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Backed by business and advocacy coalition, Blumenauer introduces ‘E-BIKE Act’

Customers eye Gazelle models at The E-Bike Store in north Portland.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

If you thought Portland’s U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer was done pushing bicycle policy on Capitol Hill with his bikeshare and bike-to-work tax credit bills; you don’t know Congressman Blumenauer.

Yesterday his office made official something we teased in the Monday Roundup: Blumenauer has teamed up with Representative Jimmy Panetta, a Central California Democrat, to introduce the Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment (E-BIKE) Act. The bill seeks to give a strong push to EV-bikes in America. Despite not having the rebates or purchase incentives of EV-cars, people are flocking to bike shops to buy electric bikes in record numbers.

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The E-BIKE Act (PDF) would create a tax credit that covers 30% of the cost of an electric bike, up to $1,500 (or $3,000 for joint returns). It’s applicable to bikes costing under $8,000, and is fully-refundable, allowing lower-income workers to claim the credit.

According to the bill text (PDF), the credit can be applied to e-bikes that have pedals, a saddle, a motor of less than 750 watts and that meet one of the three-class definitions: class 1 (20 mph max with no throttle), class 2 (20 mph max with throttle), or class 3 (28 mph max with no throttle). The credit can also only be used on new bikes. And if you’re building a fleet of e-bikes, you can only claim the credit for one bike (or two for joint returns).

Panetta and Blumenauer framed the legislation as a way to replace car trips and reduce carbon emissions:

“A recent study found that if 15 percent of car trips were made by e-bike, carbon emissions would drop by 12 percent. 46% percent of e-bike commute trips replaced automobile commute trips according to a recent North American survey, and a more thorough review of European studies showed that e-bike trips replaced car trips 47% to 76% of the time.”

It’s notable that a strong, broad-based coalition has already joined the lawmakers to support the bill. Major bicycling and environmental advocacy groups have teamed up with one of the largest e-bike makers in the world to make sure the bill is signed into law. The coalition includes:

– PeopleForBikes
– League of American Bicyclists
– California Bicycle Coalition
– Bike Santa Cruz County
– Bicycling Monterey
– Ecology Action
– CALSTART
– U.S. PIRG
– The National Resources Defense Council
– Gazelle Bikes
– Current eBikes

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“America’s car-centric transportation system is wreaking havoc on our health and the health of our planet… As we move through the COVID-19 crisis, we urge policymakers to not only accommodate e-bike adoption, but to actively encourage it,” said John Stout, a transportation advocate with U.S. PIRG.

And Ewoud van Leeuwen, GM of bike maker Gazelle USA, said the bill could take America one step closer to a northern Europe-like future: “Increasing the adoption of e-bikes in the US will have a positive and transformative impact on cities, quality of life, and how people relate to one another, similar to what we have seen in the Netherlands.”

Federal incentives would be a boon for EV-bikes in the U.S. Here in Oregon, our robust electric car incentive programs do not include bicycles. Oregon House Bill 2165 would expand rebates available through the Charge Ahead program and H.B. 2179 would add electric tractors to the rebate program; but neither effort includes e-bikes.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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