France invests €20m in a post-Covid bike revolution
A €20 million plan has been launched to encourage people to get on their bikes as a safer way to travel post-confinement.
Better for our health, better for the environment
It is estimated that 60% of journeys in France are under 5km and could be cycled. New incentives include a €50 voucher for bicycle repairs and financial help for authorities to create pop-up bike lanes and fund bicycle parking bays.
The government is working with the Fédération Française des Usagers de la Bicyclette (FUB), which has been campaigning for measures like these for years. FUB board member Charles Dassonville said: “A lot of people want to cycle but there have always been a number of issues stopping them, which are now being addressed.”
Repair and reuse
He says there are an estimated 30 million bicycles in France, but relatively few are in use, so it makes sense to encourage people to repair what they have, rather than buy new. The voucher was introduced on May 11 and was taken up by nearly 15,000 people in the first week. To benefit, you need to find an approved cycle repair workshop via coupdepoucevelo.fr.
The price, including new parts, will be covered up to €50, and you make up any excess. On the same website, there is a list of free lessons offered to get you back in the saddle under remise en selle. Schools, local authorities, social housing and public transport stations can apply for up to 60% of the cost of building bike parks.
A study by the federation of leisure sport businesses, Union Sport & Cycle, found the lack of secure parking bays was the main reason people would not want to bike around a city after confinement, because of fear of theft, but over half said they would like to use a bike for transport.
Lower noise, less air pollution, more road safety, better personal health
Before Covid-19, there was already a boom in bike sales – up 19% in 2019, and 20% in 2020 until confinement. Pierre Serne, president of Club des Villes et Territoires Cyclables, estimated there would be 1,000km of new routes across participating towns, such as Nantes, Rennes and Strasbourg. Paris is putting 150km of temporary cycle paths in place, many of which were up and running from May 11.
A study by another cycle association, Vélo & Territoires, found 11% more cyclists at the end of May compared to the same period last year. It will report figures every two weeks. Mr Dassonville said he was confident there will be more cyclists in the future: “The two most cycling-friendly cities, Copenhagen and Amsterdam, turned to cycling after economic downturns. During confinement, people in cities appreciated lower noise and air pollution. Parents could teach children to cycle on quieter roads. Fewer cars can make cities more human.”