April, when the world emerges from hibernation, is the top month for bike sales, according to BiCi Co., a bicycle shop in Hartford. May is National Bike Month. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of Gov. Ned Lamont signing the Connecticut Clean Air Act. Our state’s e-bike rebate program has yet to roll out.
Last week, DEEP published its 1990-2021 Connecticut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventory, with Commissioner Dykes saying how the “transportation sector continues to be by far the largest source of our emissions.”
If only DEEP, the agency tasked with creating and administering the program providing rebates to state residents who buy e-bikes could do something about that.
The program could have begun as early as last July, but we have seen a series of adjusted deadlines. I had questions about this; DEEP did not respond ahead of a generous deadline for comment.
Slides shared in a September CHEAPR board meeting show the original target implementation date as the first quarter of 2023, which meant missing the December holiday shopping season. By the December board meeting, this date shifted to late-first quarter to mid-second quarter. At their March meeting. . . you guessed it. They moved away from using quarters to seasons, but the problem is the same. They’re now looking at Spring/Summer 2023 to launch the program. The DEEP website, as of this publication, has not been updated since early November 2022.
The clock is ticking. Nobody is arguing that e-bikes alone would fix our climate disaster, but what we know is that we need all efforts, and we especially need them in one of the wealthiest states in one of the wealthiest nations. After all, the Global North is responsible for 92% of excess carbon emissions, and the United States alone has created 40%. There’s a moral obligation here.
Were Connecticut a trailblazer, these delays may be understandable, but guidance and models exist.
In October the governor of Rhode Island announced they’d funded an e-bike rebate program and launched it the next week. That final week in October accounted for a third of the nearly 200 rebates issued from its inception through March 2023. If bikes are moving out of stores at that speed while New England enters the coldest time of year, you know this is a hot commodity. And in case anyone was worried, this was not just a load of rich people snapping up toys. To date, 47% of those rebates were “income qualified.” Most sales were in Providence, which has made noticeable strides in improving safety for cyclists through changes like adding barrier-protected bike lanes.
“Targeting rebates to people in more urban settings who don’t have a car, don’t want a car, don’t have a place to put a car,” is a strategic approach to ensuring that green transportation is equitable says the Acadia Center’s Amy Boyd, Vice President, Climate and Clean Energy Policy.
Kate Rozen, an e-bike enthusiast who advocated for expanding CHEAPR, says “residents are buying e-bikes now. I see more on the roads each week,” but this is where the need for rebates comes in. “Our perennial challenge,” she said, “is to center equity and that means getting these amazing climate fighting tools down to a price point that makes them accessible for our low-income residents.”
We are in a time to rethink how we want our world to be, how we want our society to operate. Boyd explains that “in decarbonizing transportation we’re hoping to not just shift vehicles from being fossil fuel-powered to being electrified, but also shift how people move around.”
Connecticut’s toxic trait is how we take pride in our analysis paralysis, or steady habits. In trying to get everything perfect, nobody benefits in the meantime. The CHEAPR board’s next scheduled meeting is June 15, 2023.
Will Connecticut have found inspiration from Colorado, where they have set guidelines and moved their rebate program forward? Or will DEEP continue to confuse itself with the Department of Consumer Protection by getting lost in the details of determining which specific bicycle brands qualify for the program? The clock is ticking.