Denver’s e-bike rebates are already gaining traction with residents

The city has received about 2,600 rebate applications since the program launched only two weeks ago.
2 min. read
Cyclists speed by Denver Parks and Recreation’s safety booth on the Cherry Creek Trail, May 16, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver residents are lining up for city-funded discounts on electric bicycles.

On Earth Day, Denver announced the e-bike rebate program to encourage residents to ditch their cars in favor of two-wheeled alternatives. An ongoing analysis at Portland State University shows its one of the most generous programs in the country.

Any Denver resident can get a $400 discount for an e-bike, plus an additional $500 for a cargo e-bike. Income-qualifying residents can apply for a $1,200 rebate or a whole $1,700 off a cargo e-bike.

Grace Rink, Denver's chief climate officer, said the city has received about 2,600 applications for e-bikes so far. Her office is working to approve each application in fewer than 10 days.

"2,600 in the first two weeks was more than we expected at first, but were churning through them so people can go shopping," Rink said.

Those applicants are more or less evenly split between the different programs for different income levels, with 1,260 applying for the smaller rebate and 1,340 applying for the larger rebate. Rink said 30 people have redeemed their discounts so far.

Unlike some other government incentive programs, Denver approves applicants upfront so they can receive the discount at the point of purchase. The shopping options, however, are limited to 10 local bike shops participating in the program.

Rink confirmed some residents have complained that participating shops tend to offer higher-end e-bikes. According to the city's research, none of those stores stock models cheaper than a $1,500 e-bike, far more expensive than options offered by some online e-bike retailers. "We are the government," Rink said. "We can't tell bike shops what to carry."

Nevertheless, Rink sees advantages in the approach. Since the program is funded by a voter-approved climate protection sales tax, it ensures the money is reinvested with local businesses. Many local bike shops also won't repair e-bikes bought online, Rink said.

Despite the fierce level of early interest, Rink also doesn't expect the city will adjust the rebate levels any time soon.

"We are not thinking about ratcheting down the amounts. I think that it's too early in the program to do that," Rink said.

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