Cycling boom puts focus on keeping riders safe

Dramatic rise in bike riders since coronavirus pandemic.

An explosion in bicycle sales during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has renewed the focus on keeping cyclists safe.

With coronavirus-enforced restrictions limiting the way Queenslanders could exercise, bike riding became a popular option with retail outlets reporting huge demand since March.

Team Leader at 99 Bikes Chermside Shane Johnston said bike stores had reported up to triple the business during the pandemic compared with the same months in previous years.

He said sales at his northern Brisbane store were up more than 150% compared with December last year, which is typically the biggest month, and sales in April were the highest recorded for a single month in eight years of trading.

“With other avenues for physical activity and exercise closed – such as gyms, team sports and other fitness facilities – many are turning to bikes as a way to get outside and stay fit and healthy,” Mr Johnston said.

“We have seen an incredible increase in sales since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the majority of which has been new bike sales but also people looking to get their current bikes serviced and repaired in our workshop.

“We are still seeing a huge increase in demand and whilst it appears to have plateaued, bike sales are still at an extraordinarily high level.”

Cycling in Brisbane

Between 1 January and 19 May this year, there has been an almost 30% increase in usage on Brisbane City Council’s pathway and bikeway network compared with the same period last year and visits to Cycling Brisbane’s online map increased by 32% in April.

Mr Johnston said the increase in numbers put a spotlight on the need to keep cyclists safe.

“It is very important to look ahead to the future and ensure we can provide a safe and encouraging environment for people to enjoy riding, whether that be for the simple pleasure of riding with family and friends, or as a means of transport or commuting,” Mr Johnston said.

“This means providing infrastructure, including bikeways and bike lanes on roads, to support the dramatic increase in people out in our community cycling.”

cycling safety

RACQ Head of Public Policy Rebecca Michael said Club research revealed 33% of Queenslanders would ride a bicycle more often if they could travel on a safer route.

“The reality is cyclists are more vulnerable on our roads and when they are involved in a crash they often end up second best,” Dr Michael said.

“By moving cyclists outside of general use lanes, we’ll improve bike rider safety by reducing the risk of collisions.

“It will also help to reduce congestion for motorists, freight movements and other transport users – it’s a win-win.”

A Brisbane council spokesman said the city was committed to being cycle-friendly by expanding its network of bikeways, shared paths and river walks.

The council has invested $100 million between 2016 and 2020 into the Better Bikeways for Brisbane program.

Cycling maintenance

The program is connecting major bikeway corridors and suburban bikeways and delivering projects including lighting, bicycle parking and signage to improve safety and convenience and to get more people on bikes. 

“Cycling is a great socially-distant way to exercise or commute and council’s bikeway and pedestrian counters have shown a significant increase in active travel during the coronavirus pandemic, the spokesman said.

“With more and more people discovering the benefits of cycling, council continues to invest in making Brisbane's bicycle network better by constructing new links, enhancing connections and giving residents more opportunities to enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle.”

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He said Kangaroo Point Bikeway Stage 1, Botanic Gardens Riverwalk and the Woolloongabba Bikeway – Brisbane's first bi-directional separated bikeway – were delivered as part of the Better Bikeways for Brisbane program and have significantly improved safety and connectivity for both recreational and commuter cycling.

“Behaviour-changing programs like the popular Cycling Brisbane workshops and Active School Travel program are making travelling around our city safer and more convenient for people of all ages,” the spokesman said.

“Brisbane residents have been incredibly supportive of the plan for new green bridges, which will connect the city to the suburbs and provide more clean, green active travel opportunities.

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“Construction on the first green bridge, connecting Kangaroo Point to the city centre, is set to begin in 2021.”

Mr Johnston said the dramatic uptake in cycling had the potential to make a positive impact on communities.

“Making Brisbane and the greater southern Queensland region more cyclist-friendly has come a long way but we are now at a tipping point where, if supported, we can transform the region further to allow everyone to ride safely and with enjoyment,” he said.

“The benefits this will provide will be worthwhile tenfold with everything from a healthier community to less cars and pollution on the roads.

“This pandemic has been devastating in so many ways, but cycling can be a way for our community to come back even stronger than before.”