Fitness junkies locked out of gyms, commuters fearful of public transit, and families going stir crazy inside their homes during the coronavirus pandemic have created a boom in bicycle sales unseen in decades.
In the United States, bicycle aisles at mass merchandisers like Walmart and Target have been swept clean, and independent shops are doing a brisk business and are selling out of affordable “family” bikes.
Bicycle sales over the past two months saw their biggest spike in the U.S. since the oil crisis of the 1970s, said Jay Townley, who analyzes cycling industry trends at Human Powered Solutions.
“People quite frankly have panicked, and they’re buying bikes like toilet paper,” Townley said, referring to the rush to buy essentials like toilet paper and hand sanitizer that stores saw at the beginning of the pandemic.
The trend is mirrored around the globe, as cities better known for car-clogged streets, like Manila and Rome, install bike lanes to accommodate surging interest in cycling while public transport remains curtailed. In London, municipal authorities plan to go further by banning cars from some central thoroughfares.
Bike shop owners in the Philippine capital say demand is stronger than at Christmas. Financial incentives are boosting sales in Italy, where the government’s post-lockdown stimulus last month included a 500-euro ($575) “bici bonus” rebate for up to 60% of the cost of a bike.
But that’s if you can get your hands on one. The craze has led to shortages that will take some weeks, maybe months, to resolve, particularly in the U.S., which relies on China for about 90% of its bicycles, Townley said. Production there was largely shut down due to the coronavirus and is just resuming.
The bicycle rush kicked off in mid-March around the time countries were shutting their borders, businesses were closing, and stay-at-home orders were being imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has infected millions of people and killed more than 450,000.
Sales of adult leisure bikes tripled in April while overall U.S. bike sales, including kids’ and electric-assist bicycles, doubled from the year before, according to market research firm NPD Group, which tracks retail bike sales.
It’s a far cry from what was anticipated in the U.S. The $6 billion industry had projected lower sales based on lower volume in 2019 in which punitive tariffs on bicycles produced in China reached 25%.
As parts of Europe and the United States begin to lift coronavirus lockdown restrictions and allow people to go shopping, visit relatives and return to work, public officials are facing a new conundrum: How can people travel safely in crowded cities?
Italy is poised to serve as a major test case. On Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced that many restrictions on daily life will be eased starting next Monday, but he warned that people would still need to avoid large gatherings, maintain social distancing and wear masks in certain circumstances.
“If we do not respect the precautions, the curve will go up, the deaths will increase and we will have irreversible damage to our economy,” Conte said in a televised address to the nation. “If you love Italy, keep your distance.”
Some 2.7 million Italians are expected to return to work next week, with 15% of them anticipated to use public transportation, according to Italian authorities.
Thus, government officials and business leaders are scrambling to develop protocols to allow people to move about freely without triggering a surge in coronavirus infections.
Under new guidelines that are being considered, the number of people allowed on buses and trains is likely to be restricted. Markers will be placed on the ground in metro stations to enforce social distancing, and camera systems and personnel will be deployed to help count passengers and prevent overcrowding, according to HuffPost Italy.
Italy’s transport ministry has suggested that electronic ticket machines will likely become standard, with hand sanitizer dispensers installed nearby. Trains and buses will be disinfected regularly, and the way passengers board and exit vehicles and stations will be adjusted. Moreover, a key goal of any plan will be to spread out daily commuters in order to reduce congestion.
Already, new measures are being tested in Rome. During a three-hour testing period on Friday, only 30 passengers were allowed into stations every three minutes at two of the city’s metro lines, and the number of passengers on each train was capped at 150, HuffPost Italy reported. On the train platforms, blue stripes with small dots indicated how far apart passengers needed to stand. Passages connecting the two lines were closed to prevent people from crossing each other and creating crowds.
In addition, many cities are hoping to encourage people to use alternate forms of transportation. Bologna has requested support from the federal government for the purchase of e-bikes and electric scooters, for example, and Milan has unveiled an ambitious plan to remake
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the world, automakers are taking extreme measures in the form of plant closures to halt the spread of COVID-19, the disease the coronavirus causes. The situation remains fluid as more European companies suspend work and US automakers extend shutdown periods.
Here are all the automakers and companies that have elected to halt production in the US and Europe so far. Information on Detroit’s Big Three begins our coverage, followed by all other shutdowns organized by the date automakers announced them. We’ve also compiled a full list of automakers returning to work with plants restarted in some capacity.
Ford shut down all European and North American production on March 19 to help combat the spread of COVID-19. While Ford intended to reopen facilities and restart production on March 30, the company on March 31 delayed that goal indefinitely. However, it plans to start ventilator production at one of its US facilities on April 20. Production of Ford vehicles and engines across the pond is expected to resume on May 4 at the soonest.
Keep track of the coronavirus pandemic.
GM joined Ford on March 18 in announcing a total suspension of all North American production starting March 19. The automaker said it would pull its facilities offline in a “cadence” and each plant would receive specific instructions. GM hasn’t made any announcements regarding when its plants will resume normal production, but it is building ventilators and masks at two US GM facilities. The automaker made the decision to build personal protective equipment on its own before the Trump administration forced it to do so by invoking the Defense Production Act.
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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
FCA joined Ford and GM on March 18 in announcing it would suspend all North American operations to help stop the spread of COVID-19. While GM and Ford haven’t established new dates to restart production, FCA told Roadshow on April 7 it now plans to bring workers back on May 4. An FCA spokesperson originally told Roadshow the automaker’s Italian plants could open on April 14, but as of April 15, the company said it will continue to follow guidelines from the Italian government. The country will remain in a lockdown state until May 3, which leaves a production start at least a few weeks away. The automaker will evaluate other European plants in the coming weeks.
Kia on March 24 said it would suspend production at its manufacturing plant in Georgia starting March 30. The shutdown will last two weeks, and includes a previously planned suspension to retool for new vehicles. The automaker originally planned to restart production on April 13, but named April 27 as the new target date. Kia did not immediately return a request for comment to learn if manufacturing operations has restarted.
Using public transportation like the subway, a train, or bus can make it difficult to social distance or avoid touching shared surfaces.
Due to subway line closures and fewer people on the subway, it may be easier to maintain distance between yourself and other passengers.
However, crowded subway cars, trains, and buses can quickly become a hotbed of contaminants due to high foot traffic and riders touching, sneezing, or coughing on shared surfaces.
In order to attempt to curb this, the MTA in New York City has modified its schedules for the Long Island Rail Road and the Metro-North Railroad, and strategically planned its subway line service during “peak” travel times.
“I understand people are trying to get somewhere, but no one should be getting on a crowded train,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told local station NY1. “Spread out throughout the train, [or] wait for the next train.”
If you do have to travel using public transportation, be sure to wear some sort of face covering, use the least-crowded bus or subway car as possible, avoid touching shared surfaces, sanitize your area if possible, and don’t bring your hands close to your face. Travelers should also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash their hands after exiting the bus or train.
The CDC also recommends that instead of touching shared surfaces with bare hands, travelers should use a disposable tissue or even a sleeve to cover their hands or finger if they must touch something while traveling.
Some auto dealerships in Billings are making it easier for customers to purchase vehicles by eliminating the first few months of payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Austin Saylor, general manager of Lithia Dodge in Billings, says that the company has taken an approach aimed at convenience for customers, while also avoiding them coming into the dealership to buy cars.
The dealer has videos posted online where customers can take a virtual tour of vehicles. Customers can also schedule remote test drives where a vehicle is dropped off at the customer’s location and completely sanitized before being driven.
“I would say the majority of the whole transaction, the customer hasn’t even come into the dealership,” says Saylor.
Lithia Dodge has implemented new payment programs that push payments back for up to six months on new vehicles, allowing buyers to avoid that initial hit to their wallets during the pandemic.
“The best thing that has come out of this, is the dealer, the manufacturer, and the banks coming together to push those payments,” says Saylor.
If any families who need vehicles have been affected financially by COVID-19, they should ask their local dealers about payment plans and options, along with their lenders.
Manheim is providing discounts and waiving fees for its online services to support customers and clients whose businesses are impacted by closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a release from Manheim.
The company said it was waiving the sell fee on its Manheim Express app, which is for digital wholesale buying and selling, on all self-listed vehicles in April. It’s also offering independent auction discounts on OVE sales through May 31, and providing a 30-day complimentary trial for clients to Central Dispatch, which connects dealers, brokers, shippers and others directly with vehicle logistics carriers.
Manheim is also introducing a new weekend OVE event sale to motivated sellers willing to accept offers to move surplus inventory. Manheim is also supporting the roll-out of RideKleen’s new surface disinfecting and air cleansing service for dealers and fleet operators. This service is designed to drive customer confidence when arranging at-home test drives, buying cars or servicing vehicles through dealers – knowing the vehicle is sanitized.
Manheim also announced additional operational updates:
Digital channels and tools are fully operational.
Simulcast-only sales will continue at Manheim locations, where local, state and national directives allow.
All auction locations are closed to buyers and sellers, and only vehicle pick-up and drop off is allowed.
All Simulcast selling will be handled via Manheim’s Remote-Seller tool.
Several ongoing policies put in place by Manheim include:
Waiving Simulcast buyer and seller fees
Waiving fees for sellers for vehicles sold without title such as Title Absent (TA)
Temporarily changing our Arbitration policy by not allowing arbitration on a TA vehicle
Directing them to the Manheim Learning Center for ways to learn and save time when doing business digitally