Italian Pedal Power

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Italy has seen a surge in bicycle sales since the government ended lockdown and people steer clear of public transport, responding to government incentives to help the environment, reports Reuters.

Some 540,000 bikes have been sold nationwide since shops across the country reopened in early May. To keep people off metros and buses and avoid road congestion, the government has offered to contribute up to 500 euros ($562.70) for city-dwellers who buy traditional or “pedal-assisted” electrical bicycles.

This is a much more serious incentive than those offered by, say, Britain and France, where the respective governments simply offered to help fix your old bike with a £50 or €50 contribution, respectively.

The Italian subsidy, which kicked in on May 4 and runs to the end of the year, has accelerated a trend in place even in small centres where it is not available. “May has been an extraordinary month for the e-bike market,” Gian Franco Nanni, chief executive of Italian electric vehicle producer Askoll EVA told Reuters. “We have seen triple-digit growth in orders compared with a year ago.”

The government has set aside €120m euros for its incentive plan, and has said it will make more funds available if needed. Meanwhile, Milan has introduced one of Europe’s most ambitious cycling and walking schemes, with 22 miles of streets to be transformed over the summer; and London and Paris are following suit.

Bicycle use has been traditionally popular in the flat northern cities of the Po Valley such as Bologna and Parma, but is now also becoming more frequent in cities further south.