IT seems almost inappropriate to talk about joy in the middle of a pandemic.

There's a certain guilt attached to having moments of lightness when so many other are enduring a perpetual weight of anxiety, stress and loss.

Spending 23 hours a day indoors, though, has added extra enjoyment to cycling, something from which I already took great pleasure.

I miss my daily cycle commute, even with memories of torrential rain and sitting soggy at my desk until lunchtime. Even with thoughts of lugging heavy panniers full of day-to-day necessary detritus.

Even knowing I'd have to scrap with private hire drivers at junctions and dodge buses in cycle lanes.

That's a large part of the current joy. No scrapping, no narrow misses, no stress.

The roads are so much emptier that the nagging fear always following at my shoulder, that heightened sense of potential doom, is gone.

There are streets so quiet on my route that you can almost forget about motorised traffic and freewheel, carefree up the middle of the road. It is glorious.

Even in the centre of the city the roads are largely silent. While it's eerie, definitely, for the cyclist it is exciting. The roads are mine.

Elsewhere, children cycle along with their parents, in that zig zaggy way little kids do, unfussed about straight lines. Older couples cycle side by side, leisurely, having a lovely time.

It's not only the newfound freedom of space that makes the roads more enticing, it's the lack of noise. There's a nice silence, easy on the ears. Birdsong is more pronounced.

Of course, it's not all utopia. There are still idiots treating the almost empty roads as a racetrack challenge and let's hope these chumps feel the force of the law. Police forces in some parts of the UK have said the number of motorists exceeding speed limits has doubled since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

But, broadly, we are being given a glimpse of what cycling cities could look like. It's being widely reported that the sales of bikes are up. Cycling Scotland's figures show that in some areas the number of cyclists has doubled or more.

Other countries have seen similar increases in cycling and have seized the opportunity to make cities more bike and foot friendly. Cities in Germany are turning roads into bike lanes to help people with social distancing.

Road layouts have been adapted with relative ease using removable tape and mobile signs. The redesign of urban spaces helps everyone as it takes pressure off parks as people take their exercise on the roads, and gives more space to pedestrians trying to keep their two metre distance by stepping into the road.

New York and Vancouver have rolled out temporary bike lanes, as has New Zealand where flower planters are part of the new architecture. Bogotá, the Colombian capital, is coning off cycle routes for its citizens.

London is also looking at repurposing space on its busiest roads to make more room for cyclists and pedestrians. This is the perfect time for Scotland to do the same.

There will be plenty of people tempted by cycling but who are afraid of going on the roads, given how congested they usually are.

Novice cyclists are not now competing with as much traffic and so it's the perfect time to gain confidence, find routes that work for them and develop a healthy habit that they won't want to kick when the lockdown lifts.

It would take very little effort to install temporary cycle routes and widen pavements to make moving around safer and easier for those not using cars. Glasgow City Council, for one, has a strategy of creating a zero emissions zone in the city centre by 2022.

It also plans to reduce speed limits across the city. We're seeing, right now, what a car free city centre could look like. And it's pretty glorious, as long as we have the public transport network to support it.

Could we also introduce reduced speed limits? Cycling is a safe mode of transport - the danger comes from external forces and, even in lockdown, drivers are still putting their foot down and making roads less safe. If we could further curb that with an increase in 20mph zones, what a difference it would make to the feel of the roads.

Deep rooted health inequalities don't go away during lockdown; people still have diseases linked with inactivity.

Cars destroy health - at an individual and societal level. They destroy the environment.

There are so many sound and sensible reasons for pushing active travel and cutting car use - we know them well already.

The difference now is that this is such an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of lightening the vehicular load on our roads.

The means of creating wider pavements and segregated cycle lanes are easy to do, simple to return to normal when lockdown lifts. This, though, is a point for and a point against.

It's hard to argue against simple, easily reversible measures. But when the pandemic is over we want to keep people using active travel. Hopefully, having had so many more people using cycling as a means of getting around, there will be wider support for current cycling strategies.

Maybe there will be a push to take them further.

It would be a great shame to see the current enthusiasm for cycling wane as lockdown is lifted.

It is joyous to see families cycling together, couples out on the roads, novice cyclists confidently owning the tarmac - all with reduced fear of vehicles.

It is joyous to cycle fear-free down the middle of a road. It is a boost to mental and physical health, the fresh air, the bird song, the pure pleasure of physically activity.

Life is intensely better with fewer cars around. We have the proof now that when the surroundings are safer, people will cycle. The challenge now is to not slip backwards but to engage public and political will to make, first, temporary changes and then permanent improvements.

All columnists are free to express their opinions. They don’t necessarily represent the view of The Herald.