Can France increase biking rates by paying riders?

France is paying some workers 25 euro cents to bike to work.
Written by Tyler Falk, Contributor

France is testing a new bike-to-work initiative that will pay people to commute on bike.

During this six-month experiment, 20 companies, with a combined total of 10,000 employees, will offer to pay workers who commute to work on bike 25 euro cents (34 U.S. cents) per kilometer traveled, the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development, and Energy said.

The goal: increase bike commuting by 50 percent, from its relatively low (for Europe) bike commuting rate of 2.4 percent. That's how much a government study concluded the country could increase biking with the pay-per-km scheme.

The idea, according to Frédéric Cuvillier, the French Minister for Transport, is that other forms of transportation, like cars and public transit, are subsidized, so bicycles should be too.

If successful, France plans to test the initiative on a larger scale.

But as Reuters reports, France isn't the first country to come up with the idea of paying money to people who ride their bikes to work.

"Several countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Britain have bike-to-work schemes, with different kinds of incentives such as tax breaks, payments per kilometer and financial support for buying bicycles."

So can we expect this scheme to reach its goal? It's a good sign that many of the countries Reuters listed have a higher rate of bike than France does. But if France really wants to increase its biking numbers it can't just focus on monetary compensation for bikers.

According to a 2012 report from the Transportation Research Board's TR News: "The infrastructure, programs, and policies needed to increase walking and cycling are well known and tested, with decades of successful experience in many European countries. One key lesson is that no single strategy is sufficient."

These "well known" strategies include everything from bike infrastructure improvements -- like protected bike lanes -- to policies that discourage the use of cars in city centers.

Photo: Flickr/faungg's photo

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