By Sergio Goncalves and Miguel Pereira

LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s bicycle makers feared for their future when the coronavirus pandemic forced them in March to shut for two months but 2020 now looks set to be a bumper year as people shun public transport and opt for healthier ways of getting around.

Portugal, Europe’s largest manufacturer of bicycles, had to shut its nearly 40 factories and put their 8,000-strong workforce on furlough to help curb the spread of COVID-19, but is now struggling to keep up with booming global demand.

“When we closed on March 13, we thought it would be a catastrophe, we were scared,” said Bruno Salgado, executive board member of RTE Bikes, which owns Europe’s largest bike factory, in the city of Gaia, in northern Portugal.

“But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us,” said Salgado, standing between two busy production lines at the factory, which produced 1.1 million bicycles last year.

Related slideshow: Sectors showing resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic (Provided by Photo Services)

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