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Get paid to bike to work

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Cyclists could soon be paid to cycle to work under a new plan to boost cycling to get people fitter to save on health spending and, perhaps, create more jobs. Is this a possibility? If you live in France, it may soon become reality.

France’sTransport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier is announcing the plan with proposals for volunteer companies to test out a system of reimbursing employees between 21 and 25 centimes per kilometer as a travel perk in return for possible social charge exemptions.

Just 5% of employees would be affected but Mr. Cuvillier wants to see if this can be doubled with other measures to make cycling safer and more widespread. The bike to work trend in large cities has caught on in Europe, and in America it is gaining ground. In some cities, congestion has been reduced between 25%-33%, and the domino effect includes reduces pollution, less commute time, and improved employee health.

Commuters also save on vehicle parking costs, car insurance, and car longevity. In cities where many rely on public transportation for work, biking allows employees flexibility in work travel times, and they become fit, eliminating the need to pay for pricey gym memberships.

The French measures would include a €100 ($138.50) rise in the fine for parking on a cycle lane to €135 ($187), increased cycle parking spaces with companies being forced from 2015 to include cycle spaces in their car parks – and, for car-owners, the right to overtake a cyclist over solid white lines.

At the moment companies must reimburse employees some of their travel costs with help paying rail or bus season tickets plus a mileage allowance for those who drive to work.

People who cycle to work using public hire bikes like the Vélib' in Paris or the Vélo Bleu in Nice can also get their annual subscription reimbursed, while there is help in paying for the purchase of an electric bike but, until now, nothing for those who use their own bicycles.

Many companies have dedicated parking spaces for drivers and the aim is to see if such perks can be extended to cyclists who would not need to be reimbursed for travel tickets.

The idea of a subsidy was proposed in 2012 by UMP MP Philippe Goujon to Sarkozy transport minister Thierry Mariani who suggested a tax-free payment of up to 25 centimes a kilometer plus reduced social charges for the company. He said that with two million cyclists travelling an average of 5km a day the measure would cost €2m ($2.775 million) to the state.

Such a payment could increase the numbers cycling to work as it has done in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany and Gilles Pérole, of the Club des villes et territoires cyclables, said on TF1 that the cycle trade was worth €4.5 billion ($ 6.2 billion) a year with around 35,000 jobs. If they could double the number of cyclists that would have a major impact on business and jobs.

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