Oslo is giving residents $1,200 to buy electric bikes

While Finland is busy giving thousands of people a free $600 a month in a social experiment, the government of Oslo, Norway has announced it will give out twice that amount — to help the environment.

On February 1, Oslo’s government began offering residents a $1,200 credit to be used toward the cost of an electric cargo bike.

Plagued by worsening air pollution, the city wants to cut its dependence on cars and promote a cleaner mode of transit.

The grants are designed to help people buy electric bikes that stow groceries, bags, and other personal items that one might otherwise put in the trunk of a car. Given the typical cost of e-bikes — around $2,500 to $6,400 — the credit will cover between 25% and 50% of the bike’s total cost.

Norway has set aside an impressive $1 billion nationwide for new bike-related infrastructure, including new bike paths and more electric bikes. Giving more people e-bikes would minimise the need for more expensive infrastructure like “bike elevators,” which carry riders uphill on their bikes.

Not all of Oslo’s 618,000 residents will get the $1,200 for a bike, however. The budget only allows for 500 to 1,000 grants, City Lab reports, which means the program won’t necessarily make a huge dent in Norway’s smog problem. Some Norwegian news outlets have also characterised the grant as a subsidy for wealthy people, since they’re more likely to have the means to buy one.

In addition to promoting bike riding, Oslo has also temporarily banned diesel vehicles and set a goal to ban all vehicles from the city center by 2019. The federal government has also discussed the possibility of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and offering more widespread subsidies on electric bikes.

If all goes according to plan, Oslo’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 will be at least half what they were in 1990, with many more e-bikes buzzing around.

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