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People Paid to Walk or Bike in Norway

Town center of Lillestrøm, Norway  photo by Benjamin Linh Vu
Town center of Lillestrøm, Norway
photo by Benjamin Linh Vu

Imagine biking, or even just walking down the street and being asked to pull over.  Then imagine that instead of being handed a ticket for some violation, a local official instead hands you cold cash, and it wasn’t even Christmas.  Well, that happened just recently in the town of Lillestrøm in Norway which was experimenting with a “reverse toll.”  This meant that everyone who passed through a certain point on its main street was given 100 kroner (approx. US$15).

Lillestrøm mayor Ole Jacob Flætene says, “the reverse toll points out an important fact–that getting people to walk and cycle is profitable for the society.” The Norwegian Directorate of Health bears them out, saying that the government saves around $8 per kilometer of walked and $4 per kilometer biked.  The finding is surprising given that the country imposes a lot of royalties and taxes on oil, despite being an oil exporter.

The financial incentive was given so that residents would be aware of this fact, and would be more supportive of new infrastructure like the addition of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways.  If you’re planning to cash in on the program, however, you’re too late.  The reverse toll lasted for a few hours.  The point was to build awareness of the benefits of biking and walking.

As it is, Lillestrøm is already the most bike friendly municipality, being voted best cycling town in Norway three years in a row.  They recently launched a plan to promote walking.  Aside from these initiatives, the town is also building a network of hydrogen refueling stations, as well as phasing out fossil fueled cars from the government car fleet in favor of zero-emission vehicles.

The moves are refreshing in light of New York police ticketing cyclists more than drivers and bobbies in London pulling over cyclists quite often recently.  Hopefully, instead of discouraging people from walking or cycling, they would encourage it instead.

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