After 2 national lockdowns, it would be an understatement of large proportions to say that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a widespread impact on people’s lives. But, whilst many doors that would have been open to me this year were closed, including the cancellation of my GCSE exams, lockdown has allowed me to discover new activities I wouldn’t have given a second thought to in a pre-COVID world. 


To make use of the daily exercise permitted by the government during lockdown, I began to cycle with my brother around our streets, moving on to our local park, Richmond Park, after the ban placed on bikes at the beginning of lockdown was lifted. Given that my cycling ability at the time was limited, the prolonged ban on cars in the park made it much more manageable to get around, whilst also allowing me to gain more confidence on a bike. Following the easing of lockdown restrictions in early July, my friends and I were able to meet up and cycle together and since then we have travelled over 1000km, including a 100km trip to Windsor which was for the most part along cycle paths I hadn't known existed beforehand. Obviously many other people had the same idea, as there was a 200% increase in cycling in the UK during the first lockdown. 


This sudden increase in cycling has coincided with the government’s move towards decarbonising public transport systems and extending cycle networks, both in urban and suburban areas. The aim is to combat climate change and improve air quality, and to encourage more people to adopt healthy hobbies like running and cycling, which have been shown to increase cardiovascular fitness and decrease stress levels.  


In London, the Mayor Sadiq Khan unveiled one of the most ambitious walking and cycling schemes in any city in the world in May. Estimated to cost around £770 million over the next four years, this initiative will involve closing off large parts of Central London to cars and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely, as well as the construction of two new cycle superhighways with dedicated traffic lights which proved to be hugely popular when they were first implemented. Local authorities are also encouraging cycling and walking over the use of cars. Upon the reopening of my local park to cyclists, the local council created certain routes only available to families with children under 12 years old to encourage families to cycle more, as well as restricting the number of roads used by cars.


Since the beginning of lockdown, my friends and I have found cycling both enjoying and fulfilling and have recently started cycling to school in place of using the train. It is a quick and easy method of transport, and due to the introduction of more cycle lanes, it is becoming a safer option, even for less proficient cyclists like myself.