Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

17 November 2015

Paying People To Ride To Work: Will It Work?

Some people will ride their bikes to work because they enjoy riding.  Others do it for the exercise.  Still others pedal to their jobs because it's more convenient or less expensive than taking the bus or train, or driving.

Then there are those who won't ride to work--or even get on a bike--unless they're paid.

Apparently, the council members of a town in Italy were thinking of that last group of people. 

Nestled in the hills of Lucca, in the Tuscany region, Massarossa is about 35 kilometres north of Pisa.   The town has set aside 30,000 Euros (about 21,000 USD) for a pilot scheme that would pay workers to ride their bikes to their jobs.  Cyclists would be paid 0.25Euros for every kilometer cycled, up to 50 Euros per month.  Conceivably,  a bicycle commuter could pocket up to 600 Euros per year.

Now, as I said, some people could be enticed to ride if they're paid.  That begs the question of what kind of person could be so persuaded?

The answer might come from the experience of a similar program that ran for six months last year in France.  The country's transport minister enlisted corporations and other employers to pay their employees to ride their bikes to work. 

While the number of bicycle commuters increased, it could be argued that the program didn't achieve another of its stated goals:  reducing auto traffic.  You see, most of the people who took advantage of the program had been using public transport before they started pedaling to their workplaces. Relatively few made the switch from driving their cars to their jobs.  Of those who did, most were already carpooling.

I don't know how the folks in Massarossa plan to get people away from four wheels and onto two.  But some of the plan's logistics are interesting:  Cyclists will use a phone app to record how much they've ridden. And the plan will be funded from traffic ticket fines.  By law, those funds have to be invested in road safety.

Whether or not the plan works, it's worth trying, especially if someone can come up with a way to get folks out of their cars.


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  2. This post hit really close to home by reminding me of the enormous expense involved in commuting by bike. Just a year ago, I had to shell out something like $12 for a new set of brake pads on my commuter. Then, last month, I paid $100 for a new set of tires to replace he ones I had bought a mere seven years earlier. My road to financial ruin began when I responded to a Craigslist ad for a $55 Bridgestone MB-3. Of COURSE I should have negotiated a better price, but I just couldn't help myself. I tip my hat to the good folks of Massarossa, who probably understand the true cost of riding your bike to work.

  3. MT--It's true that most non-cyclists (or those who don't use their bikes for transportation) don't understand the true costs of bike commuting. Still, in many places (at least here in NYC), it's less expensive than driving, and sometimes even mass transportation.