Craig Ianacone, senior mechanic at PikeRide, inspects an electric bike during regular maintenance repairs May 24, 2023, in Colorado Springs. PikeRide, founded in 2018, has over 350 electric bikes in circulation and 60 hubs through Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. The nonprofit aims to provide its community with safe and energy-efficient transportation, especially in areas like southeast Colorado Springs, a portion of the city with a historically disadvantaged population. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)

Colorado has opened applications for $2.5 million in matching funds to local communities that want to launch their own electric bike rebate programs, seeking to replicate the popularity of discounts run by Denver and other big cities. 

The matching funds come from $12 million in e-bike incentives included in a 2022 law meant to accelerate clean electrification of Colorado’s energy sources, with advocates claiming e-bikes are replacing fossil fuel car trips for short commutes or errands. Colorado is spending $6 million from the law on a direct-to-consumer e-bike rebate that has also proved highly popular. 

The remainder of the $12 million fund will go toward state grants for nonprofits developing e-bike sharing or rebates to serve lower-income workers and communities. 

Applications from cities, towns and tribal governments for the $2.5 million matching grants will close Nov. 30, said Colorado Energy Office program coordinator Sarah Thorne. Grants range from $25,000 to $750,000. The rebates have an upper income limit for recipients, but communities can design additional features such as further lowering the income limit, or targeting specific neighborhoods or demographic groups, Thorne said. State officials welcome locally tailored ideas, she said. 

Colorado officials believe the $12 million overall e-bike program is the most comprehensive and well-funded rebate program across the country, Thorne said. 

“We were looking at a way that we can kind of stretch the dollars that we had since this is a $12 million fund,” Thorne said. “It sounds like a lot but it’s really not a lot at the end of the day. We’ve leveraged their funding with our funding.”

One foundation of the 2022 legislation was to push out clean and affordable transportation opportunities to as many people as possible, Thorne said. “Most Americans travel six miles or less on their average trip. This is very easily accomplishable via an e-bike in a way that standard analog bikes may not be as easy for a lot of individuals,” she said. 

The state has already heard from communities eager to try for the matching money. “We’re looking for projects that have been thought out, or a little bit more than just an idea on the back of a napkin,” including details on how and where residents can apply for and cash in the local rebates, Thorne said. 

Communities applying for the state matching money have time to work out the details for their programs and pass any local ordinances or budgets that may be required. The 2022 law says the state money must be spent by 2026. 

Michael Booth is The Sun’s environment writer, and co-author of The Sun’s weekly climate and health newsletter The Temperature. He and John Ingold host the weekly Sun-Up podcast on The Temperature topics every Thursday. He is co-author with...