Transportation emissions are one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions for San Mateo County. While electric vehicles are showing strong growth, EVs are just one part of the solution. We are going to need a multi-modal approach including walking, cycling and public transit to prevent the disastrous effects of global warming.

E-bikes have proven to be a practical solution. They not only reduce emissions, but they reduce congestion, save commuters time and money, increase health, stimulate the local economy and bring joy.

People recognize these benefits and are adopting e-bikes at a rapid pace. Peninsula Clean Energy just launched a new incentive program for income-qualified residents, and within a week, half of the rebates have already been allocated.

To ensure e-bikes are safe, accessible and affordable for everyone, our cities and communities have work to do. SSMC recently hosted a webinar for government and nonprofit leaders to discuss the status of e-bikes and how to support them in our communities.

Three experts joined an audience of elected government officials, city and county employees, nonprofit leaders and bicycle advocates. These three speakers shared their insights on what it will take to make e-bikes a viable, affordable and appealing transportation option:

  • Anthony Montes from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC), a nonprofit that works throughout San Mateo County and Santa Clara County to make biking safe and accessible.
  • Brett Thurber, the founder of The New Wheel, one of the nation’s leading electric bike stores with four stores in the Bay Area serving 10K riders, and Friiway, an e-bike subscription service designed to lower the barrier to using e-bikes.
  • Carlos Moreno, a Senior Analyst at Peninsula Clean Energy, who regularly engages with our community to help address the barriers to e-bike adoption through workshops and focus groups.

Speakers identified the following key actions that cities and communities can focus on to significantly increase the adoption of e-bikes, and make biking a safe, convenient and “first-class” form of transportation in San Mateo County.

If you are a government official, we encourage you to adopt these actions and if you are a concerned citizen, we encourage you to reach out to your local council members to advocate for these programs and policies (see our Advocacy Page for links to your city’s council member contact page.)

Address Safety Concerns

  1. Invest in Infrastructure: Invest in bike lanes, bike boulevards and “slow streets” to make biking safer. The implementation of slow streets, which limit car traffic by closing streets to through traffic, can be done relatively quickly and inexpensively, providing significant benefits. See SSMC’s Ideas Bank Solutions on Slow Streets and Quick Build Street Projects to spur the development of more walkable and bikeable streets. See SVBC’s Vision Zero policies and toolkit, which provides city planners with short-, mid- and long-term steps to reduce major collisions.
  2. Build Comprehensive Bike Networks: Establish extensive bike routes and complete streets for safe and convenient biking. Complete Streets is an approach to planning, designing, building, operating and maintaining streets that enables safe access for all people who need to use them, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. See City/County Association of Governments’ (C/CAG)’s resources for Complete Streets.
  3. Implement Bike Parking Solutions: Ensure secure and accessible parking for all types of e-bikes, including cargo bikes. SVBC can provide bike parking at your next event.

Promote a Bike-Friendly Culture

  1. Create Public Campaigns: Conduct public awareness campaigns to shift mindsets, normalize cycling as a primary mode of transportation and make cycling feel like a first-class activity. Highlight the benefits of cycling, including the cost savings and the downsides of car usage. Keep in mind, visible and well-maintained infrastructure continuously reminds the public of the value placed on cycling.
  2. Implement Educational Programs: Teach community members safe biking practices.
  3. Foster a Bike Culture: Cultivate a biking culture akin to the Netherlands and parts of Spain.

Increase Accessibility and Affordability

  1. Create Subsidy and Incentive Programs: Offer financial support to make e-bikes more affordable for a wider audience. A great example of this is Peninsula Clean Energy’s Program which provides up to $1,000 toward e-bike purchases for qualifying residents, and can be combined with other rebates.
  2. Encourage Shared E-Bike Programs: Develop and fund shared e-bike initiatives, recognizing their high costs.
  3. Implement Flexible E-Bike Subscription Services: Develop programs to encourage trial and eventual ownership.
  4. Implement Car Buyback Programs: Offer programs to reduce car dependency and promote cycling, focusing on the 20% of cars (older cars powered by gas and diesel) estimated to be contributing 70% of the smog pollution often concentrated in low-income communities.
  5. Offer Comprehensive Support Programs: Develop comprehensive programs that include not only financial rebates but also access to safe storage, parking and integration with public transportation.

Support Local Initiatives and Advocacy

  1. Participate in Local Advocacy Efforts: Engage with local groups working on biking infrastructure, like the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and their work on the El Camino Real 2030 Plan, which aims to create a pivotal bikeway connecting multiple communities.
  2. Encourage Completion of Bike and Pedestrian Plans: See if your city has a Bike and Pedestrian plan in place with the necessary infrastructure and amenities to support an increasing e-bike population.
  3. Encourage Policy Makers to Experience Cycling: Have policy makers personally use e-bikes to understand their benefits. See the folks at The New Wheel to get started!

Focus on Policy & Funding

  1. Solicit Community Input: Engage with the community to understand their needs and gather feedback on how to improve cycling infrastructure and programs.
  2. Provide Government Support: Recognize the growing interest in e-bikes and create supportive policies and programs that recognize cycling as a mainstream and valuable mode of transport. Allocate more funds toward bike and pedestrian projects compared to highways.
  3. Work with Local Organizations: Partner with community-based organizations to promote e-bike programs and assist with rebate applications and training, particularly in low-income communities.
  4. Learn from International Examples: Study and implement successful policies and infrastructure from cities in Europe that have embraced cycling, such as Paris and Barcelona. Consider innovative governance models, like Wales’ Ministry for Future Generations, to ensure sustainable and forward-thinking transportation policies.

Enhance Convenience

  1. Develop Livable Communities: Support the “15-minute city” concept, where daily needs are within a short distance.
  2. Integrate E-Bikes with Public Transportation: Address the “last mile” problem, facilitating seamless commutes using a mix of bikes and public transit.

Watch the full webinar here.

*Thank you to Anthony Montes and Brett Thurber for the charts shown in this article.