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The US doesn’t make bicycles anymore — right here’s methods to change that

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Good luck discovering a bicycle — an particularly an e-bike — made within the US.

It solely took 30 years for the US to lose its whole bike manufacturing trade. China dominates world bike manufacturing, with imports accounting for 97 % of bikes bought within the US, according to one report. Certainly, China has captured some 86.3 % of the US bike market. And now tariffs threaten that market.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer sees a possibility. The 75-year-old Democrat from bike-friendly Portland, Oregon, is introducing a brand new invoice that goals to re-shore home bike manufacturing by stealing it again from China whereas additionally serving to defend electrical bikes from excessive tariffs that would put them out of attain for a lot of People.

China dominates world bike manufacturing

His invoice consists of three totally different proposals:

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  • A ten-year suspension of tariffs on imports of motorcycle parts, like frames, wheel rims, hubs, brakes, saddles, and electrical motors, to incentivize home bike meeting;
  • A transferrable e-bike manufacturing tax credit score for bikes manufactured within the US to encourage firms to make the most of home manufacturing; 
  • Low-interest loans, repayable after 12 years, for bike producers to purchase manufacturing gear and different capital bills.

Blumenauer additionally needs to shut the loophole that enables for the import of low-cost Chinese language e-bikes with security checks, a few of which have been linked to deadly fires caused by faulty batteries. And he’s persevering with to foyer for his bill to give Americans a $1,500 discount on the acquisition of a brand new electrical bike.

And he’s attempting to get all of it carried out earlier than he retires on the finish of the yr, after half-a-century spent in Congress. Its been powerful attempting to get his deeply polarized colleagues to band collectively to assist, of all issues, bikes and biking. His e-bike rebate program stays stalled. All everybody needs to speak about is electrical vehicles. However Blumenauer, who chairs the Congressional Bike Caucus, sees these efforts as a part of the legacy he needs to depart behind.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer, left, from 2011.
Photograph By Invoice Clark/CQ Roll Name

“This can be a likelihood for a reset,” he mentioned in an interview with The Verge. “Individuals perceive bicycles are totally different.”

He cited the e-bike boom in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, by which hundreds of thousands of individuals discovered freedom from isolation and tedium within the buy of an e-bike. After having fun with years of recognition in Europe and China, it turned out People appreciated e-bikes too.

It was an added bonus that e-bikes have been linked to fewer automobile journeys, which has the potential to cut back carbon emissions, slash air pollution, and reduce local weather change. And a few cities responded to the recognition of e-bikes by installing bike lanes and building protective infrastructure to assist persuade individuals its secure to get out of their vehicles and on their bikes, and organising local tax credit and rebate programs to decrease costs.

However the nation’s commerce insurance policies, particularly as they relate to China, might find yourself bringing all that Positive momentum to a halt. Final month, the Biden administration introduced major new tariffs on Chinese language imports, together with electrical automobiles, batteries, photo voltaic cells, and a variety of different items — in search of to forestall China from flooding the market with low-cost merchandise that would endanger home producers.

E-bikes discover themselves caught within the crossfire. The Workplace of the USA Commerce Consultant has mentioned that e-bike batteries imported from China could be subject to 25 percent tariffs starting in 2026, up from 7.5 %. Previous exemptions would now not apply.

However slightly than let tariffs kneecap the e-bike trade proper as its gaining steam, Blumenauer is proposing a 10-year suspension to let US firms catch up and set up provide chains that circumnavigate international locations like China.

“It takes a while,” he mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t do it in a single day.”

That’s the place his home manufacturing incentives come into play. Blumenauer is proposing a 20 % tax credit score primarily based on the gross sales worth of a motorcycle produced within the US. If a producer sells a domestically produced bike to a retailer for $1,000, they might then obtain a $200 tax credit score primarily based on that sale. And the credit score could be absolutely transferrable, that means if an organization doesn’t have sufficient tax legal responsibility to make use of the credit score, it might switch or promote its credit to a different firm.

Working in live performance with the tax credit score is a low-interest mortgage — round 1 %, repaid after 12 years — to assist firms purchase the mandatory gear to start making their bikes within the US. Firms would want to satisfy sure benchmarks, like paying a prevailing wage and producing a sure variety of bikes a yr. However Blumenauer sees it as a robust financial incentive that may assist quite a lot of firms construct up manufacturing capabilities from nothing.

E-bikes are discovering themselves caught within the crossfire

“There’s a change in mindset and consciousness,” he mentioned. “The e-bike is a type of parts giving home manufacturing a shot, you already know, a toehold. I believe would make a major distinction.”

It’s a activity taller than the tallest tall-bike. The US was a bike-manufacturing powerhouse, however these days are lengthy gone. The homegrown gamers did not anticipate the recognition of “sports activities bikes” within the Sixties, permitting overseas imports to shortly dominate the market. First got here Taiwan, after which by the Nineteen Nineties, China rose to prominence. The writing was on the wall.

As we speak, its probably the most China-dependent industries within the US, however you hardly hear a peep from policymakers. The Biden administration is joyful to spend billions of {dollars} to prop up electrical car manufacturing, on the pretense of preventing local weather change. However the president has failed to increase the identical incentivizing hand to bicycles and, extra importantly, e-bikes — regardless of their very own local weather bonafides.

As we speak, its probably the most China-dependent industries within the US

It’s not laborious to see why. The US is a nation steeped in automobile tradition. The arrival of the auto spurred a multi-decade freeway constructing marketing campaign that successfully backed the auto trade, gobbling up land, and squeezing out smaller, extra economical modes of getting round, including public transportation. And vehicles have repaid us by wreaking havoc on our environment, our built environment, and our health. Now we’re left to take care of the mess we created.

However bikes — and particularly e-bikes — current a possibility to appropriate the sins of the previous. They received’t repair every little thing. We additionally want extra walkable cities and sustainable transit choices. However bikes will probably be an necessary weapon within the battle towards automobile tradition and local weather change.

Blumenauer’s invoice faces an uphill battle: divided Congress, no extra widespread floor, bikes perceived as a distinct segment trade. Plus Blumenauer’s imminent retirement. He’s not satisfied he’ll get it carried out earlier than he leaves, so he’s reaching out to colleagues to see who can carry it over the end line.

“There’s rising consciousness of the position that the bicycle performs throughout the board,” Blumenauer mentioned. “It’s probably the most environment friendly type of transportation ever designed. And after we mix this inherent benefit of the bicycle with electrification, modernized and home, I believe it’ll construct the momentum we’d like.”

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