E-bike affordability takes a step forward

On Monday, December 5, 2022, Atlanta City Council introduced legislation to launch an e-bike rebate program for Atlanta residents. A working group, including Propel ATL and other organizations, will explore programs and lessons learned in Denver, Boston, and other cities to make recommendations for an Atlanta program. 

Photo by Edison Bicycles

What is an e-bike? An electric bike, or e-bike, is a bicycle with an electric motor powered by a rechargeable battery that assists with pedaling. 

Why e-bikes? E-bikes have proven potential to replace car trips. A 2021 study found access to e-bikes reduced people’s driving trips by 21%. 

That means benefits to the climate (transportation creates more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector of the U.S. economy), expanded access to jobs and opportunity (it costs Atlantans about $11,000 annually to own a private car), health (e-bikes overcome hills and distance, making biking more accessible to more people), and traffic congestion, creating a more livable city.

In talking to community members, elected officials, and local bike shops, one big challenge emerged to e-bikes: affordability. Most e-bikes are priced around $1000-$2000, but more advanced models can cost $3000 or more. While still more affordable than car ownership, the expense is beyond the reach of the many Atlanta families who don't have access to a car. 

Incentive programs being implemented across the U.S. are providing greater access to e-bikes for sustainable transportation, especially for individuals and communities most impacted by ongoing racial injustices, systemic oppression, lack of economic opportunity, and racial disparities. Atlanta's effort should take a "targeted universalism" approach: setting universal goals for the program and pursuing those goals through targeted means. 

There are many lessons Atlanta could learn from other cities — both successes and challenges — and we're excited to explore those programs with the working group.

E-bikes are changing mobility in cities, and we would like to hear from you. Please take a minute to tell us about your interest in e-bikes: take a survey.

Photo by Ronê Ferreira