The French government has announced that people willing to swap their car for a bike will be paid up to €4,000, as part of plans to increase active mobility amid rising energy prices.
The program is also expected to reduce carbon emissions in the country.
However, while French citizens and organizations can claim a “conversion bonus” if they swap a polluting motor vehicle for a bicycle, e-bike or cargo bike, countries like the UK and the US States seem far behind in their efforts to get more people out of their cars and onto bicycles.
While the UK offers the Cycle to Work scheme, through which employees can save up to 40% on the price of a new bike by sacrificing part of their pre-tax salary, there is no subsidy offered as in France – which is also present in Finland and Lithuania.
In the United States, cycling appears to have been actively neglected, with the French government‘s decision coming just weeks after the US government omitted cycling from its 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. (opens in a new tab).
In a bill that includes nearly $400 billion in funding for climate and energy programs over the next 10 years, including initiatives such as an improved car tax credit electric bicycles, he did not propose provisions to increase the sale and use of traditional bicycles. and electric bicycles.
A spokesperson for the PeopleForBikes campaign group (opens in a new tab) said: “The Climate and Energy Focused Cut Inflation Act 2022 misses a huge opportunity by neglecting to invest in an e-bike tax credit and other critical initiatives to promote the bicycle as a means of transport.
“This omission leaves us deeply disappointed with the future of climate policy given that the major transportation investments in the bill are squarely focused on electric vehicles.”
Meanwhile, France hopes to increase the number of people making daily trips by bicycle from its current level of 3% to 9% by 2024, while the UK and the US continue to overlook the importance improve cycling infrastructure and make bicycles more readily available to everyone.
Indeed, improving bicycle infrastructure, programs and use is key to reducing carbon emissions, and cities in countries like the US and UK rank poorly in global indices measuring the most bike-friendly places in the world.
In a recent study by Paris-based digital insurance company Luko, 90 cities around the world were analyzed. London came 62nd, while Edinburgh came 54th. Only one US city is in the index’s top 40, with San Francisco ranking 39th, two places above Portland and 11th ahead of Seattle.
It helps that France has been able to develop and improve a strategy with which it has already had success. First introduced in the country in 2018, France increased the incentive from €2,500 to €4,000, although the full amount is only offered to people with low incomes and living in low-income urban areas. emissions. People with higher incomes are offered smaller grants.
The incentive also applies to each person owning a vehicle, and no longer just the one per household as before, and for people who simply want to buy an electric bike while keeping their motor vehicle, the French government is offering a €400 subsidy.
As Oliver Scheider of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB) puts it succinctly: “For the first time, it is recognized that the solution is not to make cars greener, but simply to reduce the number.
Realizing that the program applies to both short-term and long-term impacts, France has acted on the current energy crisis with sustainable travel at the forefront of its mind. Perhaps the UK and the US should pull a leaf from his book.