Your Guide to the City of Santa Cruz eBike Rebate

On a recent bike commute with my coworker Sarah, who was riding a brand-new e-bike with a big grin on her face, she told me about her experience taking advantage of some local e-bike rebates.

She said, “The rebate offered by Go Santa Cruz helped me purchase my first e-bike. The application was easy to fill out, and I also learned about other [local] rebates. Together, they really added up, and I was able to get an awesome bike I love riding and feel comfortable on. It feels great to be back on a bike after not riding for over a decade! Now I’m commuting to work by bike and inspired to enjoy more of Santa Cruz on two wheels – and with zero emissions!”

E-bikes are having their moment, including right here in Santa Cruz. Between the meteoric e-bike sales in the U.S. and the recent profusion of local e-bike rebates, more people are buying and riding them for all kinds of trips. E-bikes can help our community achieve its climate goals. The City of Santa Cruz’s Climate Action Plan has a goal of 25% active transportation mode share by 2030. Biking as a regular form of transportation will need to increase significantly from a current rate of 2.5% county-wide and 7.6% in the City of Santa Cruz in order to reach this goal, and e-bikes will help us get there.

Why e-bikes, you ask? Data shows that they allow more people to ride overall, to ride further, and to ride faster with less effort than a standard bike.

With these encouraging market trends, the City of Santa Cruz and Ecology Action, with support from private donors, the RiverStyx Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and People for Bikes, launched a local e-bike rebate pilot program for downtown workers and City of Santa Cruz employees. Our equity-based program has income-tiered rebate amounts and a system where an individual can access their rebate up front when they purchase a bike through a partner retailer instead of waiting for reimbursement. This program is designed to further accelerate local e-bike adoption and get more people riding bikes more often, thereby replacing car trips, lowering carbon emissions, and increasing active transportation for all.

We launched the e-bike rebate program just over four months ago, and we’ve seen a lot of activity despite the holidays, persistent supply chain issues, winter weather, and Omicron surge. I’d like to highlight some of the numbers from the program so far as well as share the stories of a few e-bike rebate recipients whose lives have been positively impacted. The program is still open, and our goal is to help 100 people purchase new e-bikes by October 2022. If you’re interested and you work in downtown Santa Cruz, check out the GO Santa Cruz E-Bike Rebate site.

At the time of writing this article, this small pilot program has seen the following since launch:

  • How long has the GO Santa Cruz E-Bike Rebate Pilot Program been live? 4 months
  • How many people have applied? 180
  • How many income-qualified applicants have there been? 56
  • How many people have been approved? 89
  • How many approved applicants have completed the bike safety training and baseline survey and have been issued a rebate voucher? 56

Some other notables of the program are that we have had people apply from every age category, 18-24 years old to 64 years and older. Of the 56 individuals who have completed the bike safety training and baseline survey, 42% do not currently own a bicycle. Of that same group, 48% of them drive a car to and from work, and 60% of them drive a car to run errands.

Additionally, there are two other rebates in our region—one from Central Coast Community Energy (CCCE) and one from Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD)—that can be combined with the GO Santa Cruz rebate to make e-bikes even more affordable. That means that you can get up to $800 for combining the GO Santa Cruz rebate ($200) with the CCCE rebate ($600, with a $100 shop local bonus included), or even more for low-income individuals. Reach out to learn how you can combine rebates to get up to $2,500 off your e-bike if you qualify.

I spoke with one of our e-bike rebate recipients, Marcela Martinez. She’s a single mother who works part-time downtown at the Om Gallery. I knew that I had to follow up with her when I received an email containing this enthusiastic response: “I know that the feeling is still new, but I can’t imagine ever going back driving to and from work (unless it’s raining ☺️). I no longer need to pay for parking, or sit in traffic, and my new route feels a million times more beautiful!”

Below are responses from Marcela about her experience with her e-bike and this program.

Q: Before taking part in this program, what was your primary form of transportation?

A: Car

Q: What barrier did you face for making a change in your transportation before participating in this program?

A: In the past, I had tried a standard cruiser or mountain bike, but I could not get myself to use them to get to work consistently enough (mostly because some days it felt like just too much effort and wasn’t as flexible timewise). And financially, I wasn’t ready to invest in an e-bike.

Q: What was your experience of the GO Santa Cruz E-bike Rebate Program like?

A: The process was very easy. It was always very clear what the next step in the process would be. I didn’t have to jump through any hoops. It was as simple as answering some questions, submitting verification, watching a video, and picking out a bike. What made it easier was that the staff was very informative and flexible.

Q: Now that you have a new e-bike, what are you feeling/experiencing that is different about your daily life?

A: Now that I’ve been biking to and from work, I have so much more energy! The combination of fresh air, a beautiful commute, and not having to sit in traffic has allowed me to be more active overall.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for people considering an e-bike?

A: I would recommend just taking the initial step to apply for the GO Santa Cruz e-bike rebate program. There is a bike for every budget out there and even an interest-free loan you can apply for.

Q: Anything else you would like to share?

A: It feels great not only to save money but also help our environment.

We will provide more updates down the road. In the meantime, if you or anyone you know works in downtown Santa Cruz or for the City of Santa Cruz, please take advantage of this great local program! The GO Santa Cruz E-Bike Rebate Pilot Program runs until October 2022…or until all 100 rebates are dispensed.