CARB picks e-bike incentive program manager – Streetsblog California

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CARB staff announced yesterday that the administrator of California’s statewide e-bike incentive program will be Pedal Ahead, an organization that operates a program providing e-bikes to San Diego residents.

This program will provide $10 million in incentives – minus administrative costs, including program development and public outreach. The program is expected to begin rolling out in January 2023.

The apps have not been made available to the public, including how Pedal Ahead plans to work with partners (or which partners) and how it plans to roll out the program. The little information available [PDF] shows that a group called Rider Safety Visibility was the requester, not Pedal Ahead, which is a program run by RSV.

Pedal Ahead was launched in September 2020 by RSV in partnership with County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who is also a former CARB board member. Its goal, according to the website, is to “serve as an alternative to automobile transportation through socially responsible transportation” by encouraging the use of e-bikes. San Diego residents can request an e-bike through the program and then must ride a certain number of miles per week through the Strava app, which tracks distances traveled and transportation and leisure habits.

CARB staff held a workshop yesterday to discuss aspects of the program still in formation, including how to determine income eligibility and incentive amounts, who should be eligible, and what types of bikes should be eligible. Technical difficulties, including the lack of a separate channel for Spanish translation, slowed the meeting and made it impossible to access many questions. Also, the main question for a number of reviewers seemed to be how to get money for an e-bike.

Nonetheless, there was discussion about who should be prioritized for the program, which aims to advance equity and will therefore have some sort of revenue cap. The current plan is to keep it consistent with other electric vehicle incentive programs, which would mean households earning 400% of the federal poverty level or less could be eligible.

But questions have been raised about what that means, whether it would exclude low-income people such as teachers, and even how ‘household’ would be defined. Some commentators have pointed out that the objective of the program must be clearly articulated: is it to replace as many car journeys as possible? One commentator suggested the scheme include a work requirement, arguing that retirees are less likely to replace car journeys with e-bike journeys than people who have to commute to work daily. Others – rightly so – pushed back on this, adding that childcare and groceries can be just as important as business trips, and e-bikes can replace those trips just as easily.

Concerns have also been raised about choosing Pedal Ahead as administrators, especially if they have the expertise to launch such a crucial program. But the announcement was made in the middle of the meeting and little more than the most basic information was provided.

Note that this program won’t roll out until 2023 at the earliest, and it won’t be the only source of incentives for e-bikes. The Climate Action Center maintains a list of incentives, amounts, and eligibility for e-bikes.

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