France is experimenting with new way to subsidize transportation by getting more people to bicycle to work. Traffic in Paris is particularly awful and with ongoing population growth and car-focused infrastructure the transportation problems are only going to increase. France is hoping that getting people to ride bicycles will stymie the growth of transportation issues.
French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.
The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million km, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.
In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.
Despite repeated efforts by Toronto’s mayor to make transportation in the city worse, things are improving. Local condo developers are finding ways to build condo towers that don’t require more parking than the building needs (an archaic law in the city wants room for two cars for every bedroom built). They are using the cash saved from not building room for cars to build infrastructure for bicycles – which the condo buyers are asking for.
Other cities around the world already do this and it’s thanks to the effort of the developers and councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam that Toronto benefits from this smart approach. With more people moving into the city bicycles make sense as a primary transportation source.
The developers â€” major players Canderel, DiamondCorp and Lanterra â€” agreed to contribute to Bixi in exchange for permission to create fewer parking spaces than city rules require.
The city sometimes releases developers from parking requirements without demanding anything in return. Wong-Tam said she decided that she would attempt this time to insist on the Bixi contribution. The developers, she said, put up â€œno resistance whatsoever,â€ since they will spend far less than they would have had to spend to build parking they canâ€™t sell.
Lanterra chief executive Barry Fenton said he never thought of the agreement as a cost-saver: he believes his company would have persuaded Wong-Tam to relax the requirements even without the Bixi payment. Citing a â€œfantasticâ€ bike journey he took in Stockholm, he said investing in urban cycling â€œjust really, really, really makes a lot of sense.â€
The League of American Bicyclists has announced that Google has added bicycling directions to their US maps! Unveiled at the National Bike Summit, the bike feature will have cycling directions (in addition to driving, walking, and in some cities, public transit) as an option to plan a route between point A and point B.
This new feature includes: step-by-step bicycling directions; bike trails outlined directly on the map; and a new â€œBicyclingâ€ layer that indicates bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly roads. The directions feature provides step-by-step, bike-specific routing suggestions â€“ similar to the directions provided by our driving, walking, or public transit modes. Simply enter a start point and destination and select â€œBicyclingâ€ from the drop-down menu. You will receive a route that is optimized for cycling, taking advantage of bike trails, bike lanes, and bike-friendly streets and avoiding hilly terrain whenever possible.
Google has said that the inclusion of cycling directions has been the most requested addition to Google maps. Here’s hoping that additional pressure from cities around the world will soon lead to cycling directions becoming available in your city!
It appears at least one Canadian city won’t have to wait long for something similar! Ride the City has gone live with Toronto bike directions! Ride the City Toronto is based on the open source maps system, OpenStreetMap.org and offers much the same functionality as the Google map version in the States. Check it out here and start planning your route by bike!