An electric bicycle
A popular e-bike model. Photo courtesy Epic Ebike

There’s no doubt that the electric bike industry has boomed since the beginning of COVID-19. Cycle Industry News reported a 145% increase in sales of e-bikes from 2019 to 2020, and in North County there can be no doubt there is an abundance of new e-bikers.

At a price-point anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000, they are a noteworthy investment, but should the government be subsidizing these purchases without accountability? Absolutely not. Yet Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath wants to spend unlimited amounts of money to do just that.

Worse, many of us have witnessed near collisions between e-bikes or e-scooters and vehicles. Personally, I have been almost struck while crossing the street in a crosswalk, and many people have observed near-catastrophes on a daily basis.

In February, after seeing an increase in dangers posed to riders, drivers and pedestrians, and listening to the concerns of residents, I addressed the Carlsbad City Council and requested local guidance for clarification of local e-bike rules and regulations.

The Carlsbad Police Department responded with these guidelines: maintain control of your e-bike, wear a helmet, be alert and obey traffic laws, ride in a safe lane position, obey traffic signs and signals, and use the bike lane. Common sense, it seems to me.

Even though some near misses are indeed frightening, I believe most riders choose to ride safely and follow the law. But out-of-control e-bike riders aren’t the scariest part!

Now the state government wants to fund incentives for purchasing electric bicycles — atop significant out-of-control spending already happening at the state level.

Think I’m kidding? One of Boerner Horvath’s latest bills — Assembly Bill 177 — states that the purpose of her newest taxpayer-funded program is to “fund…incentives for purchasing electric bicycles” under the guise of an “air quality improvement program.”

Despite Horvath’s empty virtue signaling to the environmentalists, the government should not be incentivizing us to purchase electric bicycles when they are already affordable and available. That’s the job of Lime, Bird, and other companies in the San Diego region. Plus, those companies are held accountable by the cities in which they operate — not by nameless bureaucrats in Sacramento.

This legislation is a disaster in the making. Beyond the notion that this isn’t the role of government, there are no safety precautions, no spending limits, and no licensing requirements. Above all, there is no accountability to determine the efficacy of the program or its reduction in air pollution.

At a time when our tax dollars could be used for small business relief, enhanced law enforcement training, or homelessness interventions, our representative — my opponent — once again exhibits how out of touch she is with her constituents and how she is not a good steward of our hard-earned money.

Rather than spending our taxpayer money on projects with no accountability, AB 117 should not be allowed to see the light of day, Instead, we should let private industry incentivize itself with local accountability.

Melanie Burkholder is a Republican candidate for California’s 76th Assembly District.