For CalBike followers who like to “dig deep” into our strategies, this post is for you. We are proud that the Air Resources Board approved a new eligibility for electric bike sharing in an $8 million program to provide low-carbon mobility options. Hats off to our Policy Director Jeanie Ward-Waller for her relentless advocacy at the Air Resources Board. It wouldn’t have happened without her. Now, government agencies and nonprofits in California can expand or establish bike-sharing systems with state assistance. We will be working with ARB staff over the next several months to define the terms of this eligibility and push for it to be as broad as possible. We think this first step of including bicycles in the clean vehicle funding plan has great potential.
However, we are disappointed that the ARB did not approve our innovative bicycle purchase incentive program at that meeting, although several Board members expressed support. Following up, I pulled together our Sacramento policy team, including Ward-Waller, our project manager Katie Valenzuela Garcia, and our lobbyist from Platinum Advisors, Steve Wallauch, to understand more fully what happened and to plot our strategy going forward. I also enlisted the support of the formidable talents of People for Bikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association. Here’s what I learned, and what we’ve planned.
At its June meeting, the Air Resources Board was expecting to approve its plan to spend its $500 million allocation from the Legislature. However, the Legislature delayed its allocation, forcing the ARB to approve a speculative plan. This happened because the most recent carbon emission credit auction which funds the program generated only 2% of the expected revenue. Although this auction was for future years, it affected this year’s budget because it prompted the Governor to put more money in reserve for future years. He and the Legislature could not agree on exactly how much to set aside, so they delayed a decision. As it turns out, rumors in Sacramento indicate that the Legislature will allocate much less than budgeted by the Air Resources Board.
In this climate, the Board was unwilling to do what we asked, which was to amend the draft expenditure plan by cutting funding from another program to fund our $10 million Bicycle Purchase Incentive Program. Within the next month or two, they will probably have to cut more than $100 million to stay within the budget eventually allocated by the Legislature.
Next year, we plan to have our program included in the draft expenditure plan so that it doesn’t require an amendment at the Board. Our action items include more advocacy at the Air Resources Board, earned media, another e-bike demo (or more — they’re fantastic!), and legislation.
A $10 million investment in bicycle purchases is a game-changer for bicycle advocacy. The government’s marketing resources, the dual stamp of approval from the state and community organizations, and the availability of very high quality bikes, will improve the affordability and viability of bicycling in low-income communities in California, vastly expanding the market for high quality bicycles among California’s 39 million residents.