The promise of a greener, more sustainable and more responsible Europe is at the core of Ursula von der Leyen's leadership of the European Commission, who pledged to define the Green Deal's ecological strategy within the first 100 days of her mandate. The package of measures is being administered by the vice-president, Frans Timmermans, who has already announced his intention to include the use of the bicycle in European funding.
Still under development, the promotion of the acquisition of these vehicles will include the mechanisms associated with the creation of a million electric charging stations and sustainable transport infrastructure, which includes bicycle lanes. The provision of the Ecological Green Deal dedicated to urban mobility is expected to involve 20 billion euros. However, despite the declared enthusiasm of the sector, CONEBI – the Confederation of the European Bicycle Industry points out that “the process is far from over, as these advertisements need to be turned into plans and budgets that can be disclosed throughout the EU”.
In Portugal this year, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change approved the reinforcement of the incentive to promote the introduction of low-emission vehicles, which includes specific financial backing for the purchase of bicycles, both conventional and electric, for companies and citizens. The Environmental Fund will pay 50% of the value of the purchase with a limit of 350 euros in the case of electric models, and 10% of the value with a limit of 100 euros for conventional bicycles.
After the Covid-19 pandemic had broken out, Fernando Medina also announced the creation of a programme to encourage the purchase of this means of transport for the inhabitants of Lisbon, which can be used together with the programme implemented by the Government. The city, this year´s Green Capital, will finance, through the mobility fund, up to 50% of the purchase price: up to 100 euros for conventional bicycles (exclusively for students), up to 350 euros for electric bicycles and up to 500 euros for goods vehicles. The total amount allocated to this environmental package comes to 3 million euros.
THE PANDEMIC HAS BOOSTED BUSINESS
The initial impact of Covid-19 in Portugal forced Esmaltina, a Sangalhos-based company specialising in the assembly of bicycles, to close down its activities, however its workers were back on the production line just two weeks later. Company director Paulo Lemos explains that he started receiving multiple orders from abroad, a pleasant surprise that led him to hire 30 employees to help meet the demand. Used to exporting around 80% of production, the 50-year-old company is now expanding and has branched out into countries such as Spain, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
The owner of a store dedicated to the sale and maintenance of bicycles, Carlos Siopa says he is surprised by the wave of customers who, in recent months, have sought out CCBikes, in São Domingos de Rana, to start or return to cycling. “I wasn't expecting it”, he admits.
His stock ran out in a week and he is already placing orders with his Taiwanese supplier for 2021. In addition to his sales soaring at the time of a pandemic, Carlos Siopa guarantees that he had never, in more than twenty years in the market, witnessed a phenomenon of this size. The explosion in demand has led to the last few months being the best ever for CCBikes, he declares.
“I couldn´t handle all the maintenance work," he explains to Energiser, adding that cycling is an increasingly popular alternative to public transport in these times of Covid-19. People who had forgotten they even had a bicycle suddenly saw them as a means of avoiding crowded buses and trains, rekindling their desire to cycle.
With regard to the creation of European financing mechanisms for the acquisition of bicycles, Siopa believes this will be a way of sustaining demand and promoting the growth of the Portuguese market.