The Perfect Storm – COVID-19 Should Influence Communities to be more Bicycle Friendly

The COVID-19 virus has impacted many of our lives like never before. Social distancing, stay at home orders, and the threat of catching the virus has forced us to rethink what is important. Families are spending more time together, neighbors are getting to know neighbors and many of us have returned to a simpler routine, perhaps more similar to how we grew up.

There's been a number of positive effects due to the pandemic related to bike ridership. Traffic congestion is down which has made many communities safer for bike riders. a number of communities across the country have chosen to implement "slow street" policies. These traffic calming policies are providing a more equitable and safe environment for cyclists, walkers, runners and families in general. Bike ridership has exploded. Local bike shops will tell you they are overwhelmed with new bike sales and service. Passive parks, greenways, and mountain bike trails are in high demand and experiencing record numbers of users.

COVID-19 is a perfect storm for forcing communities to become more bicycle friendly, to invest in passive recreation projects, and to become better stewards of local tax dollars.

More cyclists are out and visible. We're not talking about $5000 road bikes and spandex, but families, teens, and small children are riding through neighborhoods, on sidewalks, across crosswalks, and on available bike trails. It's a matter of public safety to implement traffic calming policies where possible to keep locals safe. The implementation of traffic calming, bike lanes, bike trails, green ways and complete streets are the right response to increased ridership.

Passive recreation parks are in high demand. Not only do they provide locals with an opportunity to spread out and practice social distancing, they provide opportunities for users of all abilities to enjoy. This includes walkers, hikers, runners, and yes bike riders. Passive recreation is equitable for all users. Land is in high demand for development in our area. Investment in passive recreation projects not only serves community needs, but also promotes conservation and strikes a balance between development and green space. There's a considerable amount of anxiety among local citizens about the over development of our area. Conservation is one solution for easing the anxiety.

COVID-19 will have an impact on Federal, State, and Local budgets. Billions of dollars of tax revenue have been and will be lost. Leaders on all levels are going to be forced to become better stewards of their budgets. Passive recreation opportunities provide less expensive options to explore versus the investment in recreational sports fields, gyms, and courts which in the end serve specific user groups. Mountain bike trails are considerably more affordable than sports facilities and the overhead required to maintain facilities.

Many locals are suffering from anxieties related to COVID-19. While exercise is a definite benefit of promoting a more bicycle friendly community, the underlying benefit is mental health. Studies show that cycling promotes well being and provides relief to those who suffer from depression, anxiety and related challenges. So the promotion and implementation of local bicycle friendly policies go well beyond public safety. It's a matter of health and wellness.

Lastly, studies show that communities that focus on bicycle friendly facilities see economic benefits. Local businesses have had to shuffle and move to compensate for lost business during the pandemic. The promotion of a more bicycle friendly community will help local businesses rebound and continue to stay open.

Posted in News.