France offers subsidy to tempt lockdown cyclists

France is encouraging people to cycle to keep pollution levels low once lockdown restrictions end.

Under the €20 million (£17m; $21.7m) scheme, everyone will be eligible for bike repairs of up to €50 at registered mechanics.

The funding will also help pay for cycle training and temporary parking spaces.

Nations worldwide are grappling with ways to change urban transport in light of the coronavirus.

Emergency planners in London fear the Tube will not be able to cope once lockdown is lifted. A report seen by the BBC says that social distancing rules would reduce capacity to 15% of normal levels, and 12% on buses.

Moreover, pollution levels have dropped worldwide, and many are seeking to keep those levels low.

On Thursday the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast a 6% drop in energy demand for the year – it said this would lead to a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of 8%, six times larger than the biggest fall in 2009 which followed the financial crash.

What are the proposals?

Elisabeth Borne, Minister for Ecological Transition, said the move was aimed at reducing driving when commuting or for short journeys to keep air pollution levels down once restrictions are lifted.

In normal times, 60% of journeys made in France are less than 5 kilometres [3 miles] – making bicycles “a real transport solution”, she said.

France has announced plans to slowly wind down its restrictions from 11 May. Latest figures on Wednesday showed a recorded death toll of 24,087, with close to 130,000 confirmed cases.

Ms Borne announced the scheme in association with the Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB) on Wednesday.

They will register a network of more than 3,000 repairmen on the FUB website who will agree to fix any bike for up to €50, such as changing tires or old chains.

Citizens will not receive a printed cheque, but will go to these registered mechanics who will then be reimbursed by the state. People will have to pay any additional costs out of their own pockets.

The rest of the funding will go towards temporary bike racks and cycling training and refresher courses. Local governments are also being encouraged to lay down bike lanes across the country.

Meanwhile the Belgian capital Brussels on Wednesday announced the creation of 40km of additional cycle paths to ensure fewer people use public transport as restrictions are relaxed.

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