BICYCLES need to be seen as a priority mode of transport to harness the explosion in lockdown cycling, says a Tees Valley travel group.

A new study of residents’ travel behaviour before, during and after the Covid-19 restrictions reveals that 53 per cent of people questioned reported walking or cycling more during lockdown.

And more than 40 per cent of respondents said they wanted to continue with their healthier habits as restrictions are relaxed.

The results also indicated that many people who rarely or never cycled - 44 per cent of respondents - had now embraced life on two wheels, and a third of those planned to continue cycling in the future.

The survey was conducted by Let’s Go Tees Valley during the height of the Coronavirus lockdown, which gathered views from over 1,000 adults from Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and Redcar and Cleveland throughout May.

The report comes as the Conservative government launches its ambitious new walking and cycling vision, in a bid to encourage healthier lifestyles, improve the environment and reduce pressure on the road network.

The Prime Minister has released details of a raft of measures designed to get more people walking and cycling instead of driving, including a free Fix Your Bike voucher scheme, an improved national cycle and walking route network, and free bike training.

Georgina Burke of Let’s Go Tees Valley said: “The findings from our investigations prove that huge numbers of people in our area have found massive benefits from walking and cycling over the last few months, and our remit is to help them to continue to travel this way.”

“Walking and cycling should be viewed as ‘normal’ ways to get around, not just something that fit people do on the weekend.

"Over two thirds of all journeys by car are less than five miles, which only takes around 25 minutes by bike.

"Walking and cycling more is a relatively cheap and easy way to build extra physical activity in our daily lives.”

Mayor Houchen said: “The latest Government strategy and its £2billion funding package coming from that will help us go further in delivering an even better walking and cycling infrastructure around Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool."