Colorado has emerged as a prominent leader in creative e-bike policies in recent years. With a strong biking culture, the state has implemented various innovative initiatives like e-bike lending libraries and giveaways for low-income workers.
Among these initiatives, rebates have gained significant popularity. While Denver’s voucher program has received the most media attention, smaller communities like Boulder and Mount Crested Butte have also offered them. Researchers at Portland State University have documented over two dozen e-bike incentives throughout Colorado.
Rachel Hultin is the policy director of Bicycle Colorado, a nonprofit group for cyclists. She recently told Bloomberg that the demand for vouchers far exceeds the supply. In Durango, for example, nearly one in every forty eligible households applied for a rebate in May, surpassing the city’s capacity to meet the demand.
Hultin explained that the limited number of rebates can generate media coverage, raising awareness about the availability and accessibility of the programs. However, if the rebates are not replenished, residents may delay or even forgo purchasing an e-bike.
Denver, for instance, reduced the value of its e-bike vouchers earlier this year. Denver did this because it wanted to maximize the number of residents eligible for e-bike vouchers while working on a fixed budget. Even still, voucher demand remained high. The city exhausted its January batch of vouchers within just 20 minutes.
Colorado’s New $450 E-Bike Rebate
In an exciting development, Colorado plans to make an unprecedented move next year by removing limits on the number of e-bike rebates available. This means residents will no longer need to anxiously compete for vouchers.
Instead, they will receive a $450 discount on an e-bike instantly, regardless of how many other residents have already claimed the rebate. Hultin explained that obtaining a rebate will be as easy as visiting the nearest retailer and presenting a Colorado ID.
The opportunity to combine multiple rebates enables buyers to potentially receive double or even triple benefits, if a federal e-bike credit is also passed.
Hultin mentioned that several municipalities are considering adding to the state’s $450 rebate with specific discounts. For instance, they might offer extra rebates to low-income residents. They might also offer assistance with cargo bikes, which are more expensive than standard bikes and are popular among families.
In Colorado, the uncapped e-bike rebate is financed through a unique state regulation called TABOR, which allows creative spending of surplus tax funds. Although many states do not have access to a similar funding source, they can still learn from Colorado’s experience.
Lessons From Colorado
The first lesson that policymakers can learn from Colorado is that the quantity of rebates offered to the public is just as crucial as the amount of each rebate.
The reduction in the dollar value of Denver’s vouchers has not dampened residents’ enthusiasm for them. Policymakers should strive to maximize the number of distributed vouchers, even if a fixed budget necessitates a decrease in their value.
It would also be prudent to allocate additional funds in advance for rebates once the initial batch is depleted. This will prevent frustration among those who missed out initially.
The second lesson is that Colorado’s rebate program allows the state to offer a basic level of financial support that local authorities can further enhance.
Some jurisdictions may choose to cover the cost of bike locks or the additional expense of cargo bikes. Others might prioritize particular groups such as low-income residents or students.
E-bikes have gained significant attention due to their enjoyable riding experience and numerous societal advantages. However, simply offering incentives is not sufficient to turn the US into an e-biking utopia. The country must invest in improved cycling infrastructure to fully harness the benefits of electric two-wheelers.
Nevertheless, Colorado is illustrating how the implementation of generous rebates can accelerate progress.
Image Source: Brent Toderian, https://shorturl.at/bEV19