Mar 7, 2023 - News

Denver's e-bike rebate program a savvy investment, new study shows

Illustration of a bike with quarters for wheels.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Denver's e-bike incentive program is not only proving popular but also promising when it comes to curbing costs and emissions that contribute to climate change, new research shows.

Why it matters: Denver's eco-friendly experiment is becoming a model for other cities across the country, as more communities adopt initiatives aimed at reaching net-zero emissions.

  • The program, which launched in 2022 thanks to a voter-approved sales tax hike, resulted in 4,734 rebates last year. Income-qualified residents are eligible for up to $1,400. The standard rebate for all residents is $300.

Driving the news: A new white paper from Ride Report, a micromobility-focused tech company, shows e-bikes have slashed gas vehicle trips and proven to be a cost-effective way to get around the city.

  • Ride Report partnered with the city to track rebate recipients who voluntarily downloaded the company's app, CEO Michael Schwartz tells Axios Denver.

By the numbers: Last year, the roughly 100 riders tracked by Ride Report rode an average of 26 miles per week — replacing 3.4 roundtrips in a vehicle.

  • 71% of participants said they used their cars less after purchasing an e-bike. 90% were riding weekly, and 65% were on their bikes daily.
  • The program was estimated to have cut 2,040 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2022 and saved nearly $1 million in avoided fuel and electricity costs, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, an environmental nonprofit.

Of note: Income-qualified residents, or people making less than 80% of the city's median area income, rode their e-bikes nearly 50% more than other rebate recipients, per the white paper.

  • Of the $4.7 million the city allocated for the program last year, 67% of that funding went to income-qualified residents.

Yes, but: That figure slightly inflates the impact of the spending, since only 49% of rebates redeemed last year were claimed by low-income residents, according to city figures.

What they're saying: With the Mile High City leading the way, some industry experts are predicting public investments in e-bike programs and other low-carbon transportation will skyrocket this year.

  • "The success of the Denver rebate program — and its clear impact on reducing transportation emissions — suggests that policymakers need to take e-bikes much more seriously as a climate action tool," Ben Holland, a spokesperson for the Rocky Mountain Institute, said in a statement.

What's next: Denver's next round of e-bike rebates go live at 11am March 28.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show Denver's e-bike incentive program cut an estimated 2,040 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2022, not megatons.


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