Is there anything good about the current pandemic? Hard to imagine if you look at the number of corona cases, deaths and an economic recession that may lead to even more – hidden- casualties worldwide. But what if we can look beyond this crisis? COVID-19 as the ultimate reset button to transform to a new kind of society and resilient ecosystems? What is the role of the bicycle industry and the mountain biking community in this?
Like any other sector, the first reflex of the mountain bike community was to turn into survival mode. The impacts are huge for those working in the cycling industry, at bike shops, as MTB guides and instructors, training providers, trail builders, event organizers and not the least, people active in the MTB tourism sector. With 655.000 people working in cycling related sectors in the EU (ECF Cycling Works report, 2017), many jobs are at stake with several countries in full lockdown and others in semi-lockdown.
While most people in EU countries have been confined or requested to stay and work at home and minimize travelling, the first positive effects of the lockdown soon appeared. No car congestions in big cities, temporarily bike lanes popping up, better air quality due to less CO2 emissions, people rediscovering green spaces and local recreational trails (in countries where outdoor activity is still allowed).
Cycling communities almost immediately responded with promoting COVID-19 social distance and safety protocols, making #ridesolo trending topic. The lobby to identify the cycling industry as a crucial sector paid off quickly in many countries. Bike shops reopening and repairing bikes for essential travel, businesses provided free bikes to health care workers, cyclist delivering food and medicines to isolated people. The #cyclingtheextramile campaign recognized all these special efforts in the bike community.
The new normal may not be so bad at all. But we need to act now to make the positives of the crisis stick and not fall back in old habits. So let’s start promote bicycle use even more as sustainable mode of transportation in cities and don’t let cars retake their dominant place in city infrastructure. Let’s create more green spaces and provide better access to peri-urban parks. Let’s start investing in more trails close to home to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Let’s build stronger local MTB communities, ready to pick up a shovel to maintain trails or to speak up when nature needs to be protected.
Let's reform tourism destinations and make them attractive places to live permanently and not just visit temporarily. Let’s change natural and economic monocultures into permacultures with more biodiversity and more diverse range of services.
We know the benefits of outdoor sports for society. People need physical activity and nature to stay physically and mentally healthy. The outdoor sports sector can provide and create large number of jobs. We need to convince government to provide and preserve these natural spaces. So let COVID-19 serve as our wakeup call to move towards resilient ecosystems, both naturally and economically.