Pandemic has sparked increase in cyclists

Pandemic has sparked increase in cyclists

A Wayne County cycling survey showed 30 percent of respondents cycled more in April 2020 than over the same time period a year ago.


Has cycling become more popular in Wayne County since Gov. DeWine's stay-at-home order for COVID-19? It’s a reasonable premise: Without access to gyms, people may be finding other ways to exercise. Perhaps you have noticed there seem to be more people outdoors lately on bicycles.

Finding a place to cycle in Wayne County is easy. There are opportunities for everyone with over 21 miles of rail trails and the Wooster-Fredericksburg Bike Route connecting the county’s urban centers with the rural communities. All three urban centers in the county — Wooster, Orrville and Rittman — have connections to county bike trails.

Bike trails, lanes and multi-use paths are important because they serve as a means of transportation. This infrastructure also supports cycling for recreation and provides economic benefits. According to Jonathan Millea, economic and community-development coordinator for the City of Wooster, “We routinely hear from corporate leaders the need for (continuing to grow) our bike trail network to enhance Wooster's quality of life, which makes our community more attractive for recruiting the new talent needed to grow our workforce.”

The City of Wooster has been working on bike trails since fall 2014, based upon feedback obtained during its comprehensive planning process. The community expressed a need for more bike trails, and Mayor Bob Breneman said the city has completed about two-thirds of the roughly 12 total miles of bike trails within Wooster.

“Biking is one of the safest sports right now," said Jeff Battig, City of Wooster recreation manager. "You aren't going to come into contact with anyone, and there isn't any traffic to speak of."

Given that background, let’s return to the question: Is cycling more popular in Wayne County during COVID-19? The approach to answering this question was to interview seven local bike trail experts from nonprofit, municipal and private entities. A survey also was posted in several social-media groups with diverse audiences (age 18 or older) and got 80 responses.

Don Noble II, board president of Rails-to-Trails of Wayne County, said the group is seeing an increase in questions from social media around where to find trailheads, suggesting new people who haven’t used these trails before are coming out.

“I can tell you from my personal observations, reports from my board members and postings on social media (that) trail usage is way up on Wayne County Rail Trails versus during this time in previous years,” Noble said.

Roger Amstutz, owner of Orrville Cycling and Fitness, echoed Noble’s observation, reporting his customers who regularly ride the rail trails in Wayne County are seeing more cars than normal parked at the trail heads. He also said bike-repair services are exceptionally busy now. However, he acknowledged spring is often busy, so it would be hard to confirm if the volume is higher than other years. Notably, bicycle shops were listed in the governor’s order as an essential business.

“People are bringing in bikes that look like they have been set aside for years. We dust them off and get them running,” said Bill Buckwalter, who with his wife, Jackie, owns Ride On in Wooster.

When asked if he thought there was an increase in cycling right now, he said “yes and no.” Although he has observed many people out cycling with their children, there also are a lot of cycling events that have been cancelled, so there are reduced opportunities for cycling as well.

The Wayne County cycling survey shows 30 percent of respondents did cycle more in April 2020 than April 2019. However, 25 percent cycled less, and 25 percent cycled the same as last year with the remainder not cycling at all. In terms of purchasing habits around cycling, just under half purchased a new bike, cycling gear, parts or equipment since March 13, 2020. Perhaps most interesting is the fairly even distribution of respondents across every age group: People from 18 through over 75 responded.

The results are inconclusive. A lot of people are getting outdoors, and there are indications people who haven’t cycled in a long time are cycling for the first time in years, as well as new people trying out some of the bike trails for the first time.

Even if it is not certain if cycling is more popular now in Wayne County during COVID-19, there are signs people’s behaviors and patterns around cycling may be shifting. And if there is a new wave of individuals and families cycling, that would be a positive outcome, possibly one that lasts into the future.

Visit for more information on where county trailheads are located.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load