A invoice that may supply Individuals a refundable tax credit score on the acquisition of a brand new electrical bicycle was simply launched within the Senate by Ed Markey (D-MA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The invoice is named the Electrical Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Setting, or E-BIKE Act for brief, and it’s the companion invoice to 1 launched within the Home of Representatives earlier this 12 months.
E-bikes are costlier than regular bikes, sometimes costing wherever from $1,000 to $8,000 for a number of the extra high-end fashions. However in addition they have the potential to interchange automotive journeys for lots of people, with a current examine discovering that if 15 p.c of automotive journeys have been made by e-bike, carbon emissions would drop by 12 p.c.
This afternoon, I performed a quick interview with Senator Schatz over textual content message to get a way of the laws’s targets, its probabilities in Congress, and whether or not he himself would ever think about shopping for an e-bike. (He stated no, however I believe I acquired him to rethink.)
“The thought is easy,” Schatz stated, “the electrification of transportation is not only about vehicles, it’s about each option to get round.”
At its core, the invoice is about accessibility, the senator stated. Extra individuals ought to be driving e-bikes than simply those that can afford them. Driving is already extremely backed throughout the nation. We construct low-cost — usually free — areas for parking, we spend money on highways, drivers don’t pay for congestion or CO2 emissions, and zoning legal guidelines and taxes favor sprawl. We have to begin accommodating bikes — and particularly e-bikes — if we wish extra individuals to change to greener types of transportation.
“The invoice makes a clear different extra accessible to extra individuals,” Schatz stated. “E-bikes make a lot of sense for working individuals, younger individuals, and others who both can not afford or don’t desire a automotive.”
Very similar to the Home invoice, Schatz and Markey’s laws would supply Individuals a refundable tax credit score value 30 p.c of a brand new e-bike’s buy value, capped at $1,500. All three e-bike courses can be eligible for the tax credit score, however bikes with motors extra highly effective than 750W wouldn’t. The credit score would even be totally refundable, which might permit lower-income people to say it.
A typical chorus you hear from critics of this laws is that folks received’t swap to bikes with out safer infrastructure to help it. Protected bike lanes are nonetheless briefly provide within the US, and it’s unclear whether or not a surge in demand for e-bikes would essentially result in higher coverage choices on the native stage.
Schatz stated there must be a “main infusion of bodily infrastructure for bike lanes and secure streets” for this invoice to have the fascinating consequence, which is extra individuals switching from vehicles to e-bikes. There may be $20 billion in President Biden’s infrastructure proposal for secure avenue enhancements, which embrace bike lanes. However whether or not that cash survives within the ultimate deal — if there’s a ultimate deal — stays to be seen.
“I’m optimistic,” Schatz stated concerning the potential passage of the E-BIKE Act, “however this general bundle will face a number of near-death experiences earlier than it turns into regulation. We plan to get it by means of within the coming bundle, but when we don’t, we’ll maintain pushing.”
The Home model of the invoice has 21 co-sponsors — all Democrats — whereas the Senate model is simply now making the rounds. However Schatz stated he doesn’t assume it is going to be a troublesome promote together with his colleagues.
“We anticipate that we will construct momentum for this,” he stated. “It’s a type of uncommon concepts that’s each revolutionary and noncontroversial.”
And whereas Schatz stated he’s solely tried driving an e-bike as soon as, whereas on trip, and doesn’t have any speedy plans to purchase one for himself, he would rethink, given his newly acquired place as an advocate for this mode of transportation.
Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, has quite a lot of pedal-assist e-bikes in rotation. Simply sayin’.