Proposed D.C. E-Bike Subsidy Packs an Economic Punch, Analysis Finds

A proposed rebate on electric bikes in the District would be more cost-effective in reducing gasoline miles driven than electric car subsidies thanks to the higher elasticity of e-bike demand.

2 minute read

January 31, 2023, 6:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Young bearded man with helmet setting up battery on back of electric bike

Ground Picture / Electric bike

According to an article by David Edmondson in Greater Greater Washington, a proposed $400 to $1,200 e-bike subsidy in Washington, D.C. “packs the most pollution-fighting power” compared to other plans to promote the adoption of zero-emission transportation, bringing the biggest return on investment for reducing gasoline miles driven. 

As Edmondson explains, this has to do with the economic concept of elasticity. “[Zero-emission vehicles] are a lot more expensive than e-bikes and, therefore, it takes a lot of money to meaningfully lower the cost of a ZEV compared to an e-bike.” Edmondson used a Canadian model to predict e-bike sales under the new subsidy, predicting a rise of 15 percent in annual sales. “Remarkably, 44% of those sales would go to incentivized buyers who would not have otherwise purchased an e-bike,” Edmondson notes. Most electric car subsidies, on the other hand, tend to be used by people who would already buy electric or hybrid cars. 

While they can’t replace all vehicle trips, e-bikes can have a significant impact on gasoline miles. “When a household buys an e-bike, their driving (as measured by vehicle miles traveled, or VMT) decreases by more than a third,” Edmondson found. “When that is taken into consideration, an e-bike subsidy is 2.9 times more effective per dollar at displacing gasoline miles than a ZEV subsidy.”

Edmondson points out the added benefits of e-bikes, such as better health, easier charging, requiring fewer resources for batteries and putting less strain on city streets, and reduced safety risks for pedestrians and other road users.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023 in Greater Greater Washington

Large historic homes and white picket fences line a street.

The End of Single-Family Zoning in Arlington County, Virginia

Arlington County is the latest jurisdiction in the country to effectively end single-family zoning.

March 23, 2023 - The Washington Post

Buses in downtown Seattle on the dedicated 3rd Avenue bus lanes

Seattle Bus Lane Cameras Capture Over 100,000 Violations

An automated traffic enforcement pilot program caught drivers illegally using transit lanes more than 110,000 times in less than a year.

March 28, 2023 - Axios

Amtrak Acela Express train passing through Harrison station in Newark, New Jersey

‘Train Daddy’ Andy Byford to Oversee Amtrak’s High-Speed Rail Efforts

Byford, who formerly ran NYC Transit and Transport for London, could bring renewed vigor to the agency’s plans to expand regional rail in the United States.

March 28, 2023 - StreetsBlog NYC

A row of Victorian homes in San Francisco, California

San Francisco Rents Cheaper Now Than in 2020

Though ‘cheap’ is a relative term.

March 30 - San Francisco Examiner

25 mph speed limit sign partially obscured by red and orange fall leaves

Study: Seattle’s Lower Speed Limits Reduced Crash Injuries

A change in the city’s speed limits has been shown to reduce the likelihood of injuries during collisions.

March 30 - Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Couple embracing happily in front of home with "SOLD" sign

Millennials Now Majority Homeowners

Just over half of people in the ‘Y’ generation now own homes, but the largest generation also continues to dominate the rental market.

March 30 - RentCafé

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.