COVID-19 sees uptick in biking


A biker riding down Fullerton Avenue. Many students use biking as a way to get around campus. Photo by Carlyn Duff/The DePaulia

Transportation and recreation have changed drastically since the pandemic started, and a lot of people are starting to consider new methods of getting around — namely, bicycling. Who wants to get into a crowded bus or train with all of the dangerous germs out there?

Jim Stark, a near-north side resident of Chicago, has started riding his old road bike to work every day in place of taking the CTA.

“I couldn’t really bring myself to get on the train that I usually take,” he said. “My wife has a compromised immune system and I just wouldn’t feel right doing that to her.”  

Understandably, public transit has become a daunting proposition for many people, but we all have things we need to do and regular life has to resume sometime. When it does, people are going to think twice about their old ways. 

“After I missed a few days of work, I knew I had to figure something out — that was when I thought about my bike,” Stark said. “I don’t have to go super far, and I get to ride along the lake.”  While it might be a seasonal solution, it seems to have some benefits.

Trek Bicycles surveyed 1000 people about biking during the pandemic, and found that 85% of Americans think that riding their bikes is safer than public transit. They also found that 63% of Americans feel that “bike riding helps relieve stress/anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Exercise is one of the best ways to boost the immune system and improve mood. 

As the quarantine had so many locked inside as the seasons changed, many people started to turn their eyes toward the outdoors. A lot of bike shops have consequently seen an uptick in calls and sales. “It felt like one week people started calling all at once, asking if we were open? Did we have bikes? And could we fix their old bikes,” Vernon Hills bike shop employee Megan Watkins said. “At first it was kind of fun because everyone was excited, but a lot of our suppliers get parts from China, and we ran out of stock so fast.”

People became aware of this shortage, similar to what happened in the early stages of the pandemic when toilet paper became scarce. Sava Koumandarakis, 26, said he heard about the seemingly random bike craze from a friend. 

 “All of a sudden three of my friends had brand new mountain bikes,” he said. “I asked why and they told me they heard shops were running out and they had big unemployment checks. I called a place near me to find out, and they said all the models my size were back-ordered and they didn’t know when they would be back in stock.”

While it may be a while until everyone can have their bikes, it certainly seems like this is a creative solution to a stressful situation. And maybe in the future, people might be more uncertain of getting on the CTA and elect for a bike commute instead where it is much easier to stay socially distant.