Milan, Italy — Milan is the most polluted city in Europe. In fact, the smog is so bad that in 2012, the country reported 84,000 premature deaths linked to poor air quality. Last year, both Milan and Rome introduced traffic bans to combat pollution.
Now city officials are trying something relatively new: paying commuters to bike to work. France tried this in 2014, when employees were offered 25 cents per kilometer traveled, but the program failed due to lack of citizen participation.
Milan plans to offer more money, and the local government has allocated €35 million to incentivize citizens to help combat air pollution. They will use smartphone apps to verify that people enrolled in the program are actually cycling to work. Officials say Milan’s Polytechnic University has agreed to help with some of these practicalities.
Milan’s councillor for mobility, Pierfrancesco Maran, remarked that “The software exists; it’s not 100% flawless but no one’s thinking of giving large sums.”
Some experts are skeptical that Milan’s federally-funded cycling-to-work initiative will significantly reduce the country’s smog levels. Others, like Holger Haubold, a fiscal and economic policy officer at the European Cyclists’ Federation, are more optimistic.
“The fiscal incentive is the most efficient way to promote cycling to work. Companies that have this incentive in place have significantly more employees cycling to work than those that don’t.”
With Milan’s heavy traffic, it will be challenging for the city to make mass cycling viable, but Italy seems determined to try. With 400,000 people dying prematurely each year in Europe due to air pollution, the problem of smog will not be going away anytime soon.
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