The bicycle, Lisbon’s green ally against coronavirus

By Irene Barahona

Lisbon, Dec 4 (efe-epa) – Lisbon, the 2020 European Green Capital award winner, has found that the use of bicycles is a good ally in slowing down the spread of coronavirus, and so to further support the use of bikes, the city is allocating 3 million euros of financing for bicycle purchases, plus extra cycle lanes will be added.

Locals in the city will be encouraged to purchase and use bicycles in the city through subsidies, reducing the cost of bikes for locals significantly.

The aim, explained by the Lisbon City Council, is to decongest the use of public transport, which is a hotspot for coronavirus transmission, and, in turn, to reduce the use of private cars.

The council’s support programme for the purchasing of bicycles has a budget of three million euros and has already granted almost two thousand subsidies at a total value of 390,000 euros.

Fifty-nine per cent of the approved concessions have been for the purchase of conventional vehicles, while the rest are for electric bicycles.

With these subsidies in place for Lisbon residents, the city pays half of the purchase price, up to a maximum of 100 euros, for conventional bicycles, and up to 350 euros for bicycles with a mixed system (electric motor and pedals), and up to 500 euros for a fully electric bicycle.

Over the years, Lisbon has launched numerous public and private initiatives to promote the use of bicycles.

The council believes that cycling is a “safe and sustainable” alternative that will help reduce pollution and noise in the city, as well as “improve the quality of life and health of Lisbon’s citizens”.

An extension of the city’s cycle path network, which already spans 150 kilometres, aims to reach 200 kilometres by May 2021.

However, environmental associations in Portugal claim that more measures are still needed to support cycling and ensure rider safety.

The community bicycle service, managed by EMEL, has an average of more than four thousand trips per day in the city since the lockdown, and the figures continue to increase.

The president of the Portuguese Federation of Cycle Tourism and Bicycle Users (FPCUB), José Manuel Caetano, confirmed to Efe that the measures promoted in Lisbon to encourage the use of bicycles have been effective, not only through private use or through the community network, but across the board there has been a “significant increase in the number of members, especially middle-aged women.”

For his part, António Gonçalves, president of the Portuguese EcoMood association, which promotes sustainable mobility, warned Efe that cycling in Lisbon currently involves a “risk of death, as people share the road with cars and lorries,” due to current traffic laws.

“In order to promote cycling, a distinction must be made between cyclists and bicycle users; the speed between a cyclist who is exercising and a normal user can be approximately 30 kilometres per hour,” said Gonçalves.

This association proposes the conversion of pedestrian areas into areas shared with bicycle users, especially on stretches that are more dangerous because of heavy traffic.

Lisbon has lived up to its title of Europe’s greenest city by promoting numerous green initiatives while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to promoting cycling as a key means of transport, the city has planted one hundred thousand trees, as well as hosting several national conferences.

Lisbon also hosted the ITS European Congress and the Planetiers World Gathering and exhibitions throughout the city at the National Library, the Natural History Museum, and the Oceanarium in Lisbon.

The agenda extends until 2021 with the opening of the exhibition “Water” at the Pavilhão do Conhecimento of the Centro Ciência Viva in Lisbon, an event which focuses on access to drinking water.

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