Real Journalism by Leeds Hacks

Up, up and away… Pandemic boosts cycling in Leeds

woman riding white rigid bike
Photo by Murillo de Paula
As a result of national lockdowns stemming from the coronavirus, many people took to the great outdoors on their bikes to escape the isolation and mundanity of their homes.

There were 76,520 more journeys by bike in Leeds in May 2020, compared to the same time last year.

A LeedsNow investigation into transport statistics found that cyclists were the keenest this year within the city, having the most number of journeys in May, July, and September of 2020.

This, combined with the maintained opening of cycle shops across the country, meant that bicycle businesses were busier and dealing with a unique array of challenges posed by the pandemic.

Classed as ‘essential,’ The Bikes College CIC in Armley, Leeds, was one of those to stay open amid the crisis.

“We began trading in 2016 and have not experienced anything like this before,” explains David Matjas, the manager of The Bikes College.

“A generic change of mindset into a lack of patience and understanding by customers was one of the main issues we saw as a result of the pandemic.

“Staff were generally a lot more tired, we had supply chain issues; cash flow issues; staff shortages, and lack of rest for the team since we were working day-in day-out.”

Mr. Matjas explained that he saw “approximately a 375% increase in turnover and over 300% in footfall” as a result of the lockdown running from April through till October. These are the busiest months for his shop, with April of 2019 being the height of customer intake.

However, May of 2020 was the busiest by far, according to Mr. Matjas.

Despite the uptake in cycling, cycle theft declined in Leeds by 10% in 2020 according to figures produced by the West Yorkshire Police Website.

Cycling continues to be a seasonal sport with the majority of it taking place outside of the winter season. Meanwhile, a government scheme has already begun a £6.9m renovation of cycle routes across the city in a bid to further encourage cycling and decline pollution levels.

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