Oregon legislator will propose e-bike purchase incentive bill next session

Rep. Power on her Instagram page in October 2021.

Oregon House Representative Karin Power (D-41 Milwaukie) knows how transformative electric bikes can be; but she also knows how expensive they are for some buyers. That’s because she recently bought one herself.

When Rep. Power purchased her Tern GSD last fall, we made it front page news. Central to her story is that she was able to get a loan from a local credit union to help make the purchase from Portland’s Splendid Cycles a bit easier. “Making healthier choices doesn’t mean you have to break the bank,” she wrote on Instagram.

Now she wants to expand that choice to all Oregonians.

This morning Rep. Power said she plans to propose a bill in the 2023 session that would make it easier on pocketbooks to buy an e-bike. We’ve heard murmurs about some type of e-bike subsidy bill for years, and Power confirmed it via Twitter this morning.

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Asked for a comment today, Rep. Power said after her purchase last fall, she and staff met with local bike shop owners and statewide EV nonprofit Forth “to get feedback about the federal proposal and figure out what attributes about an e-bike incentive would be most helpful/important.” She added that she’s focused on the short session at the moment, but we can expect the bill next session.

Rep. Power might have strong support from fellow representative Khanh Pham (D-46 Portland). She hasn’t agreed to support any bill yet, but is very open to the idea.

You might recall our podcast episode last week when I asked Rep Power’s fellow legislator Rep. Khanh Pham how bike advocates could give cycling more political punch. “We need to make biking more accessible to ordinary people,” she replied. “I think people need to be given the subsidies, the tools, the incentives to be able to try it out so it’s not seen as kind of a privileged mode of transportation.”

Beyond their shared commitments to climate-friendly and equitable transportation modes, representatives Pham and Power also have some of the political sway it will take to sponsor and shepherd a bill like this through the legislature. Both sit on the powerful, 13-member Joint Committee on Transportation (although a financial bill isn’t likely to be heard in that committee).

As we shared last month, e-bike incentive and subsidy programs are spreading nationwide, but Oregon — despite doubling-down on e-car purchase incentives — has yet to join the party.

It will be very interesting to see what happens with this issue. Stay tuned!

CORRECTION, 3:55 pm: This story originally stated that Rep. Power received a loan from Splendid Cycles to pay for her bike. That was wrong. She got the loan from a local credit union. Sorry for any confusion.

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joan
4 months ago

Thanks to Rep. Power for this! Thanks for highlighting the news, Jonathan!

All Bikes
All Bikes
4 months ago

How about an incentive to buy all bikes not just electric? How about repealing the bike tax?

bArbaroo
bArbaroo
4 months ago

Hey Jonathan, just a little correction: Rep. Power (who is awesome by the way and uses her bike a lot) got a loan from her credit union – not Splendid Cycles. Many local credit unions do offer bike loans and Karin used that option. Splendid Cycles is not a lending institution, just an LBS. 😉

hamiramani
4 months ago

Very exciting.

One thing: I believe Rep Power secured a loan through Unitus Community Credit Union, no?

dwk
dwk
4 months ago

Why subsidize E-Bikes and not all?
What a bad idea. E-bikes may be better than cars but are far worse than simple bicycles for the environment.
Nice Mountain bikes and most nice road bikes cost as much if not more than E-bikes, why should someone get help buying an E-bike and not a simple bicycle?

Nick W.
4 months ago
Reply to  dwk

The reason is that ebikes allow people who would otherwise be driving to ride instead. Yes; offering an incentive to buy a regular bike is not a bad idea, but if price was the barrier to consistent cycle commuting then more of the thousands of $300-$1000 hybrid bikes I sold while running bike shops from would be consistently be used as commuter vehicles.

The motor is the difference that provides “instant reward” to riders allowing them to travel in a fashion that’s nearly as effective as a car from a time/stuff perspective and way more effective from the overall quality of life viewpoint.

dwk
dwk
4 months ago
Reply to  Nick W.

I don’t see any increase in commuting or riding due to E-bikes… They are a nice toy that will end up in the back of garages with the other bikes people don’t ride.
There is zero evidence they are doing anything….

soren
4 months ago

E-bikes are definitely leading to an increase in riding for a lot of people. I’ve talked to dozens of them over the years

This anecdotal statement smacks of motivated thinking. Cycling mode share in Portland has been dropping for many years and it’s likely that when Census ACS estimates come out again this trend will continue.

visuals on all the local bikeways speaks for themselves.

I rarely see another person cycling on my daily utilitarian trips and bike parking at local grocery stores or businesses is often empty. I suspect that some mistakenly equate traffic on select inner PDX neighborhood greenways during peak recreational hours (e.g. 3-5 pm) with mode share elsewhere.

dwk
dwk
4 months ago

The bike lanes are empty these days… Remember when Williams looked like a Peloton at rush hour?
I have the lanes to myself these days, there is no evidence at all that they increase share.
It is dropping!

Dwk ok
Dwk ok
4 months ago

Dwk makes good points and shouldn’t be dismissed. The declining census mode share numbers with the advent of e-bikes are “official numbers.” I’m all for them, but the jury is still out on the impact of e-bikes. For too many rain, cold, car terrorism, etc., may be a more important factor than how hard they have to pedal.

soren
4 months ago

I think arguing about whether or not numbers are going up or down is just a distraction from the more important goal/conversation of making them go up

It’s fascinating how you are “disagreeing” with DKW when this entire thread is an example of how you aren’t follow your own advice: “…definitely leading to an increase in riding for a lot of people

Avoiding discussion of how and why bike trip numbers have dropped is hardly going to “make them go up”. Cycling mode share has cratered in Portland and instead of introspection about how local advocacy/organizing has been ineffective, I see an awful lot of doubling down on the same old epistemologically-closed advocacy.

Richard
Richard
4 months ago

All bikes should be subsidized, but IMO any bike subsidy, even if it is just for electric bikes, is a step in the right direction.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
4 months ago

Maybe we can get Sacha White to start building e-bikes so I can subsidize my purchase of a SpeedVolten.

dwk
dwk
4 months ago

It amazes me that a person gets into office, finds something they want to buy and think it should be subsidized by other tax payers…..

Carrie
Carrie
4 months ago
Reply to  dwk

Rep Power purchased her bike with zero subsidies and has seen what an impact ebikes have made on her family’s travel patterns, specifically in reducing short car trips, that she wants to lower one barrier to that for other folks.