French to get bike repair cash

The French government is offering citizens $85 towards bike servicing and repair as an incentive to keep them out of cars once the country returns to normal after the coronavirus lockdown.

France is expected to ease movement restrictions after May 11.

The move is part of a $34M package that includes additional bike parking and training for novice riders.

Elisabeth Borne, Minister for Ecological Transition, said the move was aimed at keeping air pollution down once the restrictions are lifted.

She she said she wanted the bicycle to be the "queen of deconfinement”.

Typically 60 percent of French trips are less than 5 km, and switching some of those from cars to bikes would make a real difference.

The government will pay the mechanics up to $85 for each customer. If the servicing and parts cost more, the customer make up the extra.

New rules state that riders will have to stay at least ten metres from one another once the lockdown is lifted.

Riders will have a time limit for riding, and must do so within 100km of home, and can’t ride in bunches bigger than ten. Professionals must do their training solo.

Meanwhile Paris continues to go all out for bike transport, barring private cars from one of its major central roads, the Rue de Rivoli, which will instead have separate lanes for bicycles and for buses, taxis, emergency vehicles and certain deliveries.

The measures will remain in place for the duration of the pandemic but should they prove successful they will be made permanent, Mayor Anne Hidalgo said.

Returning to a Paris dominated by cars after lockdown ends is “out of the question.”

“I say in all firmness that it is out of the question that we allow ourselves to be invaded by cars, and by pollution,” she said.

“It will make the health crisis worse. Pollution is already in itself a health crisis and a danger — and pollution joined up with coronavirus is a particularly dangerous cocktail. So it’s out of the question to think that arriving in the heart of the city by car is any sort of solution, when it could actually aggravate the situation.”

Paris is also aiming to create cycle routes along the paths of its three busiest Metro lines, she said.

Read more: Paris tops a re-ranking of the world's most liveable cities.