A 6-month experiment has begun in France to try to boost cycling. 20 companies and institutions with around 10,000 employees will be paying 25 Euro cents (about 34 US cents) per kilometer that is biked to the workplace. France isn't the first country in Europe to do this; Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain have a variety of bike-to-work schemes, aiming to improve health, reduce pollution, reduce oil consumption, etc.
The French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said that mass-transit and private cars are already getting subsidies (directly and/or indirectly), so paying people to bike to work isn't out of the ordinary.
The goal of this project is to boost bike commuting by 50%, from the current level of 2.4% which is about 800 million kilometers. It's not that far-fetched; just looking at neighboring countries, we can see that in Belgium the bike incentives have helped increase bike trips to about 8 percent of all commutes. Top of the list is still the Netherlands, though, with about 25% of trip on bikes (check out this amazing video about Amsterdam's bike culture).
Hopefully the 6-month experiment is successful and a more permanent program is put in place.
Just for fun, here's a really old school French cyclist: Léon Georget (Big Red or The Brute). Photo taken in 1909.