The stereotypical image of a Frenchman may be intrinsically tied to a bicycle as much as it is to a beret or a baguette, but the reality is very different.
Only 3 out of every 100 workers in France commute by bike, with car driving being the primary means of transport for 70 percent of the working population.
On Friday French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will meet with the country’s Eco Transition Minister François de Rugy and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne to try and curb that trend by unveiling the government’s brand-new bike plan.
The mission is to triple the number of cycling commuters in France in the next six years, up to 9 percent by 2024.
Here are the main points the French ministers will lay out in the western city of Angers on Friday:
Cycling lessons at school
France wants to rear a new generation of cyclists by making sure every child can learn to ride a bike at school if they don’t have the chance to at home.
The target is that all pupils know how to ride a bicycle by Sixième (6e), when school kids are 11. There won’t however be any funds for bike purchasing assistance for families.
More cycle paths
France’s government wants to enlist more budding cyclists by expanding the bike lane network nationwide.
The State will give a total of €350 million to French municipalities that “have bike paths interrupted by other road infrastructure”, such as ring roads, slip roads or any other road meant for bigger vehicles and which could pose a danger to cyclists.
Under the new bike plan it will become mandatory for all French municipalities to have clear bike markings on the road surface just before traffic lights, giving cyclists a safe place at which to stop and also acting as a warning for drivers.
Town halls will have ten years to comply to the measure and it will also be extended to municipal roads in towns where the speed is limited to 50 km/h.
Safer parking for bikes
Although unlikely to be enforced by law, France wants the country’s SNCF rail system to build secure parking for bikes at its stations. In fact, the government would like municipalities across l’Héxagone to follow suit, all in a bid to stop a longstanding problem in France: bike theft.
According to a 2017 study by France’s National Observatory of Delinquency and Criminal Responses yearly bike thefts have remained at roughly 400,000 for the past fifteen years.
A study by France’s Interior Ministry put the number at around 308,000 bike thefts in 2016, up from 248,000 in 2008, still clear evidence that bike theft in France is rife.
Bike number plates
Another crime-stopping measure set to be unveiled is the introduction of number plates for bikes, or at the very least a clearly marked registration number that identifies the cyclist as the rightful owner.
According to France Info, the measure is focused primarily on the sale of professional bikes but can also apply to older second-hand bikes as well.
French police will have access to a record of these bike registration numbers when trying to catch thieves.
Bike expenses paid by employers
Cyclists will have the right to a transport expenses allowance paid for by their company, in the same way as commuters’ train, bus and petrol costs can be claimed back from their companies under the current indemnité transports en commun regulations.
The French government wants cycling to get the same treatment as other means of transport and will replace this new measure with the already existing bicycle mileage allowance.
This “sustainable mobility fee” will see commuters using bikes get up to €400 a year from their companies, whilst the government itself will also offer €200 packages to its workers.