At its June 1 meeting Nelson council approved a city-wide electric bike financing program for homeowners expected to begin in late July.
The program will give Nelson homeowners low-interest financing to purchase a commuter bike including electric bikes, do-it-yourself conversion kits and non-electric bikes.
The loan will be applied monthly on the home owner’s Nelson Hydro bill and repaid over the term of the loan. The maximum loan amount will be $8,000 per household, which can support the purchase of more than one bike. Participants will be able to choose an amortization period of two or five years, with an interest rate of 3.5 per cent (subject to change each year).
“By increasing the use of bikes in Nelson,” said Mayor John Dooley in a news release, “we can reduce carbon emissions and pollution in our community. There is also increased benefits to having fewer vehicles on the road and more parking capacity downtown for visitors and retail customers.”
The program will become part of Nelson Hydro’s EcoSave program, which for many years has allowed homeowners to finance home energy retrofits and apply repayment to their hydro bills.
The costs of the bike program will be absorbed into the EcoSave budget and won’t involve any new money except for minor administration costs, Nelson Hydro manager Alex Love told council at the meeting.
“The funding pool which the loans will come from,” he said, “is proposed to be part of the Ecosave funding pool which is a half million dollars. This has been used quite a bit, but people have been paying off their loans so there is still half of that money available to be loaned out.”
Councillor Rik Logetenberg said it is likely that for some homeowners this program could be an entry point into the EcoSave home retrofit program.
Councillor Jesse Woodward said there has been a spike in electric bike sales since COVID-19 and many cities are increasing their bike infrastructure. He said he hopes this program could be a model for other cities and Councillor Brittny Anderson pointed out that this program is possible specifically because Nelson has its own hydro utility.
Councillor Keith Page said he wonders if participation could be conditional on the bike owner committing to have front and rear lights on their bikes.
Love pointed out that these things are not legally required.
“Councillor Page is on the right track here,” Dooley said, “because if we are going to ask the community to share the roads … a guy on a bike [in the dark] with no light is a common sight, so if we are going to be financing these things we should make sure they have proper safety features.”
Page expressed concern that the program excludes renters.
Love said this program could be considered Version 1.0, and that to include renters at this point would be a complicated matter to be considered in the future.
Dooley said he hopes participants will purchase their bikes at local stores.