Bari’s mayor is aiming to “double the number of bicycles in the city” in 2019, starting with the four-month trial of a new initiative that pays residents to cycle.
Those who ride their bikes to work or school will be paid 20 cents a kilometre – up to a maximum of 25 euros per month, or 125 kilometres a month – under the scheme.
Up to 1,000 Bari residents can register to take part in the trial. Their bikes will be fitted with a tracking device that records the length of journeys, which will be used to calculate the monthly payments.
City cycling in Italy. Photo: Depositphotos
For non-commute bike journeys, participants will reportedly be paid €0.04 per kilometre, with the money sent as a lump sum by bank transfer at the end of the month.
“By cycling, you’ll earn; it won’t only benefit your health,” said the mayor of Bari, Antonio Decaro, when announcing the scheme last month.
Don’t have a bike? That’s no excuse. The city has also set aside funding to help pay for new bikes, including ebikes. And it’s not just for commuters – parents can apply for funding for new bikes for children, too.
The city will give 100 euros towards buying a used bike, 150 euros to help with the cost of a new one, or 250 euros towards an ebike.
The idea may sound familiar. Paris experimented with a similar scheme in 2014, in which commuters were paid to swap cars for bikes. The French capital now plans to have employers pay biking expenses as part of a new plan to encourage cycling.
Milan too has previously launched initiatives to encourage cycling, including shared bike schemes. But Bari is the first in Italy to trial a paid cycling scheme.
Bari could be a great place for cyclists. It’s a flat, coastal city, and it’s warm for most of the year. But the city centre and seafront area is choked by traffic, and at the moment there’s no joined-up cycle lane network.
A key commuter route for pedestrians and bikes across a new motorway bridge still remains incomplete two years after it opened to cars.
Things are set to improve, eventually, as the city is going ahead with a long-anticipated revamp of its congested seafront area.
How Bari's seafront is expected to look after redevelopment. Photo: Inarch Puglia
The project aims to make roads smaller, improve public transport links, and make the area more accessible to pedestrians, runners and cyclists. Architects behind the plan say they’ve taken inspiration from Copenhagen.
Initiatives to promote cycling are badly needed in Italy, which currently relies heavily on cars as the main form of transportation.
But persuading people in Bari to make the switch to cycling could take some time. Not least because, in terms of infrastructure, the city isn’t quite there.
While Bari is pedalling in the right direction, we probably can’t start calling it the Copenhagen of the south just yet.