For the Love of Money: France Is Paying People to Bike to Work

A pilot project is giving cash to 10,000 citizens if they agree to commute by bicycle.

(Photo: Teo Lannie/Getty Images)

Jun 5, 2014· 0 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Next time you head to Paris, you might see more people riding bikes across the Seine. That’s because France has just launched a trial experiment that will pay 10,000 people to bicycle to work.

According to Reuters, 20 of the Gallic nation’s companies and organizations have agreed to pay their employees 25 euro cents (about 34 cents in USD) for every kilometer cycled during the commute to and from work.

Only about 2.4 percent of French people bike to work. Increasing that number will improve both the health of the population and reduce smog. After all, if folks are biking, they’re getting some needed exercise, and fewer cars are on the road emitting smog-causing particulates. While the French are well known for their trim waistlines (and their children are not among the world’s most obese), air pollution is a growing problem.

In March, Paris was so smoggy that it was tough to see the Eiffel Tower. For a few days the city banned half of the cars from its roads, and scientists found that fine particle emissions were reduced by 6 percent.

To combat the hazy conditions, other European nations have offered incentives to get their citizens biking. Sweden has even given some citizens bike coaches to get them used to cycling through bustling cities.

Taking public transportation is already subsidized by the French government—companies get tax breaks for giving their employees bus and subway passes—so adding bikes into the mix isn’t much of a stretch. If the project boosts the number of bicyclists on French roads by 50 percent, the government says it will expand the plan.