The coronavirus crisis is an opportunity to encourage people to use bicycles rather than crowded buses, cycling activists have argued in a call for the government to incentivise bicycle use. 

Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar and the Bicycle Advocacy Group have jointly called for ministries and companies to hand out free vouchers for bicycle rentals to their employees, saying the current scenario is a golden opportunity to make use of unused rental bikes while encouraging people to give cycling a try.

Encouraging cycling, they noted, would have a triple-benefit effect: it would improve people’s health, reduce their chance of COVID-19 infection as people shifted away from public transport, and reduce emissions levels in the longer term.

Data suggests that more than 60 per cent of local trips are under 5km in length, with roughly one in three being less than 2km long. An untrained cyclist can pedal 2km in roughly 10 minutes.

“There is huge scope for many more one-person bike trips,” the NGOs said, citing a Times of Malta report that the decrease in traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic had improved air quality by up to 70 per cent. 

“Other countries are already heavily promoting cycling during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving bicycle shops and repair services open as essential,” they said, arguing that the Maltese government and private sector should also step up its efforts. 

“Companies could boost dwindling profits by renting out existing bikes long-term to individuals or companies for a symbolic charge as their contribution to fight COVID-19,” they suggested.

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