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French workers set to be paid to cycle to the office

French workers could soon be paid for getting on their bikes and cycling to the office, under a scheme set to be announced by the government on Wednesday.

French workers set to be paid to cycle to the office
The French government want to pay workers to cycle to the office. Although you're not likely to get rich from the scheme, your health should benefit. Photo: Tejvanphotos/Flickr

It won't make you rich but it will get you fit.

Workers at companies in France could soon be given financial incentives for pedaling to work, under a new scheme called "plan vélo", set to be revealed on Wednesday.

In a bid to boost health and the environment Transport Minister Fredéric Culliver is set to announce a raft of measures to get people out of cars and onto the greener two-wheel mode of transport.

The stand-out proposal is a plan to encourage companies to reimburse employees between 21 and 25 centimes per kilometre pedaled to work, in return for an exemption of certain payroll charges.

The minister is looking to trial the experiment through a number of volunteer firms.

Initially the proposal would only affect around five percent of workers but the minister hopes that figure will grow in the years to come.

The idea of compensating cyclists for the mileage they travel to work was first put forward under the previous government in 2012.

Similar schemes in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have enjoyed a fair amount of success, France’s TF1 reports.

According to the ministry of transport exempting companies from payroll charges in exchange for their participation in the scheme could leave France’s social security system with a €110 million shortfall.

However with workers getting vital exercise on their way to work the minister says the scheme will have definite health benefits and in turn end up saving the health service money.

Around 17 million people in France get on a bike once a week and around three million use it as a mode of transport on a daily basis. In recent weeks a petition on the internet calling for mandatory compensation for those who bike to work has garnered thousands of signatures. Campaigners say it would increase the number of people getting on bikes by 50 percent.

However the scheme was greeted with a certain amount of scepticism on twitter.

Julian Braillard tweeted: "Ah, the government want to have a "plan vélo" to go to work. That's really nice. We need a "plan jobs" first perhaps."

Another tweeter named Cecilia sarcastically said: "The state wants to promote the bike for journeys from home to work. They really have their priorities right." 

The compensation proposal is just one of 25 measures aimed at boosting the use of bikes in France.

Several of the proposals are aimed at improving safety, such as allowing cyclists to leave the road and get onto the footpath if there is an obstacle in the cycle lane.

The fine for parking in a bike lane is also set to be upped to €135 from €35. New secure places where cyclists can lock their bikes will also be built at all major train stations.

The government also wants businesses to create secure spaces where bikes can be kept by 2015.

The move has been welcomed by Gilles Pérole, vice president of the cycling club “Villes et Territoire Cycables” who believes it will have a positive impact on the French economy.

He told TF1 television that the three percent of people using bikes as a mode of transport and the cycle industry was worth €4.5 billion and the equivalent of 35,000 jobs.

If France can double the number of people using bikes as a mode of transport “we can create another 35, 000 jobs and have an industry worth €9 million,” he said.

“If the government worked more closely with communities, the alternatives to the car,, like cycling, could grow much quicker,” he added.

What do you think about the new scheme? Let us know in the comments section below.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Your rights on delayed or cancelled flights in France

If you're travelling to France and your flight is delayed or cancelled, or the airline loses your bag, you need to know your rights as a passenger.

Your rights on delayed or cancelled flights in France

The good news is many travellers in France are covered by the strict regulations that the European Union has in place to protect consumers, including those buying plane tickets.

If you have faced issues with your flight, here are your rights and how to get compensation:

In the event your flight was delayed or cancelled

First things first: you must figure out if your is trip covered by the EU legislation, then figure out if the delay or cancellation is due to ‘extraordinary circumstances.’

EU air passenger rights apply to you if your flight is within the EU or Schengen zone, if it arrives in the EU/Schengen zone from outside the bloc and is operated by an EU-based airline, or if it departs from the EU/ Schengen zone.

Additionally, the EU rights apply only if you have not already received benefits (including compensation, re-routing, and assistance from the airline) for this journey under the law of a non-EU country.

If your flight is from the UK or US to France then it must be operated by an EU airline to be entitled to these rights.

Cancelled – In case of cancellation, you must check to see whether you have the right to choose between getting your money back, getting the next available flight, or changing the booking completely for a later date.

You are also entitled to assistance free of charge, including refreshments, food, accommodation (if you are rebooked to travel the next day), transport, and communication (two telephone calls, for example). This is regardless of the reasons for cancellation.

If you were informed of the cancellation less than 14 days before the scheduled departure date, you also have a right to compensation, except if the cancellation was due to “extraordinary circumstances.”

Delayed – If your flight was delayed, your rights will depend on the duration of the delay and distance of the flight. 

If an airline expects that your flight will be delayed beyond the scheduled departure time, you are entitled to meals and refreshments in proportion to the waiting time. It starts at two hours for shorter flights (distance of 1,500 km or less), three hours or more for longer flights and a delay of four hours for all other flights. 

If you arrived at your final destination with a delay of more than three hours, you are entitled to compensation unless the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances.

For a full explanation of the EU rights and how to make a claim, click HERE.

What are ‘extraordinary circumstances’?

It can get tricky to understand your rights when most of the things you are entitled to depend on whether or not the cancellations and delays were due to extraordinary circumstances.

According to the EU, examples of events defined as extraordinary circumstances are “air traffic management decisions, political instability, adverse weather conditions and security risks”.

However, most technical problems which come to light during maintenance are not considered extraordinary circumstances, and staff shortages would also usually not be classed as extraordinary circumstances.

Still, the airline needs to prove that the circumstance caused the delay or cancellation and that delays or cancellations couldn’t have been avoided “even if all reasonable measures had been taken”.

Strikes?

Strikes may be considered “extraordinary circumstances” so passengers won’t normally be eligible for compensation, although airlines must still offer a refund or exchange of the ticket.

The website flightright.com writes: “In this case (strikes) airlines are under no obligation to pay out compensation to customers. Strikes, whether they be carried out by the airport staff or the airline staff, fall under this category and as such passengers should not expect to have a valid claim.”

However there are some exceptions.

For example “if your flight does not fall within the immediate strike period, but is cancelled due to the impact of the strike, it is worth checking your entitlement to compensation,” explains flightright.com.

“For example: if all flights are taking off and landing on schedule again after the strike, but you are denied boarding, then there is a good chance that the airline will have given your seat to a passenger who was directly affected by the strike. This means that the airline would be denying you the right to board against your will, which could entitle you to compensation.”

Some airlines also offer free exchanges on tickets if you decide not to fly during a strike period, so check with your airline for their policy.

In the event your luggage was lost, damaged or delayed

If you have checked bags, here’s what to do;

Delayed – You should report delayed baggage (not present when you exit the plane, but delivered later free of charge), immediately to the airline that operated your last flight. You can ask the airline for a refund on any essential items you needed to buy due to the absence of your luggage. Keep the receipt that shows item details. 

Lost – If your baggage has not arrived at its destination within 21 days of the date it should have arrived, it is classed as lost. In this scenario, you are entitled to a refund of the bags and contents.

The French government recommends that those travelling by plane examine their airline ticket to see whether their flight falls under the “Montreal Convention” or the “Warsaw Convention.” If your ticket does not say so, you can ask the airline.

Based on the convention your flight falls under, you either have 14 days (Montreal) to send a written request to your airline with purchase invoices for lost goods, or 21 days, as per the Warsaw Convention.

If you do not have proof of loss, you may be offered compensation by weight.

Damaged – If your baggage has been damaged or destroyed during transport, you can ask the carrier to reimburse you for the cost of your bag and the damaged goods.

To do so, you must either write to the company with as much detail as possible about the damaged goods within 3 days (Warsaw convention) of receiving your bag for the Warsaw Convention or 7 days (Montreal convention).

Unless the damage was caused by an inherent defect in the baggage itself, the airline is considered liable. You have the right to compensation up to approximately €1,300.

Finally, if your airline refuses to compensate you or does not respond within at least two months, then you can get in touch with a Tourism and Travel Mediator via this online form

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