French city pays locals to leave their cars at home

A northern French city has begun paying its residents for every day that they leave their car at home during rush hour, in an effort to reduce pollution and traffic congestion.

French city pays locals to leave their cars at home
The scheme aims to cut congestion on the A1 and A23 motorways in Lille. Photo by Denis CHARLET / AFP

The Lille metropolitan area – covering the city in north-east France and its suburbs – is offering car-owning residents €2 for every journey that they don’t make by car during rush hour.

Lille launched its ‘éconobus’ scheme on Monday, initially as a nine-month pilot, offering a cash bonus to everyone who either carpools or uses public transport during rush hour, or those who work from home.

The idea is to relieve traffic congestion on the A1 and A23 motorways during the morning and evening rush hour, and also lower air pollution levels. 

Sébastien Le Prêtre, vice-president of the Lille metropolitan area, said: “We won’t be the first in Europe to introduce it, since our source of inspiration is the Netherlands, where the scheme has proved its effectiveness.

“But we’ll be the first metropolis in France to embark on this experiment, which will run for nine months.”

The regional authority says that it expects 600 fewer cars per day on the A1 during rush hour, and 300 fewer on the A23.

Around 3,000 volunteers are already signed up to the pilot scheme – it does not require people to give up their cars, but incentivises leaving it at home during rush hour with €2 paid for every day that the user either works from home, car-shares or uses public transport.

It’s largely targeted at people who live in the suburbs and commute into Lille. 

Although this is the first such scheme of its kind in France, the French government does offer €100 to people who sign up to car-sharing schemes

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Testing, maths boost and school uniforms: France plans changes to education system

France's education minister has announced plans to boost maths teaching in schools after a critical international report - as well as a 'large scale experiment' on having uniforms in French schools.

Testing, maths boost and school uniforms: France plans changes to education system

A recently published global study of education standards highlighted falling attainment levels in France, particularly in mathematics.

Since 2000, the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study by the OECD has measured 15-year-old school pupils’ performance in mathematics, science, and reading.

In the latest study, the focus was on mathematics – and the triennial report placed France in 23rd, highlighting “unprecedented decline” in student performance, with the results “among the lowest ever measured”, according to the OECD. In mathematics, between 2018 and 2022, it experienced “a historic drop in the level of students” according to OECD education expert Eric Charbonnier.

Planned education reforms in France, it has to be said, are not a knee-jerk reaction to the freshly released OECD report. They have been in the planning a while longer. Nationwide testing of 13-year-olds earlier this academic year gave results that also raised alarms in the corridors of educational power.

Now Education Minister Gabriel Attal has announced plans for collège-age children to face tests early in the school year at 6eme (11 and 12 year-olds) and again at 4eme (13 and 14 year-olds), to stream them into classes for maths and French, based on their levels.

The aim is to have “groups adapted to the level of each pupil”, he said. The sets will not be set in stone for two years – children who do well will be able to move up, while anyone struggling will move down.

The Minister announced the introduction of new compulsory written tests for all baccalaureate students in “mathematics” and “scientific culture”.

 He intends two separate examination subjects: one for students who have chosen to specialise in maths at bac level, and another for those who have not.

According to the Minister, this will help “raise standards” in mathematics.

Attal also confirmed that a decree on ‘redoublement‘ (repeating an academic year) would be published in 2024. To date, parents have had the final say on whether their children should repeat a year – but Attal wants teachers to make the final decision.

He also said that a ‘large scale’ experiment of school uniforms would be announced before the end of the year.

“I am divided on the question of the uniform and not convinced that this solution would solve everything,” he insisted, but said that he “would be interested to see what results a large-scale experiment would give in terms of school climate and in terms of raising the level of our students”.

While he did not go into many further details on uniforms, he did say that families taking part in the study would not be out of pocket.

Explained: Why is school uniform controversial in France?