During the coronavirus pandemic, local and national authorities are increasing efforts to promote cycling. But why?
- Efficiency: With new variants of the coronavirus reaching our shores, less people are using public transport, either because of official restrictions, or reluctance to risk health inside a crowded bus. If all the former public transport passengers switch to cars, our cities will return to being huge permanent gridlocks. Permanent cycling infrastructure will combat this, the Liffey Cycling route is a step in the right direction!
- Health. The consequences of an infection with the novel coronavirus are more severe with certain pre-existing conditions, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular diseases. Regular cycling is a way to address many of these and, therefore, to reduce the risk of becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. At the same time, reducing car traffic means lower air pollution, which also helps to keep the lungs healthy, and can make a difference between life and death if infected.
- Green Spaces. Lockdowns, by reducing car traffic, caused massive drops in noise and air pollution. You could hear the birds, talk without shouting, breathe with pleasure, also in the middle of the city. Many waterfronts were reclaimed from car traffic, parks expanded to neighbouring streets. This is one of the aspects of the lockdowns people liked and they are not so enthusiastic to go back to the “old normal” – noisy and toxic. This is also a powerful motivation to make the measures permanent, as in the case of Phoenix Park in Dublin.
- Finances. Luckily, cycling is a very cheap mode of transport, both in terms of infrastructure needed, and in terms of later exploitation. On average, a kilometre cycled instead of taking a car or a bus can bring a saving up to 1 euro. For young commuters, cycling offers a solution to perpetually rising car insurance rates.
- Boosting the economy. Shops of all kinds need space for waiting outside, to avoid overcrowding inside. Many for example groceries, can also use the space, to present their products. Therefore, on many shopping streets, even in small towns and villages, street space is being redistributed to enlarge footpaths or allow pedestrians to use the whole width of the street.
- Kickstarting tourism. Many people do not travel far for this summer holiday. The bicycle offers an excellent way to rediscover your country or the one just across the border. This is the thinking behind initiatives like Let’s Cycle Ireland which has a collection of Ireland’s best leisure cycling routes, for all abilities and all budgets!
- Restarting gastronomy. The distancing rules and common sense dictate more space for tables outside cafés and restaurants. Can you imagine a fully pedestrianised College Green Plaza? It’s not that hard to picture! As a country we need to do our incredible culinary scene justice, by providing comfortable and safe outdoor dining options.