Electric bikes are the best way to replace car trips.
Electric bicycles have changed the way we get around in California. On an e-bike, hills are flattened, distances shortened, and strenuous trips are made easy. E-bikes make bicycling a viable option for people with children or other heavy loads, elderly folks, as well as those with certain disabilities. CalBike is invested in improving access to e-bikes to replace polluting car trips, help to ease road congestion, and incorporate healthy and active transportation into people’s lives.
California offers financial incentives to people who buy electric cars, recognizing that these vehicles emit far less greenhouse gas than fossil-fueled cars. E-bikes can have an even bigger impact on the environment, replacing more car trips than mechanical bicycles, while improving public health and the local economy at the same time. But electric bicycles are not cheap. E-bike purchases may be out of reach of those in disadvantaged communities where this efficient transportation option would do the most good.
That e-bikes reduce vehicle miles traveled is proven. A recent survey of North American e-bike owners (see sidebar) showed that nearly half (46%) of e-bike commute trips replaced automobile commute trips, and that the average distance for all e-bike trips was 9.3 miles. A very thorough review of studies in European countries found that e-bike trips replaced car trips 47% to 76% of the time (see sidebar).
In addition to reducing vehicle miles traveled, expedited adoption of e-bikes for transportation will accomplish a number of other important state goals. Increasing the number of people who get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day will reduce the incidence of heart disease, breast cancer, depression, and other illnesses. Plus, increasing the number of people biking creates a “safety in numbers” effect that makes bicycling safer for everyone on the street. Its positive economic impacts benefit both the individual commuter and their family as well as their larger community. Typical bike operation costs are just 4% of typical car operating costs. The savings include money diverted from gas purchases and spent in the local community where spending creates 16 times more jobs.
CalBike convinced the experts at the Air Resources Board to include bike share and e-bike share as an eligible expense in the state’s $10 million Clean Mobility Options for Disadvantaged Communities program within the Low Carbon Transportation Investments and Air Quality Improvement Program. This fund had allowed bike share and e-bike share but only if included as part of a bigger car-sharing operation, which was a huge missed opportunity. Currently, CalBike is preparing to work with the organization that wins the contract to administer the program toward our main goals:
With the Governor’s signature on Senate Bill 400 in 2019, regional Air Districts will be allowed to offer vouchers for e-bikes or membership in bike share programs when they turn in their old polluting cars. Previously, people could only receive support for electric cars, or vouchers for public transit or car-sharing.
Local Air Districts have started expanding their programs to include e-bike vouchers.
To set the stage for improved adoption of e-bikes, CalBike worked with People for Bikes and Assemblymember David Chiu to update the definition of e-bikes so that they are, for the most part, treated like regular bikes instead of mopeds. (AB 1096, Chiu). Now, CalBike has three campaigns to help Californians take advantage of the opportunities offered by e-bikes.