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Should we get paid for cycling to work?

Updated Thursday 4th September 2014

A pilot scheme in France should be copied here, writes Dick Skellington.

Cartoon of two cyclists Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Gary Edwards I love cycling. Have done all my life. Instead of finishing my PhD at the University of Wales in the early 1970s I got on my bike and tried to pedal to Australia. I got as far as Afghanistan before dysentery forced me back home.
 
Nowadays my old Dawes sport cycle has gone to the Knacker’s Yard and I replaced it with a Giant Hybrid electric bike 2 years back, the power assist mechanism perfect support for my arthritis.
 
I am sure many readers of this blog cycle, and pedal to work, as I used to do to the Open University. In recent years the university has tried to encourage staff to cycle to Walton Hall by signing up to discount cycle purchase scheme. Many staff took up the challenge. The university launched a dedicated cycle to work day and all those who managed to do this received a free fried breakfast in the refectory. After 10 miles on up and down Redways in the pouring rain - the cycle routes that make Milton Keynes such a pleasant place to live - a full English was badly needed!
 
But there must be a better way to encourage workers to travel to work. Why not pay them to do so?
 
That is what they decided to do in France this summer. About 20 companies and institutions, employing a total of 10,000, signed up for an innovative Government scheme which pays employees 25c for every kilometre of their journey.
 
The French Government scheme is seeking to improve commuters’ health, reduce air pollution and cut the use of fossil fuel. France is not alone in Europe. Other countries - the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Belgium - have recently introduced different incentives to lure people onto bicycles: tax breaks, and payments per kilometre.
 
In Britain companies are trying to introduce financial subsidies for cycle purchase, but the impact has been limited and lacks the tenacity of our European neighbours.
 
If the French pilot is successful it will be extended next year, and a large scale national experiment announced. The aim is to increase bike use by 50 per cent. In the Netherlands over 25 per cent of all work commutes are by bicycle; in Belgium the proportion is eight per cent.
 
In London, Mayor Boris Johnson introduced his infamous bike lending scheme with the support of a leading bank, largely on the success of a Velib bike lending scheme in Paris launched in 2007, where over 25,000 cycles operate daily in the French capital.
 
It is time now for Government to follow up on anoher novel French initiative and encourage further green commutes.
 
Pay workers to cycle to work.
 

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