Sharon Connor is a Labour Councillor and Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Highways at Liverpool City Council. She bought a bike to vary her daily exercise and transport during the pandemic restrictions and now is a vocal advocate for cycle infrastructure changes around the city.
"Since I started cycling I’ve experienced a whole host of wellbeing and health benefits." - Sharon
From driving to cycling
Before the lockdown, my preferred method for every journey was the car. Like most people, I travelled even short distances by car to travel to work, go to the shops, or drop the children off.
I hadn’t cycled since I was a young teenager. If someone had asked me to go on a bike ride I probably wouldn’t have gone.
When we went into lockdown it was challenging to change my routine and only exercise once a day.
But I started going on family walks once a day, and we all enjoyed that.
Getting a bike
Then I decided to get myself a bike. My first trip was around two miles along the promenade near where I live. I loved the freedom and calmness of it.
Now I generally go everywhere I go by bike and build it into my daily routine.
I’m mainly working from home at the moment but if I do go into the office I cycle. It’s a great ride as I can go along the promenade along the waterfront.
It’s something I would never have contemplated before.
How cycling has changed everything
Since I started cycling I’ve experienced a whole host of wellbeing and health benefits.
I dropped a dress size and I feel healthier both physically and mentally. I plan to keep it up during winter.
There was a significant increase in cycling during lockdown, especially people like me who want to cycle but who are not experienced cyclists.
The roads were quiet. There were hardly any car users.
It was a surreal environment. Even when we came out of lockdown people enjoyed it.
I know quite a lot of family and friends who started cycling during this time.
Some people have started cycling to school with their children.
This change needs to stay
We need to build on the behavioural changes that were made during lockdown.
Traffic has increased again. A lot of the offices are still not back.
So we need the infrastructure in place so when people go back to their normal routine they have the option to cycle for their commute.
We’ve got a window of opportunity and we need to act now to build safer, healthier streets which meet everyone’s needs.
How the council has made changes
Liverpool City Council is putting in temporary infrastructure with pop up lanes and if it’s successful they will be made permanent.
We’ve done three so far out of seven planned across the city.
We’re working with communities to get feedback and to gather data on which routes people use.
We know we won’t get it all right first time but we’re committed to developing a quality network.
Liverpool's first cycle lane
We’ve also put in the city’s first-ever cycle lane in the middle of the reservation on Princes Avenue.
And we’re improving the infrastructure at key access points like stations and schools.
Anything that gets people between home and key destinations.
The work is ambitious and we’re building infrastructure on an existing network, including taking lanes out of routes.
It’s certainly not appeasing everyone but I believe that once we have the right infrastructure in place, we’ll see a lot more people choosing to walk or cycle.
The roads are not just built for cars, they’re for people.