Boost for bikes as Europeans gear up for coronavirus commute

Source:Reuters Published: 2020/5/12 18:38:42

Bicycles could play a central role in more major European cities as governments scramble to get commuters back to work without crowding buses or trains after coronavirus lockdowns are eased.

Cyclists take part in a commemorative ride in Kutna Hora, the Czech Republic, Aug. 10, 2019. Photo: Xinhua

Britain, a laggard compared to its continental neighbors when it comes to cycling to work, is now encouraging people to get in the saddle as part of a 250 million pound ($308 million) emergency active travel fund announced last week.

And in France, home to the world's most famous bike race, the government plans to invest 20 million euros ($22 million) to develop and subsidize two-wheel travel, which like Britain will include temporary bike lanes.

While Amsterdam in the Netherlands and many cities across northern Europe are geared up for cycle commuting, in other countries a lack of infrastructure has limited bike usage. But as workers seek to avoid being crammed onto public transport, where social distancing is a challenge, the coronavirus pandemic has proved a boon for some bike makers.

Global sales of VanMoof's sleek electric bikes rose 48 percent between the end of February and mid-March, while in Britain they jumped 184 percent between early February and the end of April.

"People tend to stick to day to day behavioral routines and patterns, especially for mobility. They stay in their cars and keep using the subway. The shock value of corona has pushed people out of their normal routines into new habits," VanMoof's cofounder Taco Carlier told Reuters.

Meanwhile, shares in British bicycles and car parts retailer Halfords soared as much as 26 percent on Monday after Britain's transport minister said those who needed to travel to work should consider cycling or walking.

The British government said in a statement last week that its plans were aimed at encouraging more people to "choose alternatives to public transport when they need to travel," adding that this would help ensure "road, bus and rail networks are ready to respond to future increases in demand."

Halfords noted that only 4 percent of commuter journeys are currently made by bike in Britain, where cycling accounts for just 2 percent of all journeys. In the Netherlands, it is 27 percent.

British transport minister Grant Shapps said Britain's road infrastructure would be changed to accommodate more cyclists and added that e-scooter trials would be brought forward, with the potential for rental vehicles on British roads as early as June.

The coronavirus pandemic has also sparked a surge in bike sales across the US.

Newspaper headline: Bikes get boost as Europeans gear up for coronavirus commute

Posted in: EUROPE

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