Editorial examines impact of COVID-19 on cycling 2019-2020

By Conall Martin / Updated: 18 May 2021

An editorial which examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cycling in countries and cities around the world was published on 16 April 2021. The editorial –  “COVID-19 Impacts on Cycling, 2019–2020” – was written by authors Ralph Buehler and John Pucher and is now freely available online in the journal Transport Reviews.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impact on travel behaviour all around the world. The editorial examines available evidence from cities and countries in Europe, the Americas, and Australia to establish overall trends in cycling from 2019 to 2020. Variations over time, by location, by trip purpose, and by type of cycling facility, are assessed. Trends in bicycle sales are also examined throughout different regions.

The authors begin by assessing cycling levels and bicycle mode share. They then examine government measures to promote cycling during COVID-19, providing an overview of the various kinds of measures implemented.

The findings indicate that cycling increased considerably from 2019 to 2020 in most cities of Europe, North America, and Australia. The percentage increase is even larger when periods of total lockdowns are excluded. Moreover, the bicycle share of trips has risen in virtually all cities because total travel (all modes) fell sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The authors argue there are at least 5 reasons to expect the increase in cycling during COVID-19 to persist in coming years:

  1. The expansion and improvement of protected cycling infrastructure, both completed and planned, will ensure better cycling conditions in future years.
  2. The large growth in bicycle sales has increased the availability of bicycles.
  3. New cyclists and more frequent cyclists may have developed new habits of travel and greater familiarity with cycling; both factors increase the likelihood they will continue to cycle in coming years.
  4. As daily trips to work, school, university, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment rebound after COVID-19, many of the utilitarian cycling trips lost during the pandemic will probably be regained.
  5. It seems likely that some of the increased cycling in 2020 came from former public transport passengers who shifted to cycling because they were afraid to ride crowded trains and buses. Indeed, public transport use during the COVID-19 pandemic declined sharply in European, North American, and South American cities. Thus, some of the public transport riders who shifted to cycling during the pandemic will probably continue to ride bikes, especially with improved cycling facilities and greater availability of bicycles noted previously.

Given these factors, it appears likely that cycling levels will remain higher in coming years, compared to 2019. However, the authors highlight that it is vital for governments at every level to support the expansion and improvements in cycling infrastructure, programmes, and policies necessary to ensure that cycling continues to thrive. This includes retaining and building on the successful measures implemented in 2020 to deal with COVID-19.

To access the full editorial, visit the following website:

Full article: COVID-19 Impacts on Cycling, 2019–2020


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Policy and research