Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto introduced a bill to the DC Council last week that would provide DC residents with instant rebates for e-bike purchases. Those who earn 80 percent or more of the median family income in DC, $90,842 (as of the last census), will be eligible for an instant rebate of $400 or 30 percent of the price of the bike, whichever is less. Those who earn below 80 percent of the median family income will be eligible for $1,200 or 75 percent of the price of the bike, whichever is less.
In all, there will be 3,000 available rebates for residents and 500 rebates for businesses who buy e-bikes.
The e-bikes would have to be purchased from a brick-and-mortar retail store in DC to be eligible for the rebate. Local bike-store owners and bicycle advocates are already anticipating the effects of the bill passing.
When Loren Copsey, who owns the H Street bike shop Daily Riders, heard about the bill, he reached out to a bike shop in Denver—which passed a similar program in April 2022—to learn about their experience. The Denver shop saw a huge bump in business after its local program began, says Copsey, who expects to see the same happen in DC should Pinto’s bill pass. Copsey says he’ll add more e-bike inventory and staff to the store if that happens.
“We’re definitely excited about the bill. Getting more people riding in the bike lanes is a good thing for the city,” Copsey says.
E-bike prices vary widely, but Diego Paul Yepez, manager of City Bikes in Tenleytown, says they start at around $1,500. But most of his customers spend closer to $5,000, he says. And that’s just for the bike, not including accessories. Regular road bikes, by comparison, can run you anywhere between $200 and $700.
Fifty percent of the available rebates will be reserved for people making under 80 percent of the median income, which Pinto says should increase the accessibility of this type of transportation for low-income residents.
The inconsistencies in bike lanes around the District could pose a challenge in getting more people to transition to e-bikes, says Jeremiah Lowery, advocacy director for the Washington Area Bicycle Association. For the past two years, DDOT has fallen short of its goal of building ten miles of new protected bike lanes each year and there aren’t enough protected lanes in wards 7 and 8, according to Lowery.
“If the DC Council wanted to, they could mandate that the DDOT install protected bike lane projects around the city,” Lowrey says. They could also increase funding to ensure they are fully staffed with engineers and planners to expedite the process.
But, ultimately, WABA supports the bill “100 percent,” says Lowery. “It’s going to get butts on bikes.”
Six other councilmembers have co-introduced the bill, and Pinto hopes to pass and fund the rebate within this fiscal year.