For more than a year, the emails, social media posts, and calls have come in to CalBike, the California Air Resources Board, and the administrator of the statewide E-Bike Incentives Program, Pedal Ahead. People with disabilities, without housing, or without other transportation options have reached out to learn about getting an e-bike incentive.
It has taken longer than expected to launch this much-anticipated program. And while the program is moving closer to launch, we aren’t privy to specific timelines right now. In the meantime, we wanted to highlight stories from some of the people we’ve had contact with about e-bike incentives.
The EBIP program will help people with lower incomes purchase an e-bike. These people might include daycare providers, folks working in restaurants, or other hardworking members of our communities. And many others can benefit from this program, like people with disabilities, older adults, and people experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity.
In this installment of our #ebikestories series, we share (anonymously) some of the stories we’ve heard from people for whom an e-bike voucher could be a life-changing benefit.
Moving through disability
There’s been a lot of hand-wringing about the “danger” of teens riding e-bikes, but the populations that may have the most to gain from an electric boost are older adults and people with disabilities.
Posts from CalBike’s Facebook page, lightly edited.
I am a low-income senior/live in the mountains and miss riding bicycles for good exercise. The grades here kill me on a regular bike…bum knees/2 lower discs toast. If i have to ride hard uphills, the sciatica kicks in and I end up in bed with intense pain.
Kicked my car to the curb yrs ago. I’m 70 & love riding my bike for exercise & errands. Unfortunately, I just developed a health issue that affects my pedaling capabilities. This would be a well-needed gift for me to continue being an environmentally concerned citizen of planet Earth. However…sounds too good to be true.
I’ve had 10 major spine surgeries, including 4 fusions, and I have a widespread degenerative nerve disease. I bought an e-bike in January to get to work and use my car less and almost have 2000 miles on it. It wouldn’t be possible for me to do that if I had to rely on my body completely with a regular bike. I bump the power level down, so I use my own power more, and I’ve definitely seen improvement in my physical condition. So, while some of y’all poo poo the e-bikes, keep in mind that not everyone can ride a regular bike like you suggest.
In #ebikestories 2, we shared more stories of people using e-bikes to keep riding through age and disability.
Mobility is a lifeline
The most heart-wrenching calls and emails we’ve received have been from people contending with a variety of life traumas and lacking adequate housing and transportation. As people navigate complex bureaucracies to receive aid, find work, and find housing, the low-cost, efficient mobility provided by an e-bike is a life-changing asset.
We’ve heard from a disabled woman fleeing abuse and living in her car, which stopped running. She is hoping to get an e-bike to get to appointments to get medical care and find housing.
A man contacted us about his wife, who has MS. He also has a disability, and they would love to have e-bikes for transportation while they wait for Section 8 housing to come through.
We even heard from someone in Mississippi. He and his buddy, both unhoused, would have more opportunities to earn if they could get around by e-bike.
The transformative power of e-bikes might be most profound in the lives of those least able to afford one. That’s why programs like California’s E-Bike Incentive Project and local, needs-based incentives are essential. E-bikes aren’t just an environmentally responsible way to get around; they are crucial transportation for many people left behind by our current transportation systems.