This is an idea being proposed for Stockholm in a new report from Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology. Having studied the barriers Stockholmers face in switching from cars to bikes, the institute has recommended that the city’s existing congestion charge zone be adapted to benefit people commuting by bike. Some money earned through the congestion charge (which covers most of the inner city) could be funneled back into cycling benefits—not as cash in hand, but as credits towards bike repairs or upgrades to studded tires for winter riding. According to institute staff, the plan would do more than provide practical incentives.
Other proposals suggested by the institute could also help, including allowing bikes on trains and creating broader two-lane cycle highways that heighten a rider’s sense of safety.
The institute’s recommendation of cash or in-kind benefits for cyclists isn’t the first of its kind. Several European countries have lined up various incentives and benefits to get people on to bikes—most notably an experiment in France last summer where a control group of 10,000 employees were paid €0.25/km to cycle to work. This had only limited success, partly because commuters still had access to free parking. Given that the habits the scheme tried to discourage were heavily ingrained, the reward itself was also arguably on the low side.
The Stockholm method could potentially prove more effective because it has a better balance of carrot and stick. The cycling benefits would be funded by drivers paying a fee to enter the congestion zone, so the incentive to bike would be matched more explicitly with a disincentive to drive.
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