By Shreshtha Goswami
After a significant period of learning about social distancing and other precautionary measures related to COVID-19, people are now being wary of even commuting on the roads, and so, like every other activity, road travelling is also taking a new form.
Post lockdown, cycling is emerging as an activity with great benefits. With a large fan base — ranging from fitness enthusiasts and recreation lovers to people using it as a mode of transport — cycles are winning over people not just in India, but all over the world for all the right reasons.
Being among the fortunate ones, the cycling industry has also managed to keep itself alive during these trying times of COVID-19. Post lockdown, some striking facts have been spoken about the cycling industry that are noteworthy.
There has been a substantial increase in the number of cyclists in Delhi ever since the lockdown restrictions started getting eased up. For the lower-middle working section, the fear of the crowd and longing for contact-less transport is refraining them from public transport. In such grave situations, more and more people are pinning their hopes on cycles to provide them with cheap, contact-less transportation.
Interestingly, cycling is somewhat substituting for gym workouts, and people are opting it as a means to keep themselves fit, and as a safe option to take a trip outside.
In the last week of June, Chairman and Managing Director of Hero Cycles, Mr Pankaj M Munjal, tweeted about a 70% surge in the demand of cycles compared to the pre-COVID-19 times.
A research by the alumni of IIT Delhi and IIT Roorkee has found out a rapid increment in the number of cyclists across about 22 stretches in Delhi, namely Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, Panchsheel Marg and GT Karnal Service Road, to name a few. The research has also estimated a surge of 20% to 25% in the road share of cyclists by next year. Also, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has mentioned an expected increase in cycle riders from 4% to 12% in its survey.
In the US as well, bicycle sales between April and June saw their biggest spike since the oil crisis of the 1970s, said Jay Townley, who analyses cycling industry trends at Human Powered Solutions, a consultancy firm based in the United States.
During May and June, when reverse migration was at its peak in India as Indian migrant workers were agonising over their lost source of income, their investment in cycles, new or second-hand, helped them in travelling back to their hometowns.
In a Times Of India report, Surinder Kumar, a bicycle merchant in Bathinda, shared, “Earlier, I used to sell 100 cycles a month, in the last ten days, I have sold nearly 45 bicycles.” Many other local bicycles traders claimed to have sold a high number of cycles owing to the mass migration of labourers.
Cyclists across the nation face a lack of dedicated cycle tracks and other required facilities. Following the recent hike in the demand of cycles, in one of its report, the Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs India stated:
“Cities have started working towards promoting cycling as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cycling for short distances can result in an annual benefit of Rs 1.8 trillion to the Indian economy.”
Note: A version of this post was first published here.