How the Inflation Reduction Act Benefits Bikes (Or Doesn’t) And What To Do Now

In August, Congress passed the most influential climate bill in history, with high hopes of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 40% by the end of this decade. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides $369 billion to fund a whole host of climate-friendly initiatives – everything from clean energy and electric vehicle (EV) tax credits to green jobs. For the average American, the bill means rebates on solar panels, heat pumps, energy-efficient appliances and other home improvements, plus that electric car or SUV.

President Joe Biden touted the IRA as being “the most aggressive action ever — ever, ever, ever — in confronting the climate crisis.” That may be, but sadly the word “bicycle” doesn’t appear once in the text of the bill (more on this later). Nevertheless, there are some provisions in the IRA that could help nudge people out from the driver’s seat and onto a bike (thanks PeopleForBikes for this list):

  • Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Tax Credit
    According to the 30C Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit Expansion, qualifying businesses receive a 30% tax credit (up to $30,000) for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The IRA expands this measure to include “two- and three-wheeled electric vehicles.” For businesses that want to support their patrons and employees arriving by e-bike or e-scooter, this is a win.
  • Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants
    Thanks to passage of the IRA, cities and regions will have access to a $3 billion pot to “reconnect communities divided by existing infrastructure, mitigate negative impacts of transportation facilities or construction projects on communities and support equitable transportation planning,” according to a White House press release. Disbursements will be in the form of “Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants,” and bike lanes, multi-use paths, and sidewalks are all eligible to receive funding.
  • Trails, potentially for mountain biking
    “The U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program will get another $700 million … which could go toward trail funding and maintenance as natural climate solutions in private forest land across the nation,” according to PeopleForBikes.

Unfortunately, an e-bike provision was stripped from the bill

For all the celebration of the IRA’s passage, there’s much the climate bill doesn’t do. Slate put it best: “​​Congressional Democrats struggle to imagine a world where fewer people drive.”

The Inflation Reduction Act could have supercharged e-bike adoption. Instead, Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia torpedoed a proposed $900 refundable tax credit on the purchase of a new electric bike, much to the chagrin of bike advocates and climate activists.

Ditching incentives for e-bikes was a grave mistake and a huge missed opportunity in our humble opinion.

First, the way we move impacts climate the most: Transportation has the biggest piece of the pie when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions – 27 percent for that economic sector alone. Lightweight vehicles – the kind that most of us use to drive to work or to the grocery store – account for more than half of that Transportation slice. Simply switching everyone to electric cars, trucks, and SUVs isn’t going to be fast enough to dull the most severe effects of climate change.

Next, e-bikes are more efficient and require less resources to produce and operate than electric vehicles. Bicycling Magazine ran the numbers in a great piece on how e-bikes are poised to achieve our climate goals, claiming that producing an e-bike takes 1/150th of the amount of carbon of that of a Tesla. On top of that, e-bikes are 10-20 times more efficient per mile of travel than a Tesla.

It’s a good thing that e-bikes require less juice, because our electrical grid is still powered largely by burning coal and natural gas. A wholesale shift in how we generate and store energy will need to occur for EVs to really be a “green” option.

On top of all this, e-bikes are popular  – there’s already widespread e-bike adoption; research shows that e-bikes convert drivers to bicycle riders; and demand is outpacing supply. For instance, Denver recently had to pause its e-bike rebate program due to “overwhelming popularity.”

Finally, there’s a litany of car-centric problems that EVs won’t solve (and may even exacerbate): Congestion; vacant parking spaces and infrastructure that could be affordable housing or literally anything else; and fatal car crashes (that EV Hummer is still an unconscionably large Hummer). Bikes, on the other hand, mitigate congestion; take up far less space than a car; and (generally) don’t kill or maim.

So what can we do now?

  • If you’re a business, use the Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Tax Credit to install micromobility charging stations at your site.
  • Write your representatives about using Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants for bike lanes and other bicycle infrastructure.
  • Advocate for e-bike incentive programs in your state or city. For ideas, see Oregon, California, Denver, and Vermont.
  • Try to reinstate the Commuter Benefit for bikers, which Republicans repealed in 2017. This would be similar to a perk many employees already get for taking a car or subway to work.
  • Scream into the void.

We’re just kidding about that last one, but if you’d like to talk more about e-bikes or would like to explore ways to make your workplace more e-bike friendly, drop us a line!

Bikes Make Life Better is dedicated to helping employees at large organizations use bikes for healthy sustainable transportation. They’ve helped design bike programs, facilities, and fleets for Airbnb, Meta, Kaiser Permanente, LinkedIn, Netflix, Salesforce, Stanford, and many others.