Coronavirus: bicycles keep cars away from streets of European cities, Europe News & Top Stories

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – Bikes are driving cars farther and farther away on the streets of European cities, as the coronavirus accelerates the shift to pedal power.

Even before the pandemic, bicycles saw an increase in demand from environmentally conscious consumers, but the risk of contagion on buses and subways increased the appeal.

The emergence of e-bikes, which boost horsepower with an electric motor, removed some of the sweat factor, making cycling a viable option for more consumers after the blockages were lifted.

Governments are fueling the trend, offering purchase incentives ranging from € 100 (S $ 157) to up to € 1,500 for heavy professional e-bike users.

Cities from Berlin to Lisbon are also opening up more space, with nearly 1,500 km of new lanes promised in the wake of the public health crisis, according to the European Cycling Federation.

“People want autonomous and sustainable mobility, it’s a transformation of society,” said Ms. Susanne Puello, an industry veteran who helps manage Pierer Mobility’s e-bike business, including brands Husqvarna and R Raymon.

“Corona is a phenomenal push in this direction.”

The unit’s revenue is expected to triple to more than 100 million euros in 2020 compared to two years ago, and the bike maker expects sales to climb to around 500 million euros. euros by 2025, putting it behind industry heavyweights like Dutch manufacturer Accell Group. , Specialty Bicycle Components from the United States, and Giant Manufacturing Co and Merida Industry Co. of Taiwan.

Growing demand has also propelled new services like Swapfiets.

The Amsterdam-based company which offers bike subscriptions on Thursday, July 2 has announced plans to expand to London, Milan and Paris before the end of the year, after strong demand during the pandemic carried its customer base to more than 200,000.

The company – majority-owned by Pon Holdings, maker of Gazelle and Kalkhoff bikes – plans to add more electric bikes and scooters to its lineup.

Swapfiets offers long-term rentals and differs from ad hoc services like Uber Technologies’ Jump, which became part of Lime amid the spread of the disease.

“Corona only contributes to the decision, but is not really the cause,” said Mr. Onno Huyghe, Managing Director of Swapfiets.

“Most people just recognize that cycling is the best form of transportation” in the city.

During the shutdown, people across Germany spent twice as much time cycling than before, according to Ms Stephanie Krone, traffic expert at the German cycling association ADFC.

Bike shops are currently experiencing an “unprecedented boom”, but for this to continue, municipalities must improve infrastructure to accommodate all newcomers, she said.

Demand in Europe’s largest economy is supported in part by programs such as tax breaks for employers to provide rental bicycles to workers, as part of Germany’s efforts to tackle climate change .

Ms Puello estimates that one in four electric bicycles, which typically cost more than € 2,000, were rented last year.

Germany is by far the largest bicycle market in Europe, with 1.36 million e-bikes sold in 2019, more than double the number three years earlier.

For comparison, 3.6 million cars were sold in the country last year, and the market fell 35% in the first half of 2020.

The lockdown prompted authorities in 32 of the largest cities in the European Union to come up with the planned improvements, according to the European Cyclists Federation.

Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands pioneered expressways designed for commuters.

Many plans are made to the detriment of automobile traffic.

Notoriously congested Rome, for example, has mostly painted only cycle lanes on existing roads, and Berlin and Paris have put up pop-up lanes amid the pandemic.

Women are one of the main drivers of the increase in e-bike sales.

Giant Manufacturing has created a separate brand focused on women, while Ms Puello said Pierer’s Husqvarna has cross-appeal because the Swedish company’s portfolio of the same name spans from chainsaws to sewing machines.

To some extent, the gain of the bicycle industry is the pain of the automakers.

More than half of consumers see e-bikes as a suitable substitute for certain car uses, and 28 percent see e-bikes as a primary substitute for cars for downtown transportation, according to a survey by Internetstores , an online bicycle retailer owned by Austrian billionaire René Benko’s Signa Holding.

The company expects cycling trends to help it grow by around 30% per year in the coming years, a rate that could push it to € 1 billion in revenue. from 2023.

“People are turning to bicycles for getting around to improve their health and fitness, to save money, because they love to ride and for the sake of the environment,” said Hans Dohrmann, Managing Director of Internet Stores.

“They want fitness without booking a training camp.”

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Joan J. Holland