By Geert De Clercq
PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said on Tuesday it would boost state support for cycling in 2023, hoping to promote the use of bicycles for transport in rural areas, improve citizens' health, and use them in the energy transition.
French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told reporters a new 250 million euro ($249 million) cycling fund will boost bike infrastructure and finance cycling lessons for 800,000 school children.
"Cycling in cities has really taken off in recent years, the challenge for the coming years will be to show that cycling can also be a mode of transport in rural areas," she said.
Borne said that thanks to 14,000 kilometres of new bike lanes and subsidies for buying and fixing bicyles, they had become the most-sold means of transport, with 2.7 million sold in 2021.
"At a time when we have provided so much support for fuel and cars, it is important to show that we also support other forms of transport," France's Transport Minister Clement Beaune told Le Parisien newspaper.
"We want to make the bicycle a real means of transport, not just a thing of leisure," he added.
This year, the French government has offered subsidised rebates on car fuel prices at a cost of 7.5 billion euros.
($1 = 0.9986 euros)
(Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)