Forget “Ride Your Bike to Work Week” or bike-share programs. If you really want to encourage people to commute on two wheels you should start paying them. That’s what a pilot program in France intends to do. According to the French transport minister, companies and institutions employing about 10,000 people have agreed to begin paying their workers 25 Euro cents (34 American cents, damn exchange rate) a kilometer (damn metric system) to bike to work.
Right now the average bike commute is 3.5 kilometers, so you’ll only earn $1.19 a day. Though that won’t put you on a path to early retirement, the extra impetus may lead to metro card savings and the chance to avoid riding a train next to someone who doesn’t understand the concept of soap.
Other cycling incentive programs exist elsewhere in Europe—in the UK you can get a tax-free loan to buy a bike, in Sweden bikes are loaned for free and in Belgium employers may pay workers 22 Euro cents a kilometer to ride, although they don’t have to. If anyone has a direct line to the US secretary of transportation call him and tell him to set up one of these programs here. We’d certainly strap on a helmet for $1 a day.
The most recent census data says that only 0.6 percent of commutes in this country happen on a bike. In France it’s four times that, with hopes of bringing it up another 50 percent. It’s time to catch up.