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The response to Denver’s electric bike incentive program has been nothing short of, ahem, shocking. Since the initiative’s launch in April 2022, more than 5,000 residents have snagged rebates, and these aren’t just for pleasure trips. Ride Report, a tech company based in Portland, Oregon, that helps local governments manage mobility projects, surveyed new e-bike owners in Denver and found that in the project’s first nine months, riders pedaled an average of 26 miles each week and replaced 3.4 round trips that they would have otherwise done by car. Across all rebate users, that’s enough to replace 100,000 vehicle miles every seven days.
Given that success, you could excuse other governmental entities for stealing the idea: Even the Washington Post exclaimed that the program could be a national model for cutting emissions and traffic. Nevertheless, Sarah Thorne, spokesperson for the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), swears her agency had plans to subsidize the sale of powered two-wheelers before Denver unveiled its program. It just didn’t have the money. That changed in June 2022, when the Legislature earmarked $12 million to get people on e-bikes, $10 million of which will fund CEO’s own rebate scheme beginning this summer. (The remainder will go to CEO’s Community Access to Electric Bicycles Grant Program, which seeks to increase e-bike access for low-income individuals by funding initiatives at nonprofits, local and tribal governments, and other community organizations.)
Like Denver’s, the state’s rebate will be redeemable right at the register, but there will be differences. For example, while all Denverites can obtain the city’s $300 concession, with income-qualified parties receiving up to $1,200, only moderate- and low-income earners will be eligible for the state incentive. Denver also mandates that participants must purchase their e-bikes at brick-and-mortar shops in the city, but CEO will make its discounts available at participating online retailers so people in rural communities who don’t have easy access to a bike shop can hop in the saddle, too. Other details, including how much the rebates will be and when they will start, had not been finalized by press time.
Despite the long wait, CEO’s version is likely to be short-lived. The state General Assembly is poised to pass a permanent e-bike tax credit this session that will be available to everyone, regardless of income. And according to Thorne, the agency wants to distribute its windfall before January 2024, when the new program would pedal off the start line.
Amount Denver spent to fund 4,734 rebates in 2022. More than 65 percent of that pot went to income-qualified residents.