Bicycles now suit well the diverse demand of urbanites during the time of the pandemic, speeding up changes in lifestyles and cultural practices.
Needless to say, it is impossible for the bike to replace other transport means as long as life becomes normal again. However, as far as the benefits a bike can do to physical and mental health are concerned, the return of the bike is so meaningful right at this moment.
|Bicycles have returned during the time of Covid-19. – SGT Photo: Thanh Hoa|
Before the outbreak of Covid-19 in Vietnam, Mr. Tan's wife gave birth to the couple's second child. Mr. Tan then took a driving test. He had to repeat it three times to get the driver's license. The whole family went together to car showrooms to buy a Mazda 3. But hardly had he driven the brand-new car for only a few months while still unfamiliar with the streets in Saigon being on the wheel than the city experienced social distancing, one time after another. The car therefore had to sit in the garage.
Swimming pools, gyms and yoga classes were closed. Having to be confined to his house for a while, Mr. Tan began to feel restless and frustrated. His son, too, was about to face the problem of obesity and became much more nasty because of psychological distress. So, he led the kid to a bike shop to take home two bikes at reasonable prices.
The pandemic-time bicycles
On the first days after they had got their new bikes, the father and his son woke up early and rode their bikes around his house. The distance was about five kilometers. Afterwards, the little boy had become used to being early to rise. The two went for longer distances to new routes. Now, on the weekend, they were able to travel up to 30 kilometers. One day, they rode their bikes to Can Gio District, some 50 kilometers from downtown HCMC.
Mr. Tan noticed that both the physical and mental health of him and his kid had significantly improved since the buy of the two bicycles. They were also closer together while sharing the passion for travel to reach new destination reach day.
Early in the morning on the streets of Saigon, bikers like Mr. Tan and his son are not rare. There are also groups of 20-30 bikers who bind together to practice biking to fight boredom and mental fatigue caused by the pandemic.
At apartment buildings, cars are parked in one row after another. However, at bike parking sections, more bicycles have appeared, in all colors and in all shapes and sizes and trademarks. A cheap one costs a buyer between VND3-5 million; a bike in the middle price ranges between VND6-15 million; and a high-class one between VND20-30 million. If you need more expensive bikes, you can choose yours for VND60-80 million or even more.
A bike in the time of epidemic serves both the purposes of transport and health benefit. What's more, it also advocates a green lifestyle. Therefore, many customers do not think too hard about their prices to take home their favorites. Bike manufacturers have been quick to please their customers with all new kinds of models to support bikers. Aside from traditional bicycles, bike makers have integrated electric assist motor or made bikes wisely foldable to fit tight living spaces or a car's trunk for a picnic.
Pay a visit to bike showrooms in HCMC and you'll see how busy many of them have become compared with the pre-pandemic time. Customers come to watch, select and take home their favorite models. These days, bike shop clerks have to work even harder to take and handle orders.
Changing ways of living
While industries across the board are in tatters, the bicycle business is more profitable. This conclusion is true in Vietnam and in other more developed markets.
In Spain, for example, before a new lockdown was imposed, thousands of people rushed to bike shops to pick a bike each. One of the reasons was it was more prone to become infected on board a bus or a subway carriage. A bike is both safer and more economical.
A few months ago, Le Figaro estimated that France's bicycle market reached 2.7 billion euro in sales last year. However, in total, the shift to using bikes might have generated a turnover of some 30 billion euro as bikers also use accessories, such as sportswear, backpacks and lights.
To meet the rising demand for cycling during the pandemic, Europe has announced a plan to allocate 20 billion euro to the building of infrastructure for travelling by bike.
Similarly, in the United States, the annualized bike sales in March 2020 rose 39%. This surge prompted some industry experts to mock that after the craze for toilet paper, Americans now became bikemaniacs.
Recently, vietnamnet.vn posted an article which said the local bicycle market might reach between 2-3 million units a year and is on the rise. The hit song Xe dap oi created by songwriter Ngoc Le years ago was a farewell to bicycles, but now that slow lifestyles have been ushered in by Covid-19, they are coming back in droves in urban centers as humans have realized how meaningless speed is in an indefinite world. The bicycle is now like a symbol of a new way of life and a new way of adaptation.
In the morning on many big streets in both Saigon and Hanoi, the army of bikers who ride bikes for their health has gained momentum. Office workers use their bikes to office to force their body to work more and reduce stress and boost morale. The benefits of cycling to cyclists and the environment have recently been cited by the media, which helps accelerate the comeback of a transport means. It is returning as a new trend and a civilized way of living.
Obviously, the bicycle suits well the diverse demand of urbanites during the time of the pandemic, speeding up changes in lifestyles and cultural practices. Needless to say, it is impossible for the bike to replace other transport means as long as life becomes normal again. However, as far as the benefits a bike can do to physical and mental health, the return of the bike is so meaningful right at this moment.
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