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On your bike, minister pledges €4 mln for cycling

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Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos, who shared a bus ride in support of students, got on a bike and pedalled the 6-minute route from his office to the Finance Ministry to announce €4 mln in investments.

The funding includes a fleet of 100 electric bikes for government use.

Karousos is popular with the public for his hands-on approach to many daily life issues.

He was just appointed minister when in January 2020, he got on a bus with schoolchildren to see first-hand the sorry state of public transport.

On that bus trip, he was shocked to discover mushrooms growing inside due to the damp conditions onboard. He ordered the bus grounded.

On Tuesday, Karousos said he would like to see bicycles as part of the everyday lives of all Cypriots as a safe and reliable means of transport, exercise, and leisure.

His ministry and the Public Works Department are “working diligently to reshape public transport”.

“In a country like Cyprus, with short distances and the Mediterranean climate, the bicycle can become an alternative option for transportation, apart from a means of sports and entertainment.”

Karousos announced a 17-point action plan for 2021-2023, which is part of an EU-wide activity for relief from carbon emissions declared in the National Plan for Energy and Climate towards climate neutrality by 2050.

These include improving infrastructure, especially new and wider cycle paths leading to schools, malls, and government offices.

Also reducing speed limits in many urban areas to 30kph, better signage, flow at traffic lights, introducing “car-free Sundays” by closing off roads, encouraging affordable bicycle rentals or lending, better cycle routes supported by mobile apps and setting up covered shelters.

Other measures include encouraging civil servants to ride to work by installing changing rooms in government buildings.

The provision of changing rooms and showers in public-use buildings (malls, hotels, office blocks) will be mandatory by Town Planning regulations.

Companies that adopt these measures will receive ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘carbon neutrality’ certification as part of their corporate social responsibility.

The scheme also includes grants and subsidies for the purchase or maintenance of bicycles.

A website, Bike2Work, will incorporate all these measures and information about events and grant schemes.

Meanwhile, ‘cycle education’ will be enhanced in schools, and signposting will be upgraded around towns to indicate bicycle-friendly services.

The Transport Minister said the state would invest in 100 electric bicycles “in the first stage” for ‘government use’.

Accompanying Karousos on the 6km ride was Nicosia’s Cycle Mayor and Road Safety Ambassador Marina Kyriacou.

She said: “Sustainable development requires the promotion of mild modes of transport.

“The use of bicycles, as has been proven in many cities around the world, helps to improve the quality of life for inhabitants, and help them acquire a human-centred character.”