Republicans and Democrats rarely agree on anything in the highly divided US House of Representatives. But one thing they have agreed on – unanimously this time – is electric bikes. Just not in the way we all hoped.
The last electric bike bill to hit the floor of the US House of Representatives was the EBIKE Act, which sought to create a federal tax incentive for e-bike purchases. The concept was similar to the tax credits already available for buying electric cars, except that instead of helping people with disposable income save more money on massive city-clogging vehicles, the EBIKE Act was designed to help lower-income Americans afford smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient electric bicycles.
The bill received widespread support among Democrats but ultimately failed to secure Republican backing, leaving it out of the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.
But now e-bikes are getting new attention in Congress, this time due to fire scares.
A new bill pending in the House of Representatives seeks to give the Consumer Prodouct Safety Commission an explicit directive to create federal standards for the construction and importation of electric bike batteries. And this time it seems both aisles are finally in agreement on e-bikes.
The importance of the issue has arisen partly due to an actual increase in e-bike fires, but also largely due to a media frenzy that has blown the issue out of proportion. While e-bike fires do occur in the US, they represent one of the lowest risks of all forms of transportation. Many more cyclists are killed by cars than people who are killed by e-bike batteries occasionally catching fire.
As we’ve pointed out before, despite NYC being seen as the epicenter of e-bike fire deaths, New Yorkers are 5x more likely to die on the subway than from an e-bike fire.
But why let a little logic and proportion ruin a rare chance for bipartisanship in divided Washington? In this case, the bill giving the CPSC a directive to mandate e-bike batteries has already passed in its subcommittee and regular committee, each time with unanimous support from Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
Its next step, and the hardest yet, will see it need to be passed by the entire House of Representatives.
If passed in the House, the bill would still be far from becoming law. It would then have to pass the Senate – which is perhaps even more divided than the house. If any changes or amendments are made, the bill would have to return to the House to be passed again in its updated form. Then, if finally approved by both sides of Congress, it would head to President Biden to be signed into law.
I think this is good news, don’t get me wrong. I’m just a little cynical. When we want to help people get more access to e-bikes, it’s only Democrats on board. When we want to put restrictions, suddenly everyone is game.
Again, this is a good idea and we should find ways to make e-bike batteries safer. But jeez, folks. Let’s see if we can’t find a way to build on this bipartisan momentum to actually get more e-bikes out there replacing cars – the real killers.
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