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Raleigh to launch voucher program for e-bikes

FILE - A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020, in New York.
John Minchillo
FILE - A delivery worker rides his electric bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, March 16, 2020, in New York.

Raleigh hopes to get more residents riding battery-powered bicycles.

E-bikes can be pricey, as some models cost $2,000 or more, but Nicole Goddard says they have many benefits. She's with the city's Office of Sustainability.

"E-bikes are capable of replacing most car trips," Goddard told the city council at a work session this week. "The Department of Energy estimates that 75% of U.S. vehicle trips are less than 10 miles which is a distance that can be covered comfortably on an E-bike. Even without electric power, they still function as a bicycle. So if your battery drains you can still get home."

The council approved a pilot project to encourage e-bike ridership. Residents can apply for $500 vouchers which could be used for the purchase of new e-bike. People with lower incomes can qualify for larger vouchers.

"If they could offer proof of income at or below 80% of AMI (area median income), they would qualify for an income qualified voucher. And that would be $1,500 per person," Goddard said.

The pilot program is funded through a federal grant. Council member Jonathan Melton asked city staff to develop a long-term program using money from Wake County.

Other cities around the country — including Denver, Austin, and Burlington, Vermont — have launched similar voucher programs.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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