In a recent post, I explained how micromobility (e-bikes, scooters, etc) gives state and local governments a much cheaper lever they can pull to reduce emissions, with or without support from a dysfunctional federal government. As it turns out, I’m far from the only person to think that way, and the California Bicycle Coalition is already leading the way on this.
Goals Of The Program
One thing the group has been pushing for is to get California’s lawmakers to give e-bikes the same public support that larger electric vehicles have been getting. For example, one can get thousands off the purchase price of an EV (on top of federal tax credits) if their income is low enough, and that has helped spur the purchase of EVs. Similarly, it’s difficult for many Californians with lower incomes to purchase an e-bike, due to the extra expense.
The idea is that e-bikes can replace many car trips, and even cars themselves in many cases, and for a small fraction of the cost of an EV. Instead of only helping a few Californians buy an EV with big spending, the group proposed spending only $10 million, which sounds like a lot to you or me, but is practically pocket change to a government as big as California’s.
Specifics aren’t currently available as to how much each applicant could get to help purchase an e-bike, but the program’s goals are below.
Goals of the E-Bike Affordability Program
- Help people replace car trips with e-bike trips.
- Prioritize grants to individuals from low-income households.
- Define eligibility for the program as individuals and households with incomes below the maximum limits established in the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project.
- Support related programs and benefits, such as safety education.
Provide support for a variety of electric bicycles, including, but not limited to, bicycles designed for people with disabilities; utility bikes for carrying equipment or passengers, including children; and folding e-bikes.
- Support local small businesses and organizations, such as retail bicycle shops and nonprofit organizations, including community bicycle shops.
- Collaborate with other state departments and agencies to enforce safeguards against fraudulent activity by sellers and purchasers of e-bikes in accordance with the law.
- [to be added] Ensure that e-bikes purchased through this program meet a high standard of quality and durability.
After putting in a lot of effort, they got the state legislature and the governor to approve $10 million in funding for the program as part of next year’s budget. This means that they’ll be able to start providing buying assistance for e-bikes.
“Making e-bikes more affordable is one of the most effective ways to get Californians out of their cars and reduce emissions,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “I’m thrilled that the full funding I requested for purchase incentives, education, and training is included in the budget we approved. This program represents a priority shift in the right direction and, once implemented, will help folks from all backgrounds choose a healthier, happier way to get around.”
We’ve reached out to the bicycle coalition to get more information for people interested in applying for purchasing assistance for an e-bike.
Why This Matters
For me, living at the edge of a small town much of the time, and traveling in rural areas most of the rest, bikes are more of a toy. I get recreation, exercise, and a challenge from my e-bikes, and only rarely have much opportunity to use them for transportation. The distances are just too long for an e-bike to replace many of my trips.
I can definitely see how an e-bike could replace many car trips in a larger city, though. With the average trip for Americans being under 6 miles by car, I can see that I’m generally very above average. Once someone starts replacing car trips with an e-bike, a whole lot of good things can happen.
“E-bikes can be the centerpiece of California’s strategy to replace gas-powered car trips to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions while also advancing equity, promoting public health, reducing traffic, and helping working families save money,” said Dave Snyder, executive director of CalBike. “Until now, California has focused its efforts on electric cars. This new program breaks that funding dam and begins investing in a technology that is a known carbon crusher, e-bikes. e-bikes are the cleanest EV.”
It’s easy for most of us to visualize replacing gas-powered cars with one that runs on electric, but it’s harder to visualize simply reducing the number of cars on the road. When we can do that, we not only reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, but we can make life better for the people still using cars by cutting out some of the traffic jams.
On top of that, people can be healthier and save a lot of money. Sure, e-bikes are easier to ride, and thus give you less exercise than the guy wearing all the spandex gets, but that’s comparing apples to oranges. Taking someone out of the car takes them from zero exercise to whatever amount they get on the e-bike, so anything is an improvement.
“E-bikes are a key alternative to the automobile for short trips and everyday errands,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom. “Advanced technology and broad availability are making e-bikes more accessible every day. This funding will provide an incentive that will reduce both traffic congestion and pollution. I am elated that I could play a part in making clean e-bikes more accessible to every Californian.”
Comparing e-bikes to regular bikes also reveals another important point: they’re able to replace more car trips for more people. Electric assist means people can go further, which puts a whole lot more places in what feels like a reasonable reach. On top of that, people don’t like showing up sweaty and gross to work or to go shopping. By taking some of the effort out, people can bike and still look their best (or close to it) when they reach their destination.
With all of these advantages coming in at a lower cost compared to subsidizing cars, it’s something other states and even local governments should seriously consider doing themselves.
Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.