Covid lockdowns prompted a surge of new cyclists. But the trend has faltered in places that didn't build bike-friendly infrastructure.
In 18 YEARS working in bicycles, Eric Bjorling had never seen anything like April 2020. With no end to the pandemic in sight, people were desperate for things to do. “They had time on their hands, they had kids, they needed to physically go outside and do something,” says Bjorling, head of brand marketing at Trek Bicycles, one of the largest bike manufacturers in the world.
So began the pandemic bicycle boom. US bike sales more than doubled in 2020 compared to the year before, according to research firm NPD Group, reaching $5.4 billion. Bike mechanics got overloaded as people dragged neglected bikes out of garages and basements. And local governments responded to and then fueled the shift by adapting urban environments with unprecedented speed, restricting car traffic on some streets and building temporary bike lanes on others. “During the pandemic, many things were possible, policy-wise, that before we didn’t think possible, especially at that pace,” says Ralph Buehler, a professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech.