France is offering €4,000 to people who trade their cars for bikes - should every other country do the same?

The French government is planning to get more people cycling in order to help with rising costs and reduce carbon emissions

France cycling €4,000
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The French government has announced people who are willing to trade in their cars for a bike will be payed up to €4,000, as part of plans to increase active mobility amid rising energy prices.

The scheme is also expected to reduce carbon emissions in the country. 

However, while French citizens and organisations can apply for a 'conversion bonus' if they swap a polluting motor vehicle for a bike, e-bike or cargo bike, countries such as the UK and US seem far behind in their efforts to get more people out of their cars and onto bikes. 

While the UK offers the Cycle to Work scheme, whereby employees can save as much as 40 per cent on the price of a new bike through sacrificing some of their pre-tax salary, there isn't a specific subsidy offered like in France - which is also seen in Finland and Lithuania. 

In the US, cycling seems to have actively been neglected, with the French government's move coming just weeks after the US government omitted cycling from its Inflation Reduction Act 2022 (opens in new tab)

In a bill that includes nearly $400bn of funding for climate and energy related programmes over the next ten years, including initiatives such as the improvement of the electric car tax credit, it failed to offer provisions designed to increase the sale and use of traditional bicycles and e-bikes.

A spokesperson for campaign group PeopleForBikes (opens in new tab) said: "The climate- and energy-focused Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 misses a massive opportunity by neglecting to invest in an electric bicycle tax credit and other critical initiatives to promote biking for transportation. 

"This omission leaves us sorely disappointed in the future of climate policy given the significant transportation investments in the bill are squarely focused on electric vehicles."

Meanwhile, France is hoping to increase the number of people making daily trips on bikes from its current level of 3% to 9% by 2024, while the UK and US continue to neglect the importance of improving cycling infrastructure and making bikes more readily available for everyone. 

Indeed, improvement of cycling infrastructure, schemes and usage is essential in reducing carbon emissions, and cities in countries such as the US and the UK rank poorly on global indexes measuring the most bicycle-friendly locations in the world.

In a recent study conducted by Paris-based digital insurance firm Luko, 90 cities from around the world were analysed. London ranked 62nd, while Edinburgh came in 54th. Only one US city made the index’s top 40, with San Francisco ranking 39th, two places above Portland and 11 ahead of Seattle.

It helps that France has been able to developed and improve a strategy it has already seen success with. First introduced in the country in 2018, France has increased the incentive from €2,500 to €4,000 (equivalent to $4000/£3500), though the full amount is only offered to those on lower incomes and living in low-emission urban areas. Higher income earners are offered smaller grants.

The incentive also encompasses every person who owns a vehicle, rather than just the one per household as it did previously, and for people who simply just want to buy an e-bike, and still keep their motor vehicle, the French government is offering a €400 subsidy.

As Oliver Scheider of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB) succinctly stated: “For the first time it is recognised that the solution is not to make cars greener, but simply to reduce their number.”

Realising the scheme applies to both the short and long-term impacts, France has acted on the current energy crisis with sustainable travel at the forefront of its mind. Perhaps the UK and US should take a leaf out of its book. 

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Staff Writer

Ryan is a staff writer for Cycling Weekly, having joined the team in September 2021. He first joined Future in December 2020, working across FourFourTwo, Golf Monthly, Rugby World and Advnture's websites, before making his way to cycling. After graduating from Cardiff University with a degree in Journalism and Communications, Ryan earned a NCTJ qualification to further develop as a writer.