a recent study that found that a 15 percent e-bike mode share (the portion of a person’s total travel that occurs on an e-bike) would translate to a 12 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from passenger transportation. The congressman is on firm ground here: An e-bike’s per-mile emissions are a fraction of those from even an electric automobile, and the e-bike’s extra pedal power makes it an appealing substitute for a car on trips that might be too distant or unpleasant for a pedal bike. The bill itself isn’t perfect, particularly because e-bike suppliers will need time to catch up to a sudden, government-prodded spike in demand. But would its passage be a big step forward for urban transportation? Yes.
It’s worth looking across the Atlantic to understand how governments can help turn drivers into cyclists. Starting with Great Britain’s Cyclescheme employee benefit program two decades ago, many European countries now leverage their tax codes to lower the cost of cycling and get people out of cars. In Germany more than 30,000 employers take part in the government’s JobRad program, which allows workers to obtain a bike or e-bike at a reduced cost. In 2018 Sweden launched a wildly popular initiative providing residents a 25 percent e-bike subsidy. And then came the coronavirus pandemic, which prompted climate-conscious policymakers in France, Italy, Portugal, and Madrid to offer a rebate worth hundreds of euros to those buying a new ride. The subsidies both encouraged a socially distanced form of exercise and nudged people away from driving.
But even proponents of these policies agree that subsidies are not a panacea, since even a cheap e-bike isn’t very appealing if you lack a safe place to cycle or a secure spot to stash it. Asked what governments should do first to encourage cycling, Kevin Mayne, the chief executive of the trade group Cycling Industries Europe, answers, “infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.” Buyer rebates, he says, “are not a magic bullet. You have to think about the entire bicycle journey experience. Where are you going to ride? Where are you going to store it?” That would indicate a lower ceiling for e-bike adoption in the United States, since European streets and roads are traditionally more accommodating to cyclists. That gap has only widened during the pandemic, as leaders in places like Milan, Paris, and London have scrambled to create new places to ride, while American cities have sent mixed messages.
Europe’s years of generous investment in bike infrastructure set the stage for 2020’s subsidy programs to boost adoption of e-bikes, says Horace Dediu, an industry analyst. But the sudden surge in demand put pressure on supply, since retailers place orders well in advance. ”New e-bike orders are backlogged for months,” he says. “I was in Spain last December, and there is literally nothing on the shelves.” Dediu thinks the European bike market will eventually catch up with demand—a massive factory being built in Romania will produce 1.5 million bikes per year for Decathlon, a retailer. Mayne agrees, but for now, with demand surging and supply constrained, he believes that Europe’s new rebate programs “are bringing e-bike prices up, not down.”
Moving Mindsets: The Ways Minds Can Shift
If we want to work together to shift mindsets, we have to start with a shared understanding of what they are and why they matter for social change.
Mindsets are shared ways of thinking that work at a subconscious level. They always matter because they color our views of the world and shape how we interact within it. But shifting mindsets has taken on a new sense of urgency over the last year when we are all feeling the potential to create new pathways to real, meaningful change.
To help social change advocates use the power of mindsets and the potential that lies in shifting them, we are holding a three part webinar series called Moving Mindsets. Drew Volmert, Vice President of Research, Frameworks Institute and Felicia Wong, President and CEO, Roosevelt Institute will be kicking off the series on March 12th. Please join Drew and Felicia to hear about:
- What mindsets are;
- How they can be shifted;
- Lessons from real-world efforts to change the way we think about the economy that can guide your own work to shift mindsets.
This webinar series is based on our latest report, Mindset Shifts: What Are They? Why Do They Matter? How Do They Happen?