Jul 11, 2022 - News

Despite claims of success, e-bike equity in Denver off to slow start

Illustration of a broken and crumbling lightning bolt
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Low-income residents aren't cashing in on Denver's new electric bike rebates as quickly as people with deeper pockets.

  • Now the city is trying even harder to make equity a requirement of its giveaway.

Why it matters: A key component of the ultra-popular program is providing three times the regular rebates to those with less disposable money.

  • But despite the bigger discounts, the bikes’ lofty price tags continue to hold plenty of people back, stalling part of the city’s progress toward curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Details: Denver residents who are eligible for the larger rebates must meet at least one of the city's qualifying criteria, such as having a household income below 60% of the state's median income, receiving Medicaid or being enrolled in other government-subsidized programs.

  • The income-qualified rebate is $1,200. Others receive $400.

By the numbers: The city is advertising that more than half the rebate dollars went to income-qualified residents.

  • Reality check: That figure inflates the impact.
  • Just one-third of the 941 e-bike rebates redeemed as of July 6 were claimed by low-income residents, according to city data obtained by Axios Denver.

What they're saying: The city achieved its voter-mandated requirement of spending at least 50% of the first round of e-bike rebate funding on climate-vulnerable populations, which include households with lower incomes, Denver's climate office spokesperson Winna MacLaren tells Axios.

  • Still, city leaders acknowledge that more can be done to incentivize financially disadvantaged Denverites.

What's next: Starting at 8am Monday, the city is releasing 2,000 additional rebates.

  • Unlike the first round, however, half the new batch of rebates will be reserved for low-income residents.
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