Tuesday, March 18, 2014

France Offers Money to boost Bicycle Commuters

Could you imagine being paid to ride your bike to work? $1.00 for every two miles of your commute . . . Yes Please!! France is introducing this incentive, along with 24  other initiatives aimed to increase bicycling to work in France. The “Plan Velo” proposal, introduced last week, is aimed to help curb pollution and promote bicycle commuting. Ireland and other European countries already have similar programs in place to great success. At the moment, companies must reimburse employees some of their travel costs, paying rail or bus season tickets plus a mileage allowance for those who drive to work. (ed. note -The program to offer incentives for bicycle commuters is still an idea from the French government at this stage, note that Paris is offering a 25% rebate against the purchase of electric-bikes). An allowance for bicycle commuters is the next logical step. 

France, Paris in particular, is experiencing a pollution problem, forcing officials to issue health warning to the elderly and pregnant woman. In response, the transit system is offering free rides to abate commuters traveling by car. The solution is not so simple for a country with deep cycling roots, after WWII, France embraced the automobile. On Monday, thousands of citations to defiant car drivers with the wrong number-ending license plate were issued. Political opponents and car associations criticized the restrictions, saying it would be tough to police and would be seen as a political ploy.

France is especially vulnerable to air pollution because it is 60 percent dependent on diesel cars. In the 1960s, the French government and industry made a strategic assertion that diesel engines were less polluting, and would gradually supersede, unleaded gasoline. For nearly two decades, France has been aware of its mistake. Diesel engines are more polluting than their counterpart, the gasoline engine.  Fumes from diesel cars, as well as industrial emissions and agricultural fertilizers, are blamed for increasing the micro-particles in the French atmosphere to dangerous levels. This situation is not unique to France but is rather an unintended consequence of modernization, especially in nations that are quickly developing.

Here in San Diego, we do not have the pollution problems of Paris or our close neighbors north of us, Los Angeles. To continue to have clean, healthy air, we should think about solutions to decrease our dependence on single passenger automobiles, and look at more sustainable alternatives like riding our bicycles and public transportation.


by Joel Flood

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