The coronavirus lockdown has led to a boom in bicycle sales that appears set to accelerate as the government encourages people to cycle to work after easing restrictions.
After the government spent the weekend talking up cycling as a way for workers to safely return to work, shares in Halfords jumped 17% on Monday.
Britain’s biggest cycle retailer said sales of some cycling equipment had risen 500% at the start of the lockdown, while bike sales this month have been double normal levels.
Many small independent cycle stores have sold their entire stock in recent weeks, and are waiting for new stock to be delivered.
Broadribb Cycles in Bicester, which normally sells 20-30 bikes a week, is now selling 50 bikes every day. Brompton said its sales were at Christmas levels even before ministers started promoting cycling as a way out of lockdown.
Evans Cycles said it has seen an “unprecedented demand” for bikes and now has a two-week wait for models to be delivered.
Independent mechanics have been run off their feet by people asking for old bikes to be serviced to allow them to get back on the road.
Meanwhile, cycle-to-work schemes that give tax benefits to employees to buy a new bike from official stores have reported a doubling in sales – a figure that is expected to rise even further as workers realise they can get a new bike without an upfront payment.
“There has been a huge increase in cycling during the lockdown, but even so there are millions of people in our towns and cities who have bikes they never or seldom use,” said Graham Stapleton, the chief executive of Halfords. “For the good of our health, the environment and the NHS, now is the time for commuters to change their habits and start cycling to work.”
Cities around the world have been rushing through improvements to cycling infrastructure, and cycle groups are waiting to see how UK councils respond.
In Germany, expanded cycle lanes have been marked by removable tape and mobile signs. Paris is rolling out 650km (400 miles) of cycleways, including a number of pop-up “corona cycleways”.
On Saturday, the UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, set out an ambitious £2bn programme to expand cycling and walking, including an immediate £250m fund for infrastructure improvements and a voucher scheme for cycle repairs.
In Australia bikes have become the new toilet paper, with retailers struggling to keep up with demand.
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