The global coronavirus pandemic is developing so quickly that no-one, including those in positions of authority, can accurately predict what is going to happen next.
But with each day it seems more likely that one consequence for larger cities will be at least a temporary increase in the percentage of commuting trips done by bicycle.
This will be more noticeable amongst commuters who work or study in the centres of cities where a large number of them would usually catch public transport such as trains, buses, trams or ferries.
In Australia the ranking of commuter numbers using public transport per city in descending order is Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide.
Not every worker can work from home. With the virus spreading, fewer commuters will want to be sharing confined trains, buses, trams and ferries with large numbers of strangers, some who may unknowingly be already infected.
With car parking already both scarce and prohibitively expensive in most major cities, driving to the city in particular won’t be a viable option for many and this is why party bicycle commuting could increase.
However all of these trends are being offset by ever increasingly stringent shut down provisions meaning that the total number of people commuting has shrunk dramatically. Not to mention huge numbers of workers either losing their jobs entirely, or being required to work fewer days.
A New York Times article published on 14th March has already reported a surge in bicycle commuting despite the weather there still being cold. The evidence of a cycling boom is not just anecdotal, but thanks to their Citi Bike share program publishing data, can be measured. For the 12 days from 1st March to 11th March, bike share demand has increased by 67% to 517,768 drips compared to 310,132 trips for the same days in 2019. However numbers appeared to have softened in the second half of March as the lock down takes hold.
Electronic bicycle counters are also measuring a surge. On 9th March 2020 there were 21,300 bicycle crossings over the four East River bridges, up 52% from the same day one year ago. Once again, numbers have fallen since then, but probably not as far as other forms of commuting, particularly via public transport.
Meanwhile Chicago’s Divvy Bike share scheme has seen a 105% increase for the period 1st – 11th March with 80,112 trips this year compared to 40,078 trips for the same period last year.
Elsewhere, the Danish government is urging more commuters to ride bikes to work and school during the coronavirus outbreak to minimise its spread.
There is also anecdotal evidence of indoor trainer sales dramatically increasing. Although there is no firm data, it appears that every wholesaler has sold out and as this is a global trend, combined with factory slow downs it will be difficult to get enough replacement stock to meet demand any time soon.
If you notice any signs of changing patterns of bicycle commuting or recreational cycling in your city then please leave a comment below or Contact Us.