reaching steadily towards a more bike-friendly society.