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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

French workers set to be paid to cycle to the office

Published on: 05 Mar 2014 12:39 CET

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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.

Ben McPartland(ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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