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The Problem With Paying People to Bike to Work

We still love cheap parking and old commute habits.
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France got a lot of attention last summer when it announced a pilot program to pay workers to commute by bicycle. The buzz was well-deserved: in offering people money to ride to the office—a modest 25 euro cents a kilometer, or about 43 U.S. cents a mile right now—France took a fresh approach to the stale problem of car reliance. But the results of the six-month trial haven't been shared nearly as widely, perhaps because they're not super impressive.

The French ministry overseeing the trial reports that 419 people agreed to ride to work by the end of it. That's up from 200 cyclists at the start, but it's not a very hefty chunk of the 8,200 or so employees eligible to participate, especially considering that the June–November trial was prime cycling season. And while 19 percent of the new riders switched from driving, most of those had been part of carpools, leaving the true mode shift away from cars closer to 5 percent.