Today, the DC Council unanimously passed Councilmember Charles Allen’s legislation to expand and encourage e-bike ridership for every District resident. The Electric Bicycle Incentive Program Amendment Act of 2023 creates an incentive program to subsidize the cost of e-bikes for riders, as well as additional support for bike shops to manage increased demand.
“I hear from both younger and more senior residents that e-bikes unlock the city for riders. Traffic and parking can become after-thoughts. No more car payments. And an e-bike can cut the time of a trip in the city in half without ever breaking a sweat. With more bicycle infrastructure built every year, your trips become safer and quicker. You’re doing your part to fight climate change and improve air quality in the District. With support from the District government to make them affordable, e-bikes can be a reality for many more residents,” said Councilmember Allen. “It was very important that any bill we advanced made e-bikes accessible for residents at any income level – that's why the bill creates a specific priority tier for lower-income riders and covers costs related to e-bike maintenance and modification for riders with disabilities.”
The bill creates an incentive program for either a voucher or rebate toward the purchase of an e-bike. Many of the details will be determined by the DC Department of Transportation (“DDOT”), including when purchases may be eligible and when residents can apply, as well as more guidance for local bicycle shops.
The bill creates two tiers of incentives: one for residents with lower incomes who are eligible for a public benefit program like SNAP or TANF, and another available to all District residents.
For lower-income residents, the incentive may include:
- Up to $2,000 for the purchase of a qualifying cargo e-bike
- Up to $1,500 for the purchase of a qualifying e-bike
- Up to $300 for a replacement battery
- Up to $250 for annual maintenance, to include the cost of parts and labor
- Up to $250 for e-bike or cargo e-bike parts to accommodate riders with disabilities
- Up to $150 for a bike lock
For all other residents, the incentive may include:
- Up to $1,000 for the purchase of a qualifying cargo e-bike
- Up to $750 for the purchase of a qualifying e-bike
- Up to $150 for a replacement battery
- Up to $125 for e-bike or cargo e-bike parts to accommodate riders with disabilities
- Up to $125 for annual maintenance, to include the cost of parts and labor
- Up to $75 for a bike lock
To anticipate increased demand, the legislation also authorizes DDOT to issue grants to bike shops to train District residents to be professional bicycle mechanics, addressing concerns from bicycle shops which have reported that staffing remains one of their biggest operational challenges.
Prioritizing Equity for Lower-Income Riders
Recognizing that most rebates are still cost-prohibitive to some because they require riders to pay the full cost up front before receiving the rebate later, the bill authorizes DDOT to create a voucher system that would allow applicants to receive the value of the voucher as a discount when they purchase the bike at the store, with the District then reimbursing the retailer directly. This point-of-sale incentive ensures that cost isn’t a barrier for residents who can't afford the full cost of an e-bike upfront.
The Committee on Transportation and the Environment – chaired by Councilmember Allen – pre-funded the bill in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which begins on October 1, 2023, with an initial budget of $500,000 for incentives and a requirement that at least half of the funds go to residents who qualify for public benefit programs.
For next steps, the bill will be transmitted to the Mayor for signature and then to Congress for passive review. Once it takes effect - likely late this year- DDOT will then begin the process to stand up the program and announce additional details.