CYCLE shops and organisations promoting healthy living have welcomed a Tees Valley initiative to find out more about how people plan to move around following the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey has been launched by Let’s Go Tees Valley, aimed at gathering evidence on whether more people are walking and cycling, why they are doing so, and whether they intend to carry on after the Covid-19 crisis.

The Northern Echo: More people are cycling than before Covid-19More people are cycling than before Covid-19

The aim is to build a clearer picture of travel behaviour and attitudes, so that the results can feed into plans to encourage walking and cycling.

Let’s Go Tees Valley, which is financed by the Department of Transport’s Access Fund, is supported by the Tees Valley Combined Authority, to produce a programme delivered by the local authorities in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees.

Let’s Go Tees Valley’s aim is to engage with people across the Tees Valley to encourage walking and cycling, as well as other forms of transport that contribute to a greener, healthier community.

Since lockdown measures were introduced on March 23, there has been a huge national increase in walking and cycling, and Let’s Go Tees Valley wants to build on that momentum by gathering information that can potentially be used to help form future plans.

Cycle to work schemes have seen a 200 per cent increase in take-up from key workers, while Halfords has reported a 23 per cent increase in the value of shares, reflecting a sharp rise in bike sales.

Across the Tees Valley, there is a perception that more people are walking and cycling, not just as part of their daily exercise routines, but to get to shops and workplaces if they are unable to work from home. However, the survey aims to gather statistics to back up that anecdotal evidence.

The Northern Echo: The Hub, StocktonThe Hub, Stockton

Key workers have also benefitted from special offers from bike shops around the area, such as free bike loans from Bike Stop in Darlington, and free or priority services from Blue Giraffe Bicycles in Middlesbrough, and The Bike Rack in Yarm.

Chris Scott, who set up Blue Giraffe Bicycles, on Middlesbrough’s Riverside Park in 2011, said: “We are seeing a massive upsurge in people wanting to get on bikes and, hopefully, that trend will continue after the pandemic.”

A passionate cyclist himself, Chris added: “There needs to be a bigger conversation in society about how people move around in the future, in ways that place less strain on the NHS, improve public health, and help the environment. The overwhelming increase in cycling is great to see but people have to take longer-term responsibility for their behaviour in the future.”

Chris says he is 100 per cent behind the Let’s Go Tees Valley survey, saying: “We definitely need to find out more about how to make cycling more accessible and safer, so I’m fully behind this initiative.”

Meanwhile, in Yarm, The Bike Rack has experienced such an increase in demand for cycles that manufacturers are running out of stock.

As well as selling more bikes than ever, the business has also been working round the clock on bike repairs and servicing.

Shop manager Mark Mather said: “It’s been really hectic because everyone wants to be on a bike – either buying one or dragging an old one out of the shed and wanting it sorting out.”

The Bike Rack has also seen a trend towards electrically-assisted bikes, and the business is also throwing its weight behind the Let’s Go Tees Valley survey.

“These are difficult times, but the lockdown has also created an opportunity to promote the health and environmental benefits of cycling. The survey is part of that, and it will be great if it leads to greater investment in cycle paths and generally making it easier and safer for cyclists.”

The Northern Echo: Walking is on the increase in the Tees ValleyWalking is on the increase in the Tees Valley

In Darlington, Bike Stop has loaned bikes to more than 30 key workers, as as well as experiencing a spike in sales of new and refurbished bike sales.

And, in Stockton, The Hub has recently restarted its free cycle maintenance service by appointment only. Despite being closed to the public, people can make an appointment to leave their cycles on Thursdays.

The Hub – supported by Sustrans, a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport – runs a variety of walking and cycling initiatives and is another influential supporter of the Let’s Go Tees Valley survey.

Project delivery assistant Giulia Colafrancesco said: “It’s great to see this happening because we can see that people are wanting to use different kinds of transport that help physical and mental health. The more we can encourage that, the better, so the survey is very positive.”

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