Cycling to a Lower-Carbon Future

by Editor, Helen Adams.

As cars stay on the drive during the quarantine, bicycle use has risen. 

A staggering percentage of the overall emissions in the UK comes from vehicles. Yet due to the quarantine, fewer people are travelling by car and those that are, are only moving locally.  As a result, emissions from across Europe have fallen by over 45%.

At the beginning of quarantine, Britons were encouraged to spend an hour a day exercising and owing to the warm weather, cycling became a popular choice. On a single day in April, 39,889 trips were taken on the public Santander Cycles.

In 2010, the Santander Cycle scheme was introduced and now runs in London, Swansea and Milton Keynes. Also known as “Boris Bikes”, the programme was popularised by the then-Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, which he called “A howling success”, in an interview with Jeremy Paxman

It allows people to rent a bicycle, from any of the self-serving bike stands around their city, for a set amount of time, before returning it to an available bicycle stand, for the next user. 

On the 12th May, Boris Johnson, now the UK Prime Minister, released an update for the public on life under lockdown, which approved unlimited time for outdoor and socially distanced exercise. 

Cycle paths have been crowded, as friends catch up, social-distance and exercise at the same time. 

Even before the Coronavirus outbreak, the Government was doing more to make cycling safer and more accessible, for commuters who cycle every day and for those simply wishing to exercise. 

In February, the Government approved £5bn, for expanding cycling infrastructure across the UK over the next five years. In addition to this, the Department for Transport (DfT) plans to offer more children places in cycling proficiency lessons, which will ensure that the next generation of cyclist commuters get an early start. 

The Prime Minister’s update also included the advice that those who could return to work, should do so: “Work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t.”

However, commuters were warned to continue self-isolating as they travel to and from work, which risks transporting COVID-19 from family members to colleagues: “Consider all other forms of transport before using public transport.” 

This could mean the use of single-occupant cars could rise, along with carbon emissions, or, cyclists will continue to rule the streets and carbon emissions will remain in a nosedive. 

Yet, in February, Boris Johnson, encouraged other countries to join the UK and work towards reaching net zero carbon emissions, by 2050.

It is hoped that as the UK emerges from quarantine and formerly locked-in employees can return to work, the cycling trend will continue to grow for those who commute and carbon emissions will remain lower than they were previously.

Helen Adams

Helen Adams is an Editor and Senior Writer for CleanTech News. A keen journalist, Helen developed an appreciation for the need for change in the battle against climate change after travelling and is passionate to communicate this through her work at CleanTech News. Now studying for her NCTJ Journalism MA, Helen wants to champion clean developments using her writing. Presently, Helen is developing her data journalism, video-making and podcasting skills which she is looking forward to incorporating into her role as Editor.