German city offers cash for bike trade-ins

£45 available in cycle version of scrappage scheme

The German city of Mannheim is offering cash handouts to cyclists who trade in their old bikes for new ones.

Citizens can get a 50 euro rebate (£45/US$68) when they buy a new bike, with half of the cash coming from the city council and the rest from a major retailer.

The idea is to provide an incentive for people to use bikes rather than cars – half of all motor vehicle trips in the city are shorter than three miles.

Unlike Britain's similar new 'scrappage' scheme for cars – where motorists can get £2,000 off a new car by handing in a vehicle more than 10 years old – the bikes traded in will not, where practical, be scrapped but will go to government workshops for the long-term unemployed where bike mechanics are trained.

The Mannheim scheme, which began at the start of the month, has already become a victim of its own success. Twice as many people have registered for it as there are funds. The city council is pushing for additional funding to keep the scheme going.

A government spokesman in Berlin said the success of the Mannheim scheme was being "closely monitored" with a view to extending it nationwide.

Mannheim is not the only city offering incentives in a bid to get people back onto bikes. In Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, if you scrap a pre-1995 car you can get a year's worth of free transit passes plus up to CAN$1,200 (£680/US$1,030) towards a new bike or $1,300 (£740/US$1,120) towards an electric bike.

Most generous, however, is an Italian government scheme that gives a third off the purchase of a bike, electric bike or certain classes of scooter, without having to trade anything in. It will be available for the whole of 2009 and has a budget cap of 8.75 million euros (£7.87m/US$11.92m).  

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