American communities can expand access to e-bike incentive programs by using data to better connect their benefits to community goals like mobility justice and ending climate change, a new analysis argues — and there’s a great blueprint for how to do it right now.
In a new white paper from Portland State University, researchers looked at more than 70 current, former, and upcoming efforts to subsidize the use of electric bicycles in the U.S. and Canada, and how those local programs might have an even bigger impact in the future — and eventually, win more funding at the local, state, and federal level.
Virtually unheard of just a decade ago, e-bike incentives like rebates, vouchers, tax credits, and even simple lending libraries have proliferated in recent years and have emerged as a goal among national legislators, who see the mode’s potential to decrease emissions, make streets safer, and address health problems among riders all at once. That potential is particularly strong among people less likely to use an acoustic cycle, like seniors, people with mobility challenges, and people who just don’t want to get sweaty on their way to their destination.
Early research has shown that 62 percent of North American e-bike trips replace a journey that would have otherwise been taken in a car, and access to e-bike share alone can reduce a city residents’ automobile mileage by 20 percent. And like with all forms of cycling, people ride far more when they have excellent protected infrastructure to match their pedal-assist bikes.
The Portland State authors, though, say that e-bike incentives still aren’t an easy sell among the groups that are best poised to create them, even in cities that have already done some of the necessary work of building bikeable streets.
“People tend to say, ‘E-bikes are fine, but we don’t believe these actually reduce vehicle miles traveled. We don’t have a really good understanding of their impact on mode shift and car replacement,'” said John MacArthur, sustainable transportation manager for the Transportation Research and Education Center at PSU. “So we said, ‘Well, let’s put together the proof.'”