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Coronavirus leads to a bicycle boom in Portugal

Blog Coronavirus leads to a bicycle boom in Portugal
The demand for bicycles in Portugal has skyrocketed during the coronavirus. From commuting to work to leisure cycling during weekends, thousands of Portuguese have found in cycling the safest mode of transport during the last few months.
During the coronavirus crisis and with social distancing measures put in place, thousands of Portuguese have found in cycling the safest, most efficient, and convenient mode of transport. From commuting to work when possible, evening rides after a day working from home, to leisure cycling during weekends, they have shown to be eager to get on their bikes, and consequently, the demand for bicycles in Portugal has skyrocketed.  

After the online sales of bicycles soared in April, the number of bikes registered in Lisbon per hour broke all records during the month of May. As a response to the cycling boom experienced in the Portuguese capital, and the increased need to provide safe and healthy mobility options to all citizens, the city has seen many new bike lanes emerge in its streets, a trend shared with other cities such as Paris, Milan, Athens, Barcelona, Budapest, and New York, to name a few.  

This increased interest in cycling has also had a positive economic impact on bicycle-related businesses in Portugal and Lisbon. Bike repair shops have faced an unprecedented demand and welcomed many new customers, as mentioned by Rosa Félix, member of the Cicloficina dos Anjos and researcher in urban cycling mobility at the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), in an interview for the Portuguese Expresso Newspaper.

Additionally, the sales of bicycles and bike accessories have increased dramatically in most Portuguese sport stores and supermarkets in recent months. Following the closure of stores during the lockdown, the online demand for bicycles was so big, that Europe's largest bicycle factory - RTE in Vila Nova de Gaia - reopened its doors after two months of production stoppage. The cycling boom has also resulted in a search for “second-hand bicycles” on the online marketplace OLX doubling in just one month.  

Even before the pandemic, Lisbon has already been noticing a rise in cycling, an increase from less than 1% in 2017 to 3-4% in early 2020. The introduction of Gira – Lisbon’s bike-sharing system, has helped stimulate cycling in the city, but the plans and expectations are even more ambitious. Miguel Gaspar, Deputy Mayor for Mobility and Safety at the City of Lisbon, hopes to reach a target of 10% of journeys made by bike in 2021. 

To provide the right environment for Lisbon’s cycling community to grow, the city has introduced an ambitious, €3 million “mobility fund” to subsidize bicycle purchases. Citizens can apply for vouchers to buy either standard bicycles, e-bikes, or cargo bikes. Another important plan is to implement 200 km of cycle paths in Lisbon, and despite challenges encountered on the way, the city remains committed to that target. Other measures, such as more bike parking, transforming public space previously reserved for cars into spaces where people meet and safely enjoy time outside have been applied. Additionally, attention has also been given to cycling education and putting in place a programme through which all the children in primary schools will be able to learn how to ride a bike, encouraging safe cycling from an early age.  

With the measures mentioned above, Lisbon has joined other forward-thinking European cities in re-imagining mobility systems in urban centers, even more important now, in the context of the COVID-19 crisis. In the months leading up to the Velo-city 2021 Lisboa conference, we will be sharing more detailed insights into the measures the city has been taking to promote and increase bicycle use in the city and encourage safe, sustainable and active mobility for the post-COVID-19 world, so stay tuned for more. 

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