Global Move to Increase Cycling has Accelerated Due to Covid-19

Lately there has hardly been a day go by without another city or nation somewhere around the world announcing temporary cycle lanes, increased cycling infrastructure funding and other steps aimed at facilitating more cycling.

In this article we’ll give a brief summary of some of the latest developments.

United Kingdom

U.K. transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced what he calls a ‘once in a generation’ £2 billion (A$3.78 billion) plan to boost cycling and walking both during and after the lockdown.

It starts with £250 million (A$472 million) to enable local authorities to pay for ‘pop-up’ cycling and walking infrastructure to cater for physical distancing during lockdown.

The £2 billion is not new funding, it is part of the £5 billion in new funding announced for cycling and buses in February. However, the language used by Shapps in the briefing—as well as a raft of unexpected announcements—are very much novel.

“When the country gets back to work, we need them to carry on cycling, and to be joined by millions more,” wrote Shapps.

“With public transport capacity reduced, the roads in our largest cities, in particular, may not be able to cope without it.”

“Towns and cities based around active travel will have happier and healthier citizens as well as lasting local economic benefits.

“The government therefore expects local authorities to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians.

“Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect.”

“Millions of people have discovered the benefits of active travel. There’s been a 70% rise in the number of people on bikes whether it’s for exercise, or necessary journeys, such as stocking up on food. We need those people to carry on cycling and walking, and to be joined by many more.”

Meanwhile UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the UK parliament on 6th May that the near future, “…should be a new golden age for cycling.”

Mr Johnson is expected to make a major announcement giving more details in June.

In response to the first announcement by Minister Shapps, former champion cyclist turned prominent cycling advocate Chris Boardman said, “We have never seen anything like this before. More important than cash, the government has given cycling as a mode of transport a new status, not for ideological reasons but for practical ones, it’s the most logical solution to short-term problems and then, if we choose, it’ll help us tackle long-term ones,”

Information for this article came from several sources including Cycling Industry News, Cycling Weekly, London Cycling Campaign and the official media release.


On Friday 15th May the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced that large areas of London are to be closed to cars and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely as the coronavirus lockdown is eased.

The plan will see a network of major city streets and iconic bridges including London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge closed to cars and open to cyclists pedestrians and buses only.

London is also increasing their vehicle congestion charge from £11.50 (A$21.60) to £15 (A$28.20). This is electronically recorded based upon a number plate recognition system and payable every time a motorist drives into the city centre between designated hours of the day, which are also being extended along with a raft of other measures designed to increase cycling and walking.

Tokyo, Japan

Tokyo has seen a surge in commuter cycling, as residents try to avoid close contact with others in their usually crowded public transportation system.

According to a major bike seller in the city, half of its customers who have come to buy bikes appropriate for city riding over the last month have said they’re worried about the virus and want to use them to get to work.

A 54-year-old woman employed at one local company said, “Normally I take the train, but I changed to riding a bicycle two weeks ago because I’m scared of the coronavirus.”

From The Mainichi, Japan’s National Daily Newspaper.

Rome & Milan, Italy

In the first week of May, Rome’s city council approved the construction of 150 kilometers of temporary and permanent cycle routes on the city’s main streets and along other key routes.

With the Italian capital only beginning to emerge from a long and intense lockdown, local authorities consider cycling an effective way for residents to remain mobile whilst adhering to the physical distancing rules in place to combat COVID-19.

The steps taken to support cycling have numerous benefits, as Virginia Raggi, Mayor of Rome attests, “by encouraging active mobility, we will be able to limit the use of cars and reduce the strain on public transport.”

Meanwhile the prosperous northern Italian city of Milan was one of the first to announce an ambitious plan to reduce car usage and increase cycling and walking, transforming 35 kilometres of city streets for the summer and introducing 30kph speed limits.

Rome information from Civitas 2020

Paris, France

Paris is taking possibly the most comprehensive action of any global city, creating a vast citywide network of cycling lanes. In a separate, longer term announcement, Paris also plans to remove over two thirds of its on street car parking spaces.

“There’s a positive aspect of this horror,” said Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of Paris. “Never has the city been less polluted. Parisians have much appreciated it, and I think there will be strong changes in the behaviour of people, in terms of movement.”


Cities across Canada led by Vancouver in the west and Montreal in the east are reassigning streets for pedestrians and bicycles.

Montreal is transforming a few hundred kilometres of city streets into bicycle and pedestrian corridors to help residents get around amid COVID-19 public health rules.

The city announced mid-May that nearly 200 kilometres of reconfigured roads will be turned into a temporary, safe, active transport circuit, given many Montrealers may be confined to the city this summer.


A growing number of cities from New York across to San Francisco are closing some streets to cars, reducing speed limits in others and creating pop-up cycle lanes.

Other cities that have already taken action include Boston, Minneapolis, Burlington, Philadelphia and Oakland.

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