You Could Get Paid to Ride a Bicycle Next Time You're in Milan

Streets of Milan 1 photo
Photo: Silar via Wikimedia
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and no matter how you look at it, paying people to ride a bike is one of the weirdest ideas we've heard in a while.
That's until you stop and think about it for a moment. The idea behind this move is to convince more people to leave their cars at home and use an alternate transportation method that is less taxing on the environment and contributes less to traffic congestion. Much like what the public transportation does, which in Milan (as in other cities) is heavily subsidized, so it also eats a fair chunk from the local authorities' budget. And nobody's complaining about that.

With that settled, there are still a lot of issues to be addressed before this scheme can become operational. For instance, what is the right amount of payment that is affordable for the city, but also provides an incentive for those who aren't already biking to work to start doing it? Because, otherwise, you'll just end up giving money to those who were already doing it, so the city gains nothing.

France has been experimenting with a similar system that wired 25 euro cents into the bicyclist's account for every kilometer covered en route to work. Suddenly, living further away from the office becomes a good thing - even though you'll likely spend the extra money on the water needed to rehydrate.

But as we've shown earlier in a study carried out on a street in Toronto, the best way to get more people on bikes is to create the appropriate infrastructure. And it's not just the study (which, admittedly, may not be very conclusive), it's also common sense. Trying to ride a bicycle in Milan is a daunting task: there are very few bicycle lanes, the traffic is dense, the air pollution is terrible (thanks, 40-year-old Vespas), there are tram tracks everywhere you need to watch out for (the public transport system is pretty well developed), and the cobbled streets will turn your spine into a mushy gel. It may be healthier for the environment, but it most certainly isn't healthier for the one who's doing it.

So the city planners might be approaching the problem from the wrong angle. The more convenient one for them, but still wrong. You can't expect regular people to ride bikes to work if you're not providing the adequate conditions or, at least, some basic safety elements. Offering what is essentially a derisory sum of money might actually be slightly offensive, considering the state of affairs. After all, as TreeHugger reports, even some of the officials supporting this money-for-cycling scheme aren't doing it, and will probably continue to drive to work in the future as well, simply because Milan isn't a bike-friendly town. And that, Mrs. Alanis Morisette, is what ironic really means.
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About the author: Vlad Mitrache
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"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
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