Coronavirus in Scotland: Cycling boom as number of cyclists increased in lockdown

The number of people cycling in Scotland increased in almost every month of the last year as lockdown restrictions led to a boom in biking, according to a national organisation.

Cycling boom in Scotland as number of cyclists spike over Covid lockdowns picture: JPI Media

Cycling Scotland uses a network of 47 automatic cycle counters across the country to compile data on biking.

It found there were 47% more cycling journeys recorded between March 23 2020 and March 22 2021 compared with the same period in 2019­–2020.

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There were increases of 68% in April, 77% in May, 63% in June, 44% in July and 33% in August, compared with the same months in 2019.

September saw a rise of 32%, followed by October (22%), November (7%) and December (4%).

In January 2021, cycling numbers decreased 14% – which the charity attributes to bad winter weather – before a rise of 20% in February.

The statistics show the number of people cycling in the first three weeks of March was up 52% on the same period last year, which came prior to the coronavirus lockdown.

Spikes of more than 100% were recorded over the year in Girvan, Callander and Dunoon.

Cycling Scotland said the figures were a bright spot in a “horrendous year” but called for more investment in infrastructure.

The charity’s chief executive Keith Irving said: “It has been a horrendous year, but one of the few bright spots has been more people getting back on their bikes.

“Cycling has a key role to play in people getting exercise and fresh air, managing the ongoing pressure on our transport system and, crucially, tackling the global climate emergency we face.

“We’re delighted at the massive increase in cycling and it’s vital we see it continue and expand.”

He added: “To get even more people cycling, we need to invest more in infrastructure so people feel safe to cycle.

“We need more dedicated cycle lanes, separated from vehicles and pedestrians. We need to reduce traffic, especially on residential and shopping streets. And we need to increase access to bikes and storage to tackle the barriers too many people face so anyone, anywhere can enjoy all the benefits of cycling.”

Claire Sharp, a charity worker who lives on Glasgow’s south side, started cycling again last year.

She said: “I live next to a main road that leads into the city centre to my work; it’s an easy route but the traffic there is so heavy. I was too scared to attempt it in the past.

“I knew lockdown was going to happen and thought it would be good to get a bike. Partly as the roads would be quiet, which would be good for a beginner, and also for exercise as the gyms would be closed. Luckily, I managed to get one the weekend before lockdown started.

“Apart from being able to get out and exercise, it’s improved my mental health as it’s given me confidence to do something I didn’t think I could do. It’s made me feel empowered.”

Asif Sattar, 45, an IT worker from Motherwell, said: “Cycling was a way for me to break free of the lockdown gloom.

“As I was working from home, getting out on my bike helped me exercise, clear the mind and refocus on my health during the pandemic.”

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