Italian bike-buyers to get up to 500 euros

People in Italy buying new bicycles many be given subsidies of up to 500 euros ($A840).
People in Italy buying new bicycles many be given subsidies of up to 500 euros ($A840).

The Italian government has approved subsidies of up to 500 euros ($A840) for people who buy a new bicycle or electric scooter or sign up to bike and scooter sharing services.

Subsidies are limited to people who live in cities with at least 50,000 residents, and cover up to 60 per cent of the cost with a 500-euro maximum payout, the government said in a Thursday statement.

The measure, announced earlier this week, had been at risk of being scrapped from the final version of a government decree approved late on Wednesday.

In an earlier draft, subsidies covered 70 per cent of expenses incurred. The incentives will remain in place until the end of the year.

"We had asked for more, but it is a great step forward, our assessment is positive," Alessandro Tursi, president of the Italian Federation for the Environment and Cycling (FIAB), said.

The rationale behind the subsidies is to support green mobility in the post-lockdown phase, in which people are gradually returning to work but have limited access to public transport.

Due to social-distancing rules stemming from the coronavirus epidemic, buses, trains and metro carriages are supposed to carry far fewer passengers.

The government measure should give "an incredible" boost to Italy's bicycle industry, which is the "second-largest in the world," Environment Minister Sergio Costa said.

According to statistics agency Istat, last year only 3 million Italians cycled or walked to work, compared to 16.5 million who commuted by private car or motorbike and around 2 million by public transport.

Several Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, have announced ambitious plans to expand their bike lane networks over the next months.

Tursi said his association would also like changes in the highway code to make it legal for cyclists to use bus lanes and allow two-way cycling in one way streets.

Australian Associated Press