‘A blessing in disguise’: COVID-19 provides enhance to Portugal’s bicycle makers
Many are avoiding crowded trains and buses through the pandemic, preferring to cycle, stroll or jog to work and different locations
By Sergio Goncalves and Miguel Pereira
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s bicycle makers feared for his or her future when the coronavirus pandemic compelled them in March to close for 2 months however 2020 now seems to be set to be a bumper yr as folks shun public transport and go for more healthy methods of getting round.
Portugal, Europe’s largest producer of bicycles, needed to shut its practically 40 factories and put their 8,000-strong workforce on furlough to assist curb the unfold of COVID-19, however is now struggling to maintain up with booming world demand.
“After we closed on March 13, we thought it might be a disaster, we have been scared,” mentioned Bruno Salgado, government board member of RTE Bikes, which owns Europe’s largest bike manufacturing unit, within the metropolis of Gaia, in northern Portugal.
“Nevertheless it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us,” mentioned Salgado, standing between two busy manufacturing traces on the manufacturing unit, which produced 1.1 million bicycles final yr.
Worldwide, folks have been attempting to keep away from crowded trains and buses through the pandemic, preferring to cycle, stroll or jog to work and different locations.
Cristina Latoeira, a civil servant in Lisbon, mentioned it was the pandemic that had lastly persuaded her to splash out 800 euros on the electrical bike she had lengthy dreamed of shopping for.
“It’s the worry of being on very busy public transport, in winter, the worry of contagion that made me select this mode of transport that I take into account a lot safer,” the 42-year-old mentioned.
Like most different European international locations, Portugal has not too long ago seen the variety of COVID-19 infections rise once more after a summer season lull.
Portugal exports about 90% of the bicycles it produces, with key markets in Germany, France and Italy.
As lockdowns imposed to halt the unfold of COVID-19 started to ease throughout Europe through the summer season months, distributors across the continent ran out of inventory, pushing Portuguese producers to lift manufacturing and capability.
RTE Bikes is now working at full steam, producing about 5,000 bicycles a day, up from a mean of three,000-4,000 this time final yr, Salgado mentioned.
João Maia, common supervisor at In Cycles, a rival agency which produced 87,000 bicycles in 2019, has seen demand double.
“In the meanwhile, we export bicycles to all international locations on the earth, together with international locations which are presupposed to be main bicycle producers” akin to Italy, Bulgaria and Romania, mentioned Maia, as electrical bikes have been assembled in a manufacturing line behind him.
In Cycles plans to double its manufacturing traces to 4 from this month and already has orders for about 185,000 bicycles in 2021, Maia added.
Even earlier than the pandemic struck, partly because of elevated issues over local weather change and a transfer to more healthy existence, Portugal’s manufacturing had jumped 42% in 2019 to a document 2.7 million bicycles – nearly 1 / 4 of all these constructed within the European Union, in response to Eurostat information.
Regardless of this yr’s two-month manufacturing unit shutdown, Gil Nadais, common secretary of the Portuguese bicycle producers’ affiliation Abimota, advised Reuters he expects the nation will beat final yr’s document.
Lisbon civil servant Latoeira actually has no regrets.
“I had hesitated loads, I used to be very anxious whether or not I ought to make this buy as a result of it’s a bicycle, it may be stolen,” she mentioned. “Nevertheless it was value it.”
(Writing by Sergio Goncalves and Ingrid Melander Modifying by Gareth Jones)