Electric scooter companies are requesting that Congress consider wider streets and commuter tax credits as policymakers begin crafting infrastructure legislation.
E-scooters may get a boost as the Biden administration seeks to promote sustainability through different means of transportation.
“I’m a big believer in not only making sure our cars are greener, but also that people have different alternatives to get around,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Bloomberg Radio last month.
Scooter companies have focused much of their government outreach at local and state levels, but that is changing. O’Keeffe Shahmoradi Strategies, a consulting firm, registered in the first quarter of this year to lobby on behalf of Spin, an e-scooter company that Ford Motor Co. bought in 2018.
Spin is pushing for federal policy because the timing is right given the Biden administration’s apparent interest, Brian No, the company’s head of public policy, said. He said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that lawmakers will consider including scooter-related legislation with the highway bill, which must be reauthorized in September.
“What we’ve been hearing from the administration is that they do consider micro-mobility to be one of the pieces in terms of how we’re going to solve our infrastructure issues as well as address our climate change agenda,” No said.
Scooter companies are calling for several recently introduced bills to be updated before becoming law. The bills would apply to bicycles or e-bikes, and the companies hope lawmakers will include scooters as well.
The Electric Bicycle Incentive Kickstart for the Environment, or E-BIKE, Act (H.R. 1019) was recently introduced to encourage the use of e-bikes through a consumer tax credit. A Bird spokesperson said they want to see that legislation broadened to include e-scooters.
Caroline Samponaro, Lyft Inc.‘s head of transit and micro-mobility policy, said the company is focused on two pieces of legislation: the Bicycle Commuter Act (H.R. 384), which would give bike commuters pre-tax commuter benefits; and the Bikeshare Transit Act (H.R. 382), which would make bike- and scooter-share systems eligible for federal transit dollars. Those bills are also a priority for Spin.
“We have built our transportation system around the single occupancy vehicle and to change that we have to incentivize and provide benefits for people that are going to make a different choice,” Samponaro said.
Nico Probst, director of government relations at Lime, said that the commuter benefits bill should also be altered to make scooters eligible. Probst said the conversations so far with members of Congress about incorporating micro-mobility have been encouraging and something that likely wouldn’t have happened a few years ago.
“It really tells you how far the industry and how quickly the industry has come, where scooters and e-bikes are really a topic of conversation for a broader infrastructure package,” Probst said.
Federal funding for bike lanes and widened streets is also a priority for electric scooter and bicycle companies. Legislation such as the Complete Streets Act would allow local entities to apply for funding to build projects including sidewalks, bike lanes, crosswalks, and bus stops.
Electric scooters and bicycles are replacing millions of trips that would be taken by cars, and transportation and tax policies need to reflect that “new reality,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, said in an email.
Last year’s proposed $1.5 trillion infrastructure package from House Democrats included incentives for alternative modes of transportation and provisions to ensure that roads work for all users, including pedestrians and bicyclists, said Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“This is an approach I continue to support as I work to craft my Committee’s transformational infrastructure legislation for this Congress,” he said in an email.
The administration’s climate goals will also help shape the infrastructure package, including its pledge to install more than 500,000 electric vehicle chargers by 2030. The companies see an opportunity to include micro-mobility in that push toward electrification.
When it comes to bike-share electrification, Lyft already has curbside real estate that could be electrified with federal funding through grants, and “EV charging could piggyback off of that,” Miller Nuttle, the company’s senior manager of bike and pedestrian policy, said.
Spin’s No said ensuring that local governments have the option of adding support to building micro-mobility hubs, or charging stations for scooters, is a focus of theirs. For instance, he said, tax credits given to those installing EV charger stations could also be applied to those installing micro-mobility charging stations.
“We want to make sure that we’re not just talking about motor vehicles,” No said. “We want to be brought into the fold of ongoing considerations, discussions and conversations around the need to bolster the electrification of our nation.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Lillianna Byington in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org