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It’s no secret that there was an e-bike boom in 2020 throughout the country, and advocates are reportedly saying that the demand would be even stronger if cities were building bike infrastructure to match the emerging mode.
Advocates have reportedly revealed that 600,000 e-bikes were sold last year in the U.S. — a rate of about once every 52 seconds. In contrast, the U.K. Bicycle Association said that retailers in Great Britain had sold an e-bike roughly once every three minutes in 2020. Though a slower per-capita sales rate for the U.S., it still means that two-wheeled electric vehicles outsold four-wheeled ones more than two to one last year.
Unlike e-bikes, many EVs are eligible for up to $7,500 in federal tax credits, in addition to enjoying robust publicly funded roadway infrastructure. Earlier this year, two pieces of legislation were introduced to grant bike and e-bike commuters a tax break. If the E-BIKE Act passes, purchasers of new e-bikes would be eligible for a tax credit of up to $1,500. The Bicycle Commuter Act (H.R.384) has similar text and tax break incentives. Both bills are expected to get the support of the President.
In the U.S., roughly half of car trips are less than three miles. Moreover, there’s mounting evidence that the electrification of car fleets in the country isn’t enough to meet climate goals — people must drive less altogether.
“Electric cars … receive a majority of the attention when it comes to infrastructure investments, federal incentives, and green energy grants,” Micah Toll wrote on the industry blog Electrek. “Electric bike companies are generally left to figure it out on their own, with little or no outside assistance.”
Though electric car buyers reportedly lost $100 billion in proposed new tax credits as Biden’s American Jobs Plan went through the bipartisan negotiation process, EV chargers are teed up to potentially receive more than $7.5 billion as part of the plan. Meanwhile programs that would expand infrastructure for e-cyclists, like protected bike paths, remain vague.
As aforementioned, even under the most ambitious EV adoption scenarios, we still must reduce driving Per an analysis done by the Rocky Mountain Institute, the U.S. transportation sector needs to reduce carbon emissions 43% by 2030 in order to align with 1.5oC climate goals, which require that we put 70 million EVs on the road and reduce per-capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by 20% in the next nine years. And while 2020 saw a Covid-induced drop in VMT, it wasn’t enough to unseat transportation as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Moreover, SUV sales continue to climb, and so too will VMT.
But in order to reduce car dependency and make decarbonization far easier, it’s crucial to enhance transit, biking and walking — as well as building more housing closer to jobs, schools, groceries, and other necessities. Unlike electrification, these strategies could be implemented without having to rely on the American car buyer, the compliance of reluctant automakers, or the long timeframe required to overhaul the national fleet. Not to mention they’d also bring meaningful co-benefits, including saving people money on transportation, improving safety and public health, and reducing barriers to economic mobility to those who can’t afford to drive.