Covid-19: Governments acknowledge role for cycling amid crisis

Madrid city council will reopen its public cycle-hire scheme Bicimad this week, following more than a month’s closure, in recognition of “the fundamental role of the bicycle as an alternative means of mobility in the current crisis”, the council announced last Friday.

The move follows a statement last week by Spanish environment minister Teresa Ribera committing her ministry to working with local administrations to assess ways of promoting cycling as a safe and sustainable alternative form of mobility. 

This contrasts with what the spokeswoman for the cycling organisation ConBici Laura Vergara described to ENDS as “the criminalisation by Spanish law enforcement agencies of the use of bicycles” since the implementation of confinement measures on 15 March.  “Public bike-hire schemes were shut, parks used for commuting were closed and some police forces were told to stop and question all cyclists,” she said.

In Italy, where severe restrictions on movement have also been enforced, the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, last Friday called for government financial assistance for purchasing electric bicycles as an alternative to car and public transport as confinement is wound down.

In France, the environment ministry is prepared to support  local authorities “which are considering the implementation of temporary cycle paths to facilitate certain bicycle journeys in the context of containment”, a spokeswoman told ENDS.

The European Commission recognises “that cycling and walking (while respecting the minimum distance requirements) can make an important contribution to mobility given that public transport has been reduced as a result of the pandemic. In this regard, the commission follows with great interest developments in this area,” a spokesperson told ENDS.

The European cyclists’ federation welcomed the developments and spokesman Niccolò Panozzo told ENDS “this is the right time to start a conversion of our cities and to make them safe for cyclists”.

Follow-up: Madrid city council press release , European cyclists’ federation

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