Bike Advocates Say E-bike Incentives Need More Money

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This article first appeared at Streetsblog California.

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alifornia needs to invest a lot more in incentives for people to adopt electric bikes, says the California Bicycle Coalition. $50 million, a minuscule amount compared to the billions that the state spends each year maintaining and expanding highways, would be a good start.

The current e-bike incentive program is in the process of being set up, but it only has $10 million available, including administrative costs. That could provide between 3,000 and 7,000 vouchers – a drop in the bucket in a state as big as California.

The program was created via a one-time investment in the budget several years ago, and is only now preparing to launch. Expectations are that the available incentives will be snatched up quickly. If additional program investments are not included in next year’s budget, it will be another year before they can be made available, further delaying the benefits that can come from wider adoption of small efficient electric vehicles (bikes!) that can easily replace many car trips.

Other places that have offered incentives have seen a huge uptick in e-bike adoption, but they have ongoing funding sources that don’t require going back to the legislature every year – or before the program can launch.

CalBike and a coalition of partners – environmental, clean air, and active transportation advocates Active San Gabriel Valley, Coalition for Clean Air, Environment California, Safe Routes Partnership, and the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) – are timing their request to the legislature for just before the Governor’s May budget revision is due (May 16) and while lawmakers are gearing up to hold budget hearings in earnest.

Governor Newsom’s January budget proposal floated cuts to transit and the Active Transportation Program, softening the blow – and reducing objections – by pushing some of the cuts into future years. These were the only two areas threatened in that January proposal, and it won’t be known until he announces his revision whether Newsom will be digging in his heels on those cuts, proposing deeper cuts, or looking elsewhere for places to cut. Most likely it’s one of the first two.

Thus the need to make sure legislators know how important these programs are. CalBike points out that while transportation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gases in California, the easiest ways to fix that are being ignored.

California continues to invest in improving and expanding roads and access for cars, for example – worsening GHG emissions. While the state also provides incentives for people to buy electric vehicles, that comes with other environmental and safety costs, and is expensive to boot.

But when it comes to the far more efficient and effective way to fight climate change – shifting trips to electric bikes – California hesitates, and fights, and delays.

CalBike’s website offers a form making it easy to send your legislator a note urging them to include a larger allocation for e-bike incentives in next year’s budget.

CalBike urges people to remind their legislators that without more funding, the program will not deliver the hoped-for results.

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