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CalBike’s E-Bike Affordability Bill recently had its first victory when the California Assembly Transportation Committee reportedly voted unanimously in support of this essential program. AB 117 would reportedly establish a pilot program to incentivize the purchase of electric bicycles by providing rebates as a means of reducing vehicle miles traveled, reducing air, water, and noise pollution, and helping Californians get more exercise.
During the hearing, a number of representatives of environmental groups and individuals, including CalBike’s Executive Director Dave Snyder and Vista City Councillor Corinna Contreras, spoke in support of the bill. Brian Simmons testified about how his e-bike was essential to his mental and physical healing after losing a leg in military service. No one reportedly spoke in opposition.
AB 117 is part of CalBike’s $10 million E-Bike Affordability Program and was introduced by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath. The bill establishes an e-bike purchase incentive program which through grants and vouchers will help make them affordable and accessible to thousands of Californians. Prior to approval, CalBike coordinated amendments among stakeholders to specify the goals of the program. Some of the amendments removed any reference to funding the program. For the promise of AB 117 to become real, legislators must separately include the $10 million in the state budget.
“It’s one thing for legislators to say they support the program in theory,” said Snyder. “It’s more important for them to support it in the budget.”
The $10 million CalBike hopes to win in the 2022 budget is slated to cover the first several years of the program. Snyder hopes that e-bike purchase incentives will be so popular and successful that the state will soon allocate $10 million annually for e-bike purchase incentives.
Since the pandemic shelter-in-place mandates began last year, e-bike sales increased dramatically. Sales in 2020 were up 84% in Mar., 92% in Apr., and 137% in May. And though the electricity to power an e-bike costs less than $0.01 per mile, the biggest barrier to e-bike adoption has been the price. Simple e-bikes of good quality cost more than $1,500, and many of the top bikes can cost more than $4,000 — which it’s well out of their price range for many Californians. CalBike’s goal for the program is to connect 10,000 Californians with affordable e-bikes.
As studies have shown, e-bikes help get people out of cars. In North America, studies have found a car substitution rate from 11 to 46%. Moreover, the average distance for all e-bike trips was 9.3 miles.
The next big test for AB 117 will be the vote on the floor.