Well, who would have thought just a few months ago that this country would be in ‘lockdown’ because of a global pandemic? Whilst the reasons for the lockdown are undeniably terrible, some of the changes to our environment and lifestyles have arguably positive elements. The quieter roads have opened-up much more space for people to enjoy and feel safe to walk and cycle on (as part of essential travel or daily exercise). The number of vehicles on the roads are reportedly down to levels previously seen in the 1960’s. This, in turn has led to significant reduction in air pollution, of which 5% of mortalities in Swindon are attributed to (the highest proportion in the South West).
I’ve been pleased to see the importance which the government has been placed on daily exercise by foot or cycle, showing recognition of the immense value of outdoor physical activity to our physical and mental health. Indeed, the closure of gyms, quieter roads and improved weather have led many to get back in the saddle. In such uncertain times riding a bike proves to be one of the safest and most reliable means to get around. The risk of getting too close to others on public transport is avoided, along with the cross-contamination hotspots at fuel stations. Cycling is cheap, healthy and convenient. For once people cycling, walking and running out-number the people travelling in cars.
This ‘lockdown’ period has given us the opportunity to see a world with less traffic and perhaps a slower pace of life. The birds certainly seem to be enjoying it, rather than being woken up by the slamming of car doors instead it’s birdsong. It’s almost as if Mother Nature has given us a trial run to see what it could be like if we prioritised health and the environment over GDP. The lockdown has led to many companies being forced into adopting remote working practices, such as staff working from home and video conferencing. I know that in our household these new working practices have vastly improved our work-life-balance and reduced travelling costs (both time and money). I’m hopeful that some good could come of this very difficult time, in particular the realisation that maybe we don’t need to travel so often or so far… and the humble bicycle may regain its place on our roads.