Every nation in the developed world is struggling to balance economic needs with environmental ones. Luckily for Europeans, politicians seem to be interested in actually working towards a cleaner more sustainable future, whereas in the United States we’re still mortgaging the future. But I digress…
As anyone who lives in a big city can tell you, too many cars on the road makes for big headaches. Personal vehicles (often with just one passenger inside) allow us to be lazy, contribute to poor air quality, and create traffic snarls that inspired rage in otherwise civilized human beings. To combat this, France has announced a pretty radical experiment: They will soon join the growing list of European nations willing to pay their citizens to bike to work instead of driving a car.
According to Reuters, “some 20 companies and institutions employing a total of 10,000 people have signed up to pay their staff 25 euro cents (34 U.S. cents) per kilometer biked to work…” To us in the U.S. this sounds crazy, but it’s becoming par for the course in Europe. With this scheme, France joins the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Britain which all have bike-to-work schemes that offer incentives, including tax breaks, payments per kilometer and financial support for buying bicycles.
We’ve already seen that bike sharing programs — which allow people to borrow bikes for short trips from stations all over a city — have the power to drastically increase bike commuting while having the opposite effect on emissions. But these still cost money, albeit very little, which can be a barrier for some. France is taking care of that problem by dangling the most effective carrot known to man: money.
French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier noted that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, and said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.
It might seem like drastic measures (and high time, too) but it’s fairly tame compared to what’s happening in China. Just recently government officials from that highly polluted country announced a plan to pull dirty cars off the road entirely. “As many as 5.33 million ‘yellow label’ vehicles that fail to meet Chinese fuel standards will be ‘eliminated’ this year,” according to a policy document. In addition to the 330,000 cars in Beijing, “660,000 will be withdrawn from the surrounding province of Hebei, home to seven of China’s smoggiest cities in 2013.”
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