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Cycling in the City

Bike sales are booming, but can suppliers keep up and can the city council keep cyclists safe?

W ere you one of the thousands of people in the UK who hauled your rusty bicycle from the garden shed during Covid-19? Or perhaps you bought your first bike since you were a teenager, either to improve your fitness, or to travel to work? According to Cyclescheme, a government backed initiative offering tax breaks to people to cycle to work, 83% of people in the UK ‘picked up cycling again during the lockdown’. And 77% of people plan to continue cycling well after the Covid-19 restrictions have ended. ‘Before the pandemic, bike sales were in decline, manufacturers were using ‘just in time’ delivery methods, which meant once sales picked up last year, we struggled to keep up with demand’ said Kevin Watkins of Southsea Cycles. ‘Fortunately, the supply of bikes has settled down, but certain brands will be in short supply again later this year. One trend we’ve noticed is people buying cargo bikes, to carry children and shopping, which can make the family car redundant. Other people are rejuvenating their old bikes, and we’ve up-skilled our team so that we believe we offer the best bike repair shop in town, if not on the south coast’, said Kevin.  

As well as being great for our bodies and minds, cycling is also good for the environment. Over the past 12 months central government has seen cycling as an easy win to help reduce the UK’s carbon emissions, while also aiding social distancing — allocating £225 million to 40 local authorities to create temporary cycles lanes.

However, will cycles be a serious part of the UK’s transport strategy post Covid-19? Portsmouth might appear to be the perfect city for cyclists, with its flat terrain, shops and facilities within easy cycling distance, but what are the city council’s plans? 

‘Cycling’s a big part of our wider green and wellbeing strategies for Portsmouth, encouraging more sustainable, healthy travel for all’, said Councillor Matthew Winnington.

‘We’re developing new cycle routes and upgrading others, listening to feedback from residents about which areas of the city should link up. The Eastern Road cycle path will be upgraded to make it safer, especially as it is a main route between Portsea Island and other parts of the city and beyond. Purpose-built cycle routes will be built right along the seafront for the first time, as the new sea defences are constructed. 

‘Work is also being done with schools, workplaces, and other organisations to ensure that people are encouraged to cycle across town, and to provide safe storage when they get there. New housing in the city  will have safe cycle storage and on-street secure storage, is currently being piloted in residential streets for use by householders. Whether people are new to cycling, or they have been riding for years, we believe there’s never been a better time to cycle in the city,’ said Matthew.

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