The Germans have always been one step ahead of the rest of us when it comes to the environment. They are European champions when it comes to wind power, recycling rates and installing combined heat and power boilers. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is a former environment minister.
So it should come as no surprise to learn that a German businessman has pushed the concept of green rebates to the next logical level: Thomas Goetz, owner of a Berlin brothel called Maison d'Envie, is currently offering a discount to any customer who arrives by bicycle or public transport.
"The recession has hit our industry hard," Goetz told Reuters. "Obviously we hope that the discount will attract more people. It's good for business, it's good for the environment – and it's good for the girls."
Any punter who arrives by bike – the puns readily spring to mind with this story – or who can prove they've travelled by public transport qualifies for the discount (they must present a valid ticket and a map of Berlin's public transport network upon arrival). The room hire for a 45-minute "session" is normally €70 (£60), but cyclists qualify for a €5 "eco" discount. Customers with, er, less time on their hands can opt for the 15-minute session which normally costs €30, but with that eco discount it drops down to €25. (For unexplained reasons, though, no eco discount is available for a 60-minute session. The mind boggles.)
In the name of research, I had a quick look around the brothel's website to verify that the offer really does exist, and, yes, there it is in black and white. "The Maison d'Envie offers one major advantage over other establishments: it is perfectly accessible by public transport. Both S-and U-Bahn stations are within walking distance and well-maintained bicycle paths also allow for a more environmentally friendly journey. And because we want to reward your green commitment, we have – and it's unique in Berlin – an environmental discount." It's the sort of statement you might expect to hear from your local council, not an establishment – very much legal in Germany – that offers the services of "nice, motivated models" in a "very pleasant, almost family atmosphere".
It seems to be working, though, as Goetz says the offer is attracting three to five new customers every day, adding that the incentive has helped to reduce traffic and parking congestion in the local area.
So, what would it take to get you going by bike more often? What other innovative incentives could help boost the number of people cycling?