Big delays as bike shops 'struggling to keep up' with Yorkshire cycling craze

People in Yorkshire are being encouraged to hop on their bikes to make the most of the quiet roads, as figures show cycling has risen 40 per cent since lockdown began and it could be set to continue after it has finished.

Cycling has risen by 40 per cent since lockdown began but North Yorkshire Police warned cyclists to be careful on the countys 6,000 miles of roads as accidents have risen as drivers have taken less care and been more likely to speed. Pic: Tony Johnson

Retailers in the region are reporting a large increase in sales as local councils create additional bike paths and introduce new schemes to get people on their bikes.

Car traffic has fallen to 1950s levels over the last month, as people have fewer reasons to get in their cars.

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However, Google searches for bike shops have doubled since lockdown began, with York fourth in the UK for number of searches for local cycle retailers.

Cycle mechanic Sid Manson from York Cycleworks said the shop has been three or four times busier than normal.

He said: “We’re struggling to keep up and we’re now booking two weeks in advance. It’s a mixture of regulars and people who are getting their bikes out of their sheds taking advantage of the roads being quieter.

“Let’s hope it continues after lockdown as people find they enjoy cycling. It’s brilliant news for everyone.”

Cyclescheme, a scheme where employees can save money on the cost of a bike or accessories by buying it through their workplace, said the number of applications for bikes in the UK has gone up by 27 per cent since lockdown began. The number of employers taking up the scheme has more than doubled.

“It seems that people are wary of getting back on public transport after lockdown so are investing in a bike,” a staff member told the Yorkshire Post.

Last week, research by Ipsos MORI found three in five Britons would feel uncomfortable using public transport.

Peter Mildon, chief operating officer at Vivacity Labs, which analyses transport use, said bike use dropped the first two weekends after lockdown but has increased enormously.

He said: “We’ve seen an average 40 per cent increase in cycling in the areas we’re monitoring.

“The big spikes in cycling come in more residential areas, local centres and roads leading out of town to green space.

“As soon as shops in this area start to re-open, we will see whether cycling is actually up as a form of transport, rather than just for exercise!”

Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, encouraged everyone who is physically able to take advantage of lockdown to walk and cycle, within government guidelines.

She said: “Active travel is a great way to get around and has long-term health benefits. Cycling also enables people to get from A to B without having to to be in close proximity.”

The council has installed a new cycle lane using “orca wands” - temporary bollards - on one of the city’s busiest streets as part of a pilot programme.

Coun Mulherin said: “People have asked in the past if we could put traffic cones there for cyclists as it can be a very busy and congested corridor. The orca wands are more robust and offer a much greater degree of safety.”

Bradford, Sheffield and York have also implemented schemes.

However, North Yorkshire Police warned cyclists to be careful on the county’s 6,000 miles of roads as accidents have risen as drivers have taken less care and been more likely to speed.

Major Collision Investigation Sergeant Kirsten Aldridge said: “While North Yorkshire roads are quieter, there are still lots of things cyclists need to be mindful of.

“Firstly, quieter roads have led to some drivers dramatically exceeding the speed limit. While we’re trying to enforce this as widely as possible, it puts cyclists and pedestrians at significant risk.

“Secondly, the government measures make it clear that cyclists need to practice social distancing and should only ride alone or with people from the same household. Please remember that, as our officers are out on patrol ensuring people follow these rules.

“Finally, we’d remind drivers that they should always expect the unexpected around each corner, especially at the moment, and pass cyclists at a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when it is safe to do so.”

North Yorkshire Police has also noticed that many new cyclists are taking to the road, including families with children who have started cycling as their one-a-day form of exercise.

This comes as research from Cycling UK and Leeds University has found there are 20 miles worth of roads in Leeds and Sheffield that have potential to be developed into temporary cycle lanes.

The findings are part of research that showed a million people could become cycle commuters in the UK if just 100 miles of roads had better cycling infrastructure.

Dr Robin Lovelace, associate professor of transport data science at Leeds University, who conducted the research said: “As this research based on the data, local knowledge and the wider evidence base shows, there’s a massive potential to get the UK moving safely as we begin to transition out of lockdown.

“Active transport interventions supported by our analysis could help UK’s economic recovery by allowing people to take key trips by healthy and affordable modes while practicing social distancing.

“Active transport uptake now will also mean our cities have better air quality and safer roads in the longer term.”