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2023 State Bike Bills: The Good. The Bad. The Ugly
We’re three months into the new year, and state legislatures across the country are in full swing. While more cycling-related bills will be introduced throughout the year, there is no shortage of bills already making their way through the legislative process that could impact the future of bicycling. Let’s look at what’s on the menu for 2023 so far and see what’s good, bad, and downright ugly for three popular legislative topics.
E-Bike Rebates May Be Coming To Your State
A handful of states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, all recently passed or implemented a statewide electric bike rebate program. Now more states are primed to follow suit. Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, New York, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, DC, have E-bike rebate programs introduced this session. While we continue to push Congress to pursue a rebate program at the federal level (it didn’t make it into last year’s Inflation Reduction Act), states are stepping up. Be on the lookout as more states introduce electric bike rebate bills this year.
The Good, Bad, And Ugly
E-bike rebate programs are inherently good, but not all programs are equal.
The Good. Ebike rebates like the Ride Clean Program for e-bikes proposed in New York provide the rebate at the point of sale. These types of rebates are the most equitable and effective, because they make e-bikes more affordable by providing an instant discount on the full cost of the electric bike. New York’s proposed rebate program covers up to 50% of the original price with a maximum rebate of $1,500.
The Bad. Post-sale rebates, like the one introduced in Oklahoma, reimburse the e-bike purchaser after the sale, meaning only individuals who can afford the full price of an e-bike can utilize the rebate. Getting the rebate check typically requires an application or submission of reciepts, another hurdle in the process of getting more people on bikes.
The Ugly. Tax credit rebates are the least accessible and equitable type of e-bike rebate. The purchaser must be able to afford the total cost of the e-bike and wait until their taxes are filed to utilize tax credit rebates. Depending on their tax situation, they might not even see a refund from the rebate. Fortunately, these types of e-bike rebates are not the most prevalent in state houses right now, but New Jersey has one working its way through the legislature.
No One Size Fits All Approach to Safety
Cyclist safety is always a top priority here at the League, so we’re glad to see states making it a priority too. Proposed safety measures range from helmet requirements and side-view mirrors to lowering speed limits in high pedestrian areas, safe passing laws, and limiting when officers may stop cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly
The Good. One key element of cyclist safety and overall road safety is speed. Simple physics tells us the faster a vehicle is traveling the more likely it is to kill in the event of a crash. Lowering speed limits to 20 mph in high bike and pedestrian areas will save lives, but lowering speed limits is not always easy and can often be expensive. Hawaii’s bill could help municipalities lower speed limits by removing the time-consuming and costly requirement for an engineering study before making reductions to maximum speed limits.
The Bad. We should all wear a helmet when we ride. It’s a simple and effective safety measure. Despite wearing helmets being a no-brainer, requiring people to wear one can negatively impact bicycle use and bicycle safety and the League does not support mandatory helmet laws. Currently, New York State has a bill that would “require every person operating a bicycle, E-Bike or E-Scooter in New York City to wear a helmet.” Bills like this might not seem harmful but could have serious equity and justice implications and simply haven’t been found to be effective in increasing helmet use.
The Ugly. The League of American Bicyclists has a long history of advocating for cyclists’ right to the road. At times, that has included advocating for treating bicycles like vehicles, but bikes are not the same as cars and trucks.
Bikes are lighter weight than cars, generally travel at lower speeds, and have better visibility and maneuverability. Public policy should reflect that bikes pose much less danger to other road users than cars and trucks.
Several bills this session get this wrong. For example, cyclists should not be charged the same fines as drivers of vehicles as a bill in Massachusetts would do. Bicycles should not have to be registered and display a license plate like SB 1372 would require in NY. In New Hampshire, one bill would require cyclists riding anywhere with other modes of transportation – while riding in bike lane or not – to have a 4” diameter mirror on each handlebar. Laws like these only make cycling less inviting and lead to more interactions with police which disproportionately impact BIPOC individuals.
Cyclists Need Safe Infrastructure To Ride
What good is a bike without a safe place to ride? Having well-designed and safe bicycle infrastructure is vital for all cyclists. Whether you ride to work, hit the trails on the weekend, or love to ride your local streets, we all want places to ride where we know we’re as safe as possible and can focus on having fun or getting to our destination.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly
The Good. The creation of new bicycle infrastructure and the upkeep of existing infrastructure is (almost) always good. House Bill 408 in New Mexico requires “a protected bike lane be incorporated when making a roadway improvement within the limits of a municipality of at least ten thousand.” This bill would apply to the twenty largest cities in the state and appropriates $5 million for the creation of bike lanes.
The Bad and The Ugly. Arizona advocates are fighting back against a trio of bills that would restrict the creation of bicycle paths and other related cycling infrastructure. Senate Bill 1313 removes the requirement for General Plans to include bicycling, meaning all future developments could lack proper accommodations for people who bike. Another Arizona bill would change the funding rules regarding the use of sales tax revenue in Maricopa County, resulting in the inability of the local community to fund bike and walking-specific infrastructure projects.
Thankfully, with the help of advocates, Senate Bill 1697 – which would have banned the planning, design, or construction of bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways parallel to and separate from state routes – did not make it out of its Senate committee. The bill would prohibit the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) from accepting funds from the federal government if a condition of the funding includes constructing a bicycle path or pedestrian walkway. If passed, this bill would mean complete streets are not allowed, and incomplete streets are required. Between 2015 and 2020, 21% of pedestrian deaths and 17% of bicyclist deaths occurred on ADOT-owned roads. This ugly bill would keep those roads dangerous.
Take action against these bills that limit and cut funding for building better, safer places to bike and walk in Arizona.
Your voice is critical not just at the federal and local levels, but at the state level as well. Connect with one of the many League member advocacy organizations in your area to get more involved in shaping how federal resources are utilized in your neighborhood. Find state and local member organizations on our map »
The year is young, and there’s a high chance we’ll see more cycling-related legislation being introduced across the country. Regardless of where you live, be on the lookout for more information on what’s happening in states and ways you can get involved in making cycling safer and more accessible for all.
One last thing – Go Ride!