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In an effort to both lower emissions and compensate for high energy prices, the French government is stepping up financial support for people willing to swap their cars for bikes.
Both citizens and organizations can apply for a 'conversion bonus' if they give up a polluting car, van or truck and buy a regular bike, e-bike, cargo bike or electric-powered bicycle trailer. The subsidies, which were first introduced in 2018 and have been scaled up as of 15 August 2022, are prorated by income and other factors, with the highest amount of EUR 4000 going to low-income people and organizations based in low-emission zones.
Since most families switching from driving to cycling will want to be able to move around together, the scheme has been extended to subsidize a bike for every household member, covering up to 40% of a bike's cost.
For people who'd like to try out cycling before giving up their car, or who want to drive less without quitting altogether, the government also offers a lower amount dubbed an 'ecological bonus,' for example, EUR 300 towards the purchase of an e-bike by someone in a higher income bracket.
France has seen a rapid uptick in the use of bicycles: the number of bicycle trips in 2021 was 28% higher than in 2019, and sales of e-bikes increased by 29% between 2019 and 2020.
High fuel prices, the pandemic and climate concerns all contribute to a new-found vélo love, but so do policy efforts. In 2018, the French government introduced 'Le Plan vélo' to boost cycling to 9% of all daily trips by 2024 — not just through financial incentives for consumers but by creating more and safer bike lanes and tackling bicycle theft.
There's a huge potential to lower emissions since 60% of home-work journeys of less than 5 km are made by car and just 5% by bicycle. As Reasons to be Cheerful reported on the findings of a recent study, "If the entire world pedaled as much as the Dutch do, global carbon emissions would fall by nearly 700 million tonnes per year. That's more than Canada's entire carbon footprint."
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