News Legislative Round-Up From Our Policy & Planning Director
As the legislative session comes into full swing, we at MCBC are tracking several exciting bills at the state and federal level. Below is a round-up of the bills that would directly affect current and future bike riders, along with advice for what you can do to help them become laws.
AB 117 – E-bike Subsidies in California
This bill would set aside $10 million from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to provide subsidies for the purchase of electric bicycles. This is the same program that has funded subsidies for hybrid and electric cars, doling out nearly $1 billion in assistance to car buyers since its inception in 2010.
While the details are still being worked out, it’s likely that some amount of the funding will be made available specifically for low and moderate income families, a change made last month to the Clean Vehicle Rebate Program.
Such a subsidy is long overdue. While e-bikes can be transformative to many riders, and have the ability to replace a large share of trips currently made by car, their high up-front cost is prohibitive to some. But because the total cost of an e-bike is so much smaller than that of an electric car, the same $7,000 subsidy given to one auto buyer could easily help half a dozen people buy an e-bike.
If passed, the subsidy would begin July 1, 2022 and would phase out (unless renewed) at the end of 2028. We’ll be sharing more details about the bill as they come out, so stay tuned.
AB 122 – The Safety Stop
Per the California Vehicle Code, bicycle riders are obligated to treat stop signs by coming to a complete and total stop. In practice, this is an impractical and unreasonable requirement for bicyclists, especially on neighborhood streets where there might be a stop sign every block.
This bill would allow people on bicycles to treat stop signs as a “yield.” Similar laws have recently passed in other states and have led to no increase in crashes involving bike riders. An added benefit of such a law is that it would prevent police departments from wasting taxpayer dollars ticketing people on 30 lb. bicycles.
Also authored by Assemblymember Boerner Horvath, this bill is supported by dozens of organizations, and is opposed by the California Highway Patrol. Read more details from MCBC on this bill here.
AB 550 – Speed Safety Pilot Program
One of the biggest dangers on the road is illegal speeding. It makes crashes harder to avoid and, when they do occur, increases the severity of the crash for all involved. A pedestrian hit by a car going 20 mph has a 90% chance of surviving the crash. At a speed of 40 mph, that chance of survival drops to 20%. As such, ensuring that drivers adhere to posted speed limits would save thousands of lives a year.
However, police-based enforcement has its drawbacks. It is costly, overly reliant on officer discretion, and increases the interactions between armed officers and people of color. AB 550, introduced by Assemblymember David Chiu, would permit jurisdictions in California to use the same technology currently employed in automated tolling to issue citations to speeding drivers.
The legislation includes a host of provisions to ensure that such technology is not abused, including banning facial recognition, capping fines at $125, and making any citations issued civil (i.e. non-criminal) offenses. Low-income drivers would be offered the opportunity to enter a diversionary program rather than paying the fine.
The bill has strong support among big city mayors, including those of San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
E-BIKE Act – Tax Credit for E-Bikes
At the federal level, there is another movement to subsidize e-bikes. The E-BIKE Act would provide purchasers with a refundable tax credit of 30% of their bike’s purchase price, up to a maximum of a $1,500 credit. The refund would be usable for any e-bikes with a total cost of less than $8,000.
While MCBC would prefer that e-bike subsidies be realized at the point of purchase (i.e. via a voucher) rather than while filing taxes, this should still push people toward making the decision to add an e-bike to their stable, which we know from research reduces overall driving. Even more exciting, the benefits from this bill and the proposed California subsidy (AB 117) should compound. If both bills pass, the cost of joining the e-bike revolution could fall through the floor.
We’ve reached out to Marc Levine, the State Assemblymember representing Marin, to ask his positions on the bills above, but since the bills are still early in the legislative process he has not yet taken a position. We’re working on scheduling a meeting with his office to urge his support for these bills.
In the meantime, we encourage you to contact his office and urge him to support AB 117, AB 122, and AB 550, and we’ll let you know if there is anything more to do to help these important bills become law.
As always, if you have any follow up questions, please feel free to contact Warren at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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