The government of France has set itself the goal of transforming cycling from a sport to an everyday mode of transport, and is planning to invest €350m over the next seven years on building bike lanes to make it happen.
"Plan Vélo" was announced on Friday, 14 September, by prime minister Ã‰douard Philippe, in a speech in Angers, western France. He said it would be a way of improving public health and lowering air pollution.
Philippe said the cycle trips made up only 3% of journeys in France, less than half the European average and much less than the rates in northern European countries. In the Netherlands, 30% of trips are by bike.
He said: "We plan to triple the share of cycling to 9% by 2024, when we host the Olympics."
One aim of the funding, of which €50m will be spent in the first year, will be to join up existing lanes. The construction of bike lanes is a local government responsibility, which in the past has hindered the formation of connected networks.
Olivier Schneider, president of the Cycling Federation, FUB, said he had been hoping for €200m a year from the government, but welcomed the plan on the basis that it was the first time that the state had put its own funds into a cycle path construction, rather than merely inviting local communities to invest.
"This really sets an example," he said.
As well as funding cycle lanes, the government will give all its civil servants a €200 tax-free incentive to cycle to work, and private companies will have the option of paying their employees up to €400 free of tax.
The government will also teach children how to cycle safely at all secondary schools, will put in place an engraving system for new bikes to deter theft, and will require new buildings to include bicycle parking facilities.
Image: The government hopes the plan will persuade the French to saddle up (Vélo Tourisme)