However, a broad range of cycling cultures remains across the continent. There are areas where cycling is strongly culturally embedded, such as the Netherlands and individual cities that have built on the popularity of cycling during the pandemic and have subsequently continued improving their cycling infrastructure, such as Paris. In many parts of Europe, cycling remains a marginal phenomenon though, with only a small number of people regularly using a bicycle as a means of transport. In 2022, more Europeans reported that they did not think cycling infrastructure had recently improved in their area than did report improvements.
Electric bike sales are breaking recordsA particularly significant trend in the cycling industry has been the widespread adoption of e-bikes. E-bikes (electronically power-assisted cycles or EPACs) are equipped with a battery-powered motor that supports the rider but is capped at a maximum speed of 25 km/h. Sales of e-bikes across Europe have been rising year-on-year and exceeded 5 million units in 2021. Germany, France, and the Netherlands, where e-bikes have become a popular option for commuting and leisure trips, are currently the largest markets on the continent.
E-bikes have also started to be adopted for last-mile deliveries in cities. Electric cargo bikes' agility and low environmental impact make them a viable alternative to light commercial vehicles for transporting smaller cargo items in urban areas.
Supply chain disruptions are affecting bicycle salesWhile demand for bicycles has surged in Europe, supply chain problems have constrained manufacturers' ability to meet this increasing demand. Bicycle suppliers have been reporting waiting times of more than one year to fulfill orders of new bikes. Delays have been largely due to shortages of bicycle components. Like other sectors, the bicycle industry has been affected by the surge in the cost of containers and shipping and the COVID-related reduction of production capacity in China. Additionally, e-bikes, which require electrical components, have been affected by the global semiconductor shortage.
Supply chain problems have less impacted companies manufacturing in Europe for the European market, but many still rely on components manufactured in Asia. Nonetheless, European bicycle production grew during the pandemic, with the number of bicycles produced in the EU rising from 12 million in 2019 to 12.5 million in 2021. Anti-dumping measures introduced by the EU in 2019 had already reduced the import of bicycles to the trading bloc from China and had strengthened domestic production.
Portugal's bicycle and component manufacturing sector has been able to profit particularly strongly from the return of production of bicycles for the European market to the continent. Historically, Germany and Italy had been the largest bicycle producers in Europe but have been overtaken by Portugal in recent years, which now produces more than a fifth of all bikes manufactured in the EU.