Governments and organizations around the globe are looking for ways to maintain the few brighter elements of the Coronavirus pandemic, and one of the clearest benefits is cleaner skies. Folks in Italy can even get a new mountain bike out of the deal.
In a bid to lower urban traffic and its requisite smog, anyone living in an urban center with a population larger than 50,000 inhabitants is eligible for a “bonus” from the Ministry of the Environment of up to €500. The stipend covers up to 60% of the purchase of an alternative vehicle, so buyers are incentivized to buy a slightly more expensive bike than they might otherwise. While the money can cover almost any form of alternative transport that doesn’t use a combustion engine, like an e-scooter or Onewheel, bikes are the hot commodity.
By some basic algebra, the best savings would be on a model priced at €833.33, applying the full 60% stipend, and leaving exactly 30% paid by the customer. While big-box stores like Decathlon have a host of budget builds on offer, bike shops across Italy are selling more bikes than they can stock. One shop owner in Pinerolo sold a record number of bikes in one day, as more than 25 customers passed through the door with a new set of wheels. They now only have the highest-end bikes available, and some models are being sold with no firm date when they will arrive at the shop.
While more butts on bikes won’t solve the climate crisis alone, it’s an important shift in the right direction. Air pollution in northern Italy is among the worst across the European continent, and compromised respiratory systems are seen as a possible contributing factor to the virus spread in northern regions. This effort to improve air quality is being celebrated, as bike paths, roads, and trails flood with masked, solo pedalers.