Vive le France

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Ah France: The Land of wine, cheese, baguettes, high fashion, cafe au lait, the 35 hour work week, strikes, la bise, and a little three week bicycle race through the countryside, has come up with one more reason to add to their list of why they are happier than the average American: France will pay people to ride their bike to work!

With an eye on enhancing public health, reducing air pollution and cutting fossil fuel consumption, France has started a bike-to-work program where employees are offered financial incentives if they ride a bike to their workplaces. The six month long experiment will pay a fraction of a euro, equal to 25 centimes, to employees for every kilometer cycled…that’s roughly 34¢ US per kilometer.

With the average bike commute being 3.5 kilometers, the bike commuter would pocket about $1.20 a day. That won’t put you on the path to early retirement, but the extra income may lead to metro card savings and the chance to avoid riding a train next to someone who doesn’t understand the concept of hygiene.

The French government will survey both participating employees and employers to measure what is effective or ineffective, what modes of transport were swapped in favor of biking, among other factors to help create a framework for possibly expanding the subsidy.

France is not alone, as several cycling incentive programs offering tax breaks, payments per kilometer and financial support for buying bicycles exist elsewhere throughout Europe including the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Britain. The French government 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 km. In Belgium, for example, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme have been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles, while in the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it’s over 25 percent.

The government will make results public at the end of the year and will consider running a second, larger test if the first test is successful. We on the other side of the pond would greatly appreciate a copy of those reports when they are ready…En Anglais, s’il vous plait.

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