(PORTLAND, Maine) February 14, 2023 – A bill to add electric bikes to the work of Efficiency Maine, LD 256, is currently being considered in the legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology committee. This bill is intended to lower the barrier for purchasing e-bikes, especially for lower income persons, by providing a rebate on their purchase similar to the incentive for electric cars currently provided by Efficiency Maine.
The use of electric-assist bicycles, commonly known as “e-bikes,” is one of the fastest growing transportation trends in the world today. Limited to a top speed of 20-28 mph, e-bikes provide effective, reliable transportation within a 5-10 miles, which is the the range that 75% of trips in Maine fall within. Cargo e-bicycles permit groceries, goods, and children to be easily transported, and commuter specific models provide a great workforce option.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM) is working with Senator Matthea Daughtry of Brunswick to advance this legislation, which would enable more people to replace car trips with clean, emissions-free bike trips. The bill is perfectly aligned with Maine’s Climate Action Plan goals. Similar programs exist in other states, and a recent report from Washington, DC found that “an e-bike subsidy is 2.9 times more effective per dollar at displacing gasoline miles than a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) subsidy.” E-bikes need to be part of the strategy to create a cleaner, more equitable transportation system.
Along with elected officials, e-bikes owners, and Maine-based bike shops, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine testified in support of the legislation last week (BCM testimony is attached).
The bill is up for a work session today and the BCM is sharing some additional thoughts and recommendations on how to strengthen the proposal and provide Efficiency Maine the flexibility to design an effective and well-managed program. BCM recommends that:
- The program should include income eligibility requirements to ensure that the rebates incentivize persons who might not otherwise make the purchase. We defer to Efficiency Maine on the rebate amount, but we recommend that persons making up to the median income level in Maine receive a substantial rebate, up to $1500, while persons making above the median income receive a smaller one of around $750. Income eligibility could be confirmed by cross referencing with tax data. Willingness to provide this info could be a precondition of participation or we could follow the example of Vermont, and permit people to self-identify as eligible.
- The program should require that people buy bicycles through bicycle shops to support local businesses and to ensure that the bikes are properly assembled and maintained. We recommend the rebate is provided at point of sale.
- The program should emphasize cargo and utilitarian/commuter e-bikes. BCM will work with shops and Efficiency Maine to help generate lists of eligible models.
- The Efficiency Maine Trust should dedicate up to $500,000 to this program, and these funds should come from the existing electric vehicle funding so as not to raise taxes. Maine is already funding electric vehicle rebates; this bill merely adds another option with respect to the type of eligible mobility devices people can select.
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine firmly believes that promoting the use of e-bikes in Maine can provide a lower cost transportation option for low income residents (including those living in rural Maine), can help drive more investment in active transportation, can help Maine achieve its Climate Action Plan goals, and can improve the health and quality of life of many Mainers by providing an alternative to automobiles. Passing LD 256 is an important step towards making e-bikes available to more people in the state.
For more information about e-bikes in general, and about the importance of e-bike rebates in strategies to electrify transportation, please click the links below.
What is an Electric Bicycle and Where Can I Ride One in Maine?
Analysis: E-bikes subsidies are more cost-effective than EV subsidies
A Neighboring State’s Experience: What Vermont Learned in its E-bike Pilot
The Bicycle Coalition of Maine works to make Maine a better and safer place to bike and walk. Founded in 1992, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine has grown into the leading bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group in the state. The Coalition believes all Mainers should have access to bikes and bike education, and we envision a future where Maine’s roads, public ways, and trails are safe and accessible, resulting in cleaner travel options, improved health, and stronger economic benefits for Maine communities.