The COVID-19 pandemic has led to isolation and loneliness for many, as mental health services around the world struggle to cope with increased rates of anxiety and depression. The insular nature of the virus has seen people look inwards and change the way they interact with the world around them. From exercise routines to home cooking and binge TV, people have been looking for new ways to add joy to their lives in a strange new world. Cycling has enjoyed an unexpected surge during the pandemic, with people riding and fixing bikes for fun, exercise, and therapy.
Bike shops experienced a huge surge in sales at the start of the pandemic, with existing cyclists returning to their favourite pastime and people looking for a new way to get fit and explore their local surrounds. From old men in lycra to mums and dads riding with their kids, the newfound interest in cycling has been a positive for many during the lockdown period. Riding a bike offers numerous health and lifestyle benefits, including fitness, exploration, and good old-fashioned fun. Fixing bikes can also be therapeutic, with one existing scheme in Brisbane recently getting some much-needed attention.
The Salvos Re-Cycle Bikes workshop is the brainchild of social enterprise coordinator and avid cyclist Andy Steele. After raising $130,000 during a charity ride from Sydney to Brisbane in 2018, Andy decided to take his love of bikes and community to the next level. The Salvos workshop is a second home for many, with the workshop helping to create purpose, structure, and community connections for those who need it the most. Schemes like this are more important than ever during the pandemic, when so many people feel disconnected with the wider world.
According to Andy, "In Brisbane, the abandoned and stolen bikes of the city have been an unexpected source of employment and empowerment for many. The people I'm working with have gone through rehab, jail, all sorts of challenging areas and are ready to do things differently... We wanted to create a social enterprise that could help people rebuild lives and rebuild bikes. It was a crazy idea that actually got off the ground." The workshop receives donations from Queensland Police, Queensland Rail, and the University of Queensland, with the team likely to be fixing bikes for many years to come.
Along with more traffic on suburban pathways and roads, there has been a sharp uptick of interest in the world of virtual cycling. While 2020 Mother's Day was lonely for many, Cycling Mums Australia (CMA) found an innovative way to host its annual Mother's Day event online, with more than 300 women joining a virtual ride. Throughout the pandemic, the organisation has seen a 50% increase in mums participating in weekly simulated rides. According to CMA co-founder Natalia de Clercq, numbers have "doubled in the last few weeks since we've been isolating... It's great for mental health and everyone needs it more than ever, with people so isolated."