SHARE
COPY LINK

ENVIRONMENT

How France will splash another €250 million on national ‘bike plan’

Cyclists across France can rejoice (perhaps) with news that the government plans to spend another €250 million on the 'plan vélo,' a multi-year project intended to encourage and build up cycling infrastructure across the country.

How France will splash another €250 million on national 'bike plan'
Two cyclists ride in Paris in November 2021 (Photo by AFP)

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced a boost to the existing ‘Plan Vélo’ (Bicycle Plan) on Tuesday morning at Matignon, the Prime Minister’s HQ.

Borne specified during her Tuesday address that an additional €250 million will be spent on the project for 2023, marking its fourth anniversary.

The Plan Vélo is a national programme set to encourage bicycling in France building up bike-friendly infrastructure and encouraging people to get on their bikes via education campaigns.

The additional funding will offer municipalities with additional funds to build bike paths and secure parking locations.

Setting aside more money in a single for biking than ever before, the ambitious scheme is a segment of the multi-year Bicycle Plan, falling under the “active mobility fund”, which allows the financing of infrastructure.

The project will be operated in communication with local communities, “to ensure that investments are targeted and effective,” a spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office told AFP. “[The plan] will be endowed with €250 million euros for 2023; €200 million will be dedicated to infrastructure and €50 million for secured bicycle parking.”

READ MORE: MAP: France to splash out €43 million to build new cycle lanes around the country

On top of the increased budget for the bike plan, the prime minister said that government would also institute an additional “inter-ministerial committee on cycling” to be launched in the autumn, which will meet every six months.

Why now?

While the prime minister’s statement came on the bike plan’s fourth anniversary, for Transport Minister Clément Beaune, the additional funds are particularly important for prioritising bicycles after the government provided assistance for drivers (such as the fuel subsidy) amid rising cost of living.

“At a time when we have supported fuel and the car a lot, it is important to show that we also support other modes of transport,” Clément Beaune, the Minister of Transport told Le Parisien. “We want to make the bike a real means of transport and not just a leisure tool.”

The new funding for the bicycle plan was met with support.

The president of the Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB), Olivier Schneider, told Le Parisien that Tuesday’s announcement was “good news” because “it will allow suburban and rural towns to finally get on board, as they do not have as many resources as large urban areas to finance significant bike lane projects.”

Nevertheless – he hopes that the State will “maintain its budgetary efforts after 2023.”

What does the full plan entail?

Holistically, the multi-year bicycle plan includes several components, not least of which is infrastructure. It allows funds to be set aside for communities across France to implement cycle paths and create safe cycle routes. However, it is also an education campaign.

The plan promotes the “made-in-France” bicycle industry, as well as a the “savoir rouler à vélo” (SRAV) programme that teaches children in primary school how to ride a bike (pedaling, breaking, signs, and good road behaviour). Additionally, it seeks to encourage bicycling from a health standpoint and promotes the construction of bicycle parking during the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. 

Originally launched in 2018, at the behest of current Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, who was the then-Minister of Transport, the national ‘bicycle plan’ established a 350 million fund to span seven years (2018-2025).

READ MORE: How Paris will spend €250 million on making city ‘100 % bike friendly’

Intended to promote the ‘ecological transition,’ as well as health and well-being, the plan was extended and awarded more funds. It is now expected to run through 2027, and by 2025, it will have been budgeted at least 500 million.

The budgets for future years could also be increased, similar to 2023. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s office said “The multi-year envelope has yet to be defined, as it will be part of the overall reflection on transport infrastructures, which will be based on what the infrastructure policy council presents this fall.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

JOHN LICHFIELD

OPINION: Putin is advancing rapidly – in his invasion of French-speaking west Africa

Events in Mali and more recently Burkina Faso have proved humiliating for the French government - and while many people won't be shedding any tears for the former colonisers, the advance of Russian militias should concern us all, says John Lichfield.

OPINION: Putin is advancing rapidly - in his invasion of French-speaking west Africa

Russia may be retreating in Ukraine but it is advancing rapidly on another front 7,000 kilometres away in what used to be French west Africa.

Vladimir Putin’s great African offensive – using bribery, lies, mercenaries and some genuine development aid – scored a new victory in recent days in Burkina Faso, one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

The second coup d’état in Ouagadougou in eight months brought to power a 30-something army captain who lauded Moscow and berated the “colonial” iniquities of France.

The immediate loser from Russia’s African campaign is what used to be called “Françafrique” – the once-deep political and economic involvement of France in its former African colonies. That decline is not new and has many causes. It is probably inevitable and might eventually be healthy, for both Africa and France.

If the Kremlin wasn’t involved…

The great losers from Russia’s stealthy invasion of west and central Africa will be the Burkinabés and other Africans. Whatever Vladimir Putin’s motives in building an African empire, it is certainly not to help Africans achieve greater control over their own lives, resources and governments.

The spearhead of Putin’s Africa policy is the Wagner mercenary army, run on the Kremlin’s behalf by a billionaire oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Wagner army has already been implicated in brutal incidents and massacres in several African countries.

Who popped up this week to praise Burkina Faso’s new young strongman? Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In a bizarre statement, more like that of a government than a billionaire businessman, Prigozhin said that he “saluted and supported” Captain Ibrahim Traoré, a man who acted in the name of “liberty and justice”.

In return, Captain Traoré lambasted France and said that Burkina Faso was ready to seek “other partners ready to help in the fight against terrorism”. The next day the French embassy was attacked and vandalised.

The two statements amounted to a brazen admission that the  coup was planned in Moscow. They also reflect a confidence that many west and central Africans now see Russia as their liberator from “imperialist” France.

Burkina Faso has been bombarded in recent months by social media propaganda accusing the deposed Colonel Damiba of being a French stooge. Similar material has appeared in the French language Russia Today TV channel and Sputnik news agency, which have a growing following in all Francophone central and west Africa countries.

Meanwhile, the various jihadist, radical Islamist forces operating in the Sahel and west and central Africa have been gaining ground (including one third of the territory of Burkina Faso). Russia is not in alliance with the Islamists but it does exploit their success for its own gain.

Trust by local people in the French forces deployed (with mixed effect) to fight the jihadis has been constantly undermined by Russian propaganda. The Islamist insurgence is, the propaganda says, just a pretext for “French colonial” interference. Otherwise, the jihadis would have been defeated long ago.

Mali, next door to Burkina Faso, also suffered a double coup by officers hostile to France in 2020 – leading Emmanuel Macron to end the nine years old French anti-Islamist military deployment in the country. Wagner Russian “mercenaries” are now heavily active in the country (though officially just “instructors”).

Similar anti-French feeling is being stirred up in Niger. In June, President Emmanuel Macron suspended all financial and military aid to Centrafrique (the Central Africa Republic) after accusing its government of being “the hostage of the paramilitary Russian Wagner group”.

France fears similar advances in Senegal and Ivory Coast.

This lightning advance of Russian influence in Africa explains in part Macron’s eloquent and angry speech to the UN last month in which he accused (by implication) African countries of betraying their own long-term interests by refusing to condemn the “new colonialism” of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Anti-French feeling in Africa is not entirely a Russia invention. Successive Presidents since Jacques Chirac have tried to unwind the unhealthy and corrupt relationship which existed until the 1990s between Paris and African political elites. Resentment of France as the former colonial power remains – sometimes justified, sometimes fanciful.

In a sense, France has the worst of both worlds. It paying for its past sins rather than benefiting from its present, sometimes clumsy, efforts to fight Islamist terrorism, reduce corruption and foster democracy. Russian power has spread partly because France can no longer call those shots in Africa which Moscow accuses Paris of calling.

Emmanuel Macron has gone even further than his predecessors in trying to create a new relationship with “Françafrique.”  He invited students, artists and successful entrepreneurs, as well as the usual politicians, to the annual France-Africa summit in Montpellier this year.

Macron has said that it is up to African countries whether they want to carry on with the so-called “African franc”, a shared currency (or actually two regional currencies), tied to the Euro and guaranteed by Paris. The “CFA” is the object of many anti-French fantasies in Africa but provides a stability which has helped all its member countries grow faster than most other African nations.

Into this difficult ground, Russia has advanced with much greater skill than it has shown in its brutal, failed attack on Ukraine. Many Africans have been persuaded that Moscow is their ally against a greedy, hypocritical West.

China has advanced with even more subtlety in other parts of Africa. In both cases, African countries may learn to their cost that they have exchanged one form of colonialism for another – even greedier and more corrupt.

SHOW COMMENTS