France experiments with paying people to cycle to work

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

bicycle01France has, in the beginning of June 2014, started a six-month experiment with paying people to cycle to work, joining other European governments in trying to boost the use of the bicycle to improve people's health, to reduce air pollution and to cut fossil fuel consumption.

Several European countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany,

Belgium and Britain have bike-to-work schemes, with differing kinds of incentives such as tax breaks, payments per kilometer or mile (depending whether metric or imperial system being in use) and financial support for buying bicycles.

Britain made a lot of hullabaloo at the launch of its system but I have yet to see it working as to the financial support for buying bicycles and such. It seems to be a system that is worked, in the UK, through the workplace and it then very much depends on the company as to whether yay or nay.

However, the use of bicycles seems to be very much on the up for commuting and also for trips to the shops and vising friends locally and such in the UK and the trend is still rising, judging by the new faces one sees on a daily basis on bikes going to work or to the shops. It is just a shame that the UK has not also created a decent cycling infrastructure to go with it. The Netherlands and Denmark (and also Germany) are a totally different kettle of fish when it comes to cycling and cycling infrastructure.

In France, some twenty companies and other institutions employing a total of

10,000 people have signed up to pay their staff 25 cents (Euro) per kilometer biked to work, the trans port ministry said in a statement.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million kilometer, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

The Brussels-based European Cyclists' Federation has European Union funding to study best practices among various cycling incentive schemes, the group's Bike2Work project manager Randy Rzewnicki said.

City bike-loan schemes have played a large role in boosting bicycle commuting and cities including Barcelona, London and Stockholm have followed the model of the Velib in Paris.

What is far more important that a city-bike loan scheme, while a lovely idea and one that seems to have received to great response, is cycling infrastructure for people to be able to safely cycle to and from work, children cycling to school and people being able to pop down to the shops, including supermarkets, on their bicycles instead of using the car. When the infrastructure is there, one that has physically separated bicycle paths, such as in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark, then people will get on their bikes rather than into their cars and no bike-to-work scheme for free or subsidized bicycles will be needed. The simple savings factor of bicycle vs. the car will make people do it.

© 2014