Congrats to the 6,394 residents who completed and submitted their e-bike voucher registration – I’m sure they are happy to be informed by keyboard warriors that they’re a bunch of nobodies. In the days after official numbers were released, it was declared by a few that both “nobody” knew about the program and that CT DEEP was just terrible for limiting the number of rebates.
The popularity of the e-bike program should not have come as a total surprise considering Connecticut simply followed a nationwide trend, but I suppose we like to think of ourselves as exceptional (hence the endless studies required to just do things that have proven successful elsewhere) while ignoring obvious clues, like that there is no unlimited bucket of money in existence to help get state residents on electric bicycle saddles.
All of that is a distraction from what we ought to be the focus, which is helping CT DEEP find funding sources for e-bikes. It’s the least we can do.
CT DEEP is welcome to borrow any of these ideas, some of which are crowdsourced. They don’t even have to invite me to participate in future press events.
- The Vision Zero bill (in effect October 2023) states how municipalities may use funds received from fines collected as a result of cameras capturing moving violations. Two of the three allowable uses can directly boost use of greener modes of transportation. Cities can use this money to improve transportation mobility and invest in transportation infrastructure improvements. That sounds a lot like make e-bikes more available and create safer spaces in which they, along with acoustic bicycles, may be used. Maybe some motorists who get ticketed will realize they are doing a kindness by trading in their steering wheel for handlebars.
- The CHEAPR Board could increase their budget for e-bike vouchers. They could question the wisdom of any EV larger than a sedan being eligible for a rebate in Connecticut, and move money over from there.
- Opponents love to call it a “sin tax” but that phrase does not fully capture certain behaviors as well as “anti-social tax” would. In a time when climate change has arrived and people are opting to idle their personal-use monster trucks next to schools, well, “sin” feels like something they get to sort out with their God. I want them to answer to us, now. Gas tax, VMT tax, congestion pricing, and until the government gets the guts to ban the land yachts that contractors managed to do just fine without up until the last decade, add an annual vanity tax. Funnel all of this into e-bike vouchers, EV rebates (for compact and mid-size sedans), and other infrastructure we need – like dedicated, protected bike/pedestrian lanes on both sides of the Gold Star Memorial Bridge.
- A climate arson tax would be a separate category. This one would be levied not on individuals but on municipalities that decide to act against our best interest through road widening projects or issuing permits for new or expanded parking lots over a given size. Add on a level for projects that do not use green infrastructure like permeable pavement and bioswales to manage runoff. Make it less painful for our government to do the right thing than for them to continue acting in ways that helped create this mess in the first place.
- Standard bridge tolls we can consider separately. The majority of states in this country have toll roads. New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts all do. We can gather self-esteem and start telling people that Connecticut thinks highly enough of itself to not use “free” parking and “free” highways to market ourselves.
- You can set your watch to it: any time new bike lanes are proposed, someone comes out of the woodwork to oppose them, and not because they think paint is inadequate and we deserve physical barriers. Public officials know it’s coming. They can open a community swear jar, so to speak. Every time a resident shows up at a hearing, goes on record, sends a letter to the editor, posts on Facebook about how the bike lane doesn’t fit the character of the community, violates their ability to store private property in public space, or would cause “accidents,” they can be nailed with a fine. Even the use of exonerative language like “accident” could cost someone $25 a pop. This would persuade folks to find actual reasons to question safer road designs, or accept the consequence of helping to supply e-bikes. What we know is that if you put someone on an e-bike, they are immediately radicalized into believing their existence matters and another transportation safety advocate is born.
- In the same vein, there is a kind of purist cyclist who behaves as a gatekeeper, assuming that because they have reached a level of physical fitness, the same is possible for everyone else. Those who want to continue treating e-bike riders as “cheaters” can do so, but first they have to hold an annual fundraiser. It could be cyclocross, an alley cat race, a competition to see who can lift their bike overhead the most times in a minute while wearing the most aerodynamic spandex on the market. There will be plenty of mirth to go around and the proceeds are funneled to DEEP’s e-bike voucher pot.
If all those things fail, we can have a good old-fashioned county fair with dunk tanks, pie throwing contests, and recipe books that instruct the average person how to get their town closer to being a 15-minute city.
While locking down funding streams, I will be interested to see if and how CT DEEP prioritized e-bike vouchers for those with more economic need. Many applied for a Voucher+, but no tax records were required to prove income; will someone in a Scarborough Street mansion receive this extra voucher simply because they live in a “Distressed Municipality,” while across town, someone renting a room above a Park Street restaurant gets their request denied? That, and funding, is something they can think about while going into the next round of rebates.