British Columbia’s e-bike rebate program received 12,000 applications the day it launched, an “unprecedented” response that temporarily crashed the government’s website.
More than 4,000 applicants were approved in the first eight hours after the program opened June 1, but other users reported website error messages like “the server can’t connect,” which were ultimately resolved, writes Global News.
The program offers B.C. residents rebates ranging from C$350 to $1,400—depending on income—when they buy approved e-bikes that cost more than $2,000. It received more than 12,000 applications within 24 hours of launch, reports CBC News. And despite a long wait list of 8,000 people as of June 2, $6 million remains in the fund.
“I’m very pleased to see that people are so enthusiastic,” Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement to CBC. He said the level of interest was “unprecedented,” adding that lowering the cost of e-bikes would help make “efficient, emissions-free travel more affordable for people across B.C.”
The program will help up to 9,000 British Columbians acquire an e-bike, the province says. Applicants must be 19 years of age or older, and rebates may be used within 30 days of being approved. They cannot be applied to purchases made before June 1.
Bike shop owners report the lower cost is attracting interest, but some customers say the $2,000 price point is restrictively high, pushing the rebate beyond the reach of some low-income residents.
“Two thousand dollars might not be much to a regular household income but it’s almost unachievable odds for someone like me,” Port Coquitlam resident Lorelie Munroe told Global News. Living below the poverty line, Munroe said it would take 3½ years to come up with that kind of cash.
Fleming has said the price limit was set after considerable consultation on average prices and quality. “That [$2,000] was really the price point that the research suggested gave somebody the opportunity to purchase one of these e-bikes with a good battery pack and a high consumer rating,” he said.
Alex Alvarez, manager at The Bike Kitchen, said the rebate would help customers buy higher-end models that cost more, but are of better quality and can save riders in the long run by needing fewer repairs and tune-ups.
“They are being sold as these great solutions to get rid of your car, but then when people have to come in for constant repairs and adjustments they end up spending more money than they expected to.”
He warned that some of the more affordable, entry-level e-bikes found at department stores can be hard to service and may not have adequate brakes for their speed and weight.
Some advocacy groups say the application process should prioritize low-income residents and people with disabilities and offer them a higher rebate limit.
“People with mobility needs can buy [adaptive bikes] so they can get to places and those bikes tend to be more expensive, so there needs to be a bigger grant,” said Navdeep Chhina, acting executive director of HUB Cycling.