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ENVIRONMENT

How France will splash another €250 million on national ‘bike plan’

Cyclists across France can rejoice (perhaps) with news that the government plans to spend another €250 million on the 'plan vélo,' a multi-year project intended to encourage and build up cycling infrastructure across the country.

How France will splash another €250 million on national 'bike plan'
Two cyclists ride in Paris in November 2021 (Photo by AFP)

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced a boost to the existing ‘Plan Vélo’ (Bicycle Plan) on Tuesday morning at Matignon, the Prime Minister’s HQ.

Borne specified during her Tuesday address that an additional €250 million will be spent on the project for 2023, marking its fourth anniversary.

The Plan Vélo is a national programme set to encourage bicycling in France building up bike-friendly infrastructure and encouraging people to get on their bikes via education campaigns.

The additional funding will offer municipalities with additional funds to build bike paths and secure parking locations.

Setting aside more money in a single for biking than ever before, the ambitious scheme is a segment of the multi-year Bicycle Plan, falling under the “active mobility fund”, which allows the financing of infrastructure.

The project will be operated in communication with local communities, “to ensure that investments are targeted and effective,” a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office told AFP. “[The plan] will be endowed with €250 million euros for 2023; €200 million will be dedicated to infrastructure and €50 million for secured bicycle parking.”

READ MORE: MAP: France to splash out €43 million to build new cycle lanes around the country

On top of the increased budget for the bike plan, the prime minister said that government would also institute an additional “inter-ministerial committee on cycling” to be launched in the autumn, which will meet every six months.

Why now?

While the prime minister’s statement came on the bike plan’s fourth anniversary, for Transport Minister Clément Beaune, the additional funds are particularly important for prioritising bicycles after the government provided assistance for drivers (such as the fuel subsidy) amid rising cost of living.

“At a time when we have supported fuel and the car a lot, it is important to show that we also support other modes of transport,” Clément Beaune, the Minister of Transport told Le Parisien. “We want to make the bike a real means of transport and not just a leisure tool.”

The new funding for the bicycle plan was met with support.

The president of the Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB), Olivier Schneider, told Le Parisien that Tuesday’s announcement was “good news” because “it will allow suburban and rural towns to finally get on board, as they do not have as many resources as large urban areas to finance significant bike lane projects.”

Nevertheless – he hopes that the State will “maintain its budgetary efforts after 2023.”

What does the full plan entail?

Holistically, the multi-year bicycle plan includes several components, not least of which is infrastructure. It allows funds to be set aside for communities across France to implement cycle paths and create safe cycle routes. However, it is also an education campaign.

The plan promotes the “made-in-France” bicycle industry, as well as a the “savoir rouler à vélo” (SRAV) programme that teaches children in primary school how to ride a bike (pedaling, breaking, signs, and good road behaviour). Additionally, it seeks to encourage bicycling from a health standpoint and promotes the construction of bicycle parking during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

Originally launched in 2018, at the behest of current Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who was the then-Minister of Transport, the national ‘bicycle plan’ established a 350 million fund to span seven years (2018-2025).

READ MORE: How Paris will spend €250 million on making city ‘100 % bike friendly’

Intended to promote the ‘ecological transition,’ as well as health and well-being, the plan was extended and awarded more funds. It is now expected to run through 2027, and by 2025, it will have been budgeted at least 500 million.

The budgets for future years could also be increased, similar to 2023. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office said “The multi-year envelope has yet to be defined, as it will be part of the overall reflection on transport infrastructures, which will be based on what the infrastructure policy council presents this fall.”

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ECONOMY

French economy minister ‘worried’ by British ‘disaster’

France's economy minister said Friday that he was worried by the financial turbulence in Britain, criticising Prime Minister Liz Truss's economic policies for causing a "disaster" of high borrowing rates for her country.

French economy minister 'worried' by British 'disaster'

“I’m not worried about the situation in the eurozone,” Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio when asked about the risk of the crisis spreading. “On the other hand, I am worried about the British situation.”

“What does it show? It shows firstly that there are costs for financial and economic policies,” he said.

Truss’s “mini-budget” announced last Friday included major tax cuts that would need to be financed by extra borrowing, spooking investors who immediately questioned the credibility of the policies and Britain’s financial standing.

“When you take on major costs like that, with spectacular announcements, as some opposition parties want to do in France, it perturbs the markets. It perturbs financial balances,” Le Maire said.

“And it leads to a real disaster with interest rates which are 4.5 percent or even higher in Great Britain. We have interest rates which are reasonable, which are quite close to Germany’s because there is consistency in our economic and financial policymaking,” he said.

“The second thing is that leaving Europe comes with a considerable cost because Europe is a protection,” he added, referring to Britain’s exit from the European Union.

The pound fell to an all-time low against the dollar and the yield on 10-year British government bonds — which sets the cost of borrowing for the government — briefly rose to above 4.5 percent on Wednesday.

That led the Bank of England to intervene with a £65 billion emergency bond-buying programme to stabilise the market.

Le Maire has been under pressure this week to explain his own budget choices, with the government planning to borrow a record €270 billion next year and a run a deficit of 5.0 percent of GDP.

Some analysts see the deficit as likely to be higher because of Le Maire’s optimistic growth forecast for the economy and assumptions about savings from a controversial pensions reform that has not been passed by parliament.

French-British relations have been rocky for years, particularly under former prime minister Boris Johnson, with a host of issues souring ties from Brexit and fishing rights to migrants.

French ministers had been reluctant to comment on Truss since she came to power despite deep concerns about her Brexit policies and her statement while campaigning that she did not know if French President Emmanuel Macron was a “friend or foe.”

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