You are here

CalBike proposes $500 rebate for buying a ‘utilitarian’ bike

Published February 19, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (BRAIN) — The California Bicycle Coalition is seeking $10 million in state funding for what would be a groundbreaking program: giving consumers rebates for buying bikes.

Under CalBike’s proposal, Californians would be eligible for rebates of up to 50 percent — to a maximum of $500 — of the cost of buying a “high-quality utilitarian bicycle,” which would include conventional bikes as well as electric, cargo and folding bikes. The “utilitarian” label is to show that eligible bikes would be used to replace car trips.

Dave Snyder, CalBike’s executive director, said he is optimistic that a pilot program could be in place by 2017. The organization submitted a proposal for its “Bicycle Purchase Incentive Pilot Program” earlier this month to the California Air Resources Board, which oversees rebate programs for clean vehicle purchases.

Government-financed rebates for new bike purchases would be a boon for the industry and could have a ripple effect in other states, Snyder said.

“It’s thrilling to be in this position,” he said. “Nobody in the U.S. has done anything like this. It’s not even ubiquitous across Europe. It would send such a strong signal about the public commitment to bicycles as a solution” to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and easing transportation congestion.

CalBike’s proposal tracks existing California rebate programs for clean vehicle purchases. It would be financed by the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program, which raises billions of dollars a year through so-called “cap-and-trade” auctions.

Under the proposal, corporations and public agencies also could tap into the fund to underwrite the cost of up buying up to 100 bicycles for campus bike fleets. Bike share programs would have a similar incentive.

At least half of the rebates would be earmarked for residents of disadvantaged communities, or households whose income is 80 percent or less of the state’s median household income.

CalBike said low-income communities of color have the highest rates of bicycling, and cycling is growing fastest among Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans.

In its proposal, CalBike noted that cargo bikes and e-bikes tend to cost over $1,000, putting them out of reach of most low-income families.

“Providing subsidies for bicycle purchases would increase the affordability of these high-quality, zero-emission vehicles and stimulate the market for bicycles, especially for emerging technologies in electric-assist bicycles and cargo bicycles, continuing to drive down prices,” the organization said.

Snyder said CalBike’s policy director, Jeanie Ward-Waller, and its lobbyists have been in discussions with representatives of the Air Resources Board.

The pilot project would be a first step toward CalBike’s goal of a permanent rebate program, backed by significantly higher funding levels, Snyder said.

The Bicycle Products Suppliers Association has donated $20,000 to help the CalBike effort, but Snyder is seeking at least $60,000 in industry support. The money would help underwrite the cost of CalBike’s staff and lobbyists, along with research to support the proposal.

If the program succeeds, he said, a relatively small industry investment could spark a return worth millions of dollars.

CalBike is encouraging supporters to sign an online petition backing the pilot project.

Join the Conversation