Free E-Bikes for Everyone!
What about rain, snow and extremely cold or hot weather?
It’s not really that difficult to ride a bike in the rain. As for snow, it’s not great to drive in it, either.
Not every city in America is the same. You could do this in Portland, Ore., maybe, but not in Houston or Los Angeles.
Which is why each city would create its own version of the plan. In cities like Los Angeles, where people are addicted to car culture, there may be a lot of resistance, of course. But these places also have horrible traffic problems. It could take just one single timesaving, pleasant and safe trip on an e-bike to persuade these people to stop joining the mess of cars on the 405 freeway.
So let’s get started
We need a few test cities. I propose my hometown, Berkeley, Calif., home to 121,000 residents; Iowa City; and Charleston, S.C. These are all places that have walkable areas but also a heavy dependence on cars. Three geographic areas will also give us more information on how weather will affect e-bike usage. I’ll focus on Berkeley, but if readers have other suggestions for test cities or if the residents of Iowa City or Charleston want to let me know why this definitely will or will not work there, please do.
Now, not everyone will opt into the program and not everyone is over the age of 15, but I want to think maximally, so let’s assume that 50,000 residents eventually decide to sign up for the free e-bike plan. The e-bike company Evelo reports that it costs $1,066.67 for it to manufacture one of its most popular models. This seems a bit high to me, but I want to err on the side of fiscal caution here.
That puts our e-bike-only bill for the city of Berkeley at just over $53 million, which may seem like a staggering amount of money, but is almost $25 million less than the city’s annual police budget. This could eventually be reduced, given the amount of time and resources police officers spend on traffic enforcement. That said, there will be sticker shock for this bill, but if local politicians think long-term, they will realize this program could eventually pay for itself.
There are all sorts of long-term ways cities could make money by getting cars off the road. They’d save on overall health care costs from a more fit public and see a decrease in emergency services for vehicle accidents. Repurposed parking lots could allow for more housing to be built and, therefore, an increase in tax revenue. For the sake of brevity, I want to focus on just one of these possibilities: road repair.