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Cargo Bikes and CARB

January 26, 2021

Bicycles are a fun, efficient, highly effective, highly affordable, and exceptionally healthy means of transportation.

With the recent advances in electric bicycles, including bicycles designed to carry passengers and cargo (electric cargo bikes), the potential of the bicycle to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions has never been greater. Electric bicycles allow almost anyone, even many people with disabilities, to travel comfortably and easily at average speeds similar to cars for many trips.

As the climate emergency intensifies, bicycles also offer an immediate method of slashing emissions where no other option is available. As California’s forests die and burn by the millions of acres due to climate change, yet California has outright resisted giving bicycling even a small place at the table when seeking to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, let alone protect us from the devastation expected with peak oil in the next decade.

This article is a placeholder for a much, much larger story: the story of what inspiring potential cargo bikes hold to replace a large share of motor vehicle trips, and the story of how that option has been suppressed even by California’s lead agency empowered to take action to protect us from climate change, the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

During my years at CARB, where I worked for the larger half of a decade, I advocated extensively within the agency to include bicycling, particularly electric bicycles, especially electric cargo bicycles, in its efforts to shift transportation and land use practices (as mandated by SB 375, AB 32, SB 32, etc., various Executive Orders and more), including developing an Energy Economy Ratio on my own time at request of Sam Wade, Branch Chief for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, finding by conservative estimates that electric bicycles are approximately 25-700X more carbon-efficient to perform the same job; organizing a well-attended and multifaceted workshop;[1] traveling to Europe on my holiday to attend the largest cargo bike conference in history and returning to give presentations to sustainable freight staff and all interested (resulting in a feature article on the CARB internal website by the Public Information Office);[2] and bringing attention to the fact that good science by one of the State’s top public health analysts found that a bicycle scenario was the ONLY way to achieve SB 375 Sustainable Communities Strategies targets.[3]

Unfortunately, the response from CARB management was to punish and silence me for these efforts, leading to my quitting the agency – for now.

Although the agency claims to be “technology neutral,” it continues to pursue a Business As Usual oriented solution of cars and trucks, ignoring the enormous problems with that path which are already admittedly and colossally failing (details another time!), while giving barely a shred of attention, and essentially zero funding, of its billions of dollars in resources, to bicycling, despite bicycling being far more efficient and expedient a solution than many short-sighted and unsuccessful efforts that are instead being funded and supported.

I recently brought these problems to the attention of the CARB Board at its December 10, 2020 meeting where I publicly called for a variety of CARB reforms (joining a host of others, including black employees at CARB, and the EJ community at large, as well as numerous experts who for years have pointed out failings in CARB policies).

At that meeting, I proposed internal reforms to protect staff from harassment and retaliation such as I had experienced, with the ARB Staff Protection Act (which had earlier been emailed to outgoing Chair Mary Nichols and other CARB and CalEPA leadership), as well as external reforms to tighten up accountability and effectiveness. Climate investments should be chosen based on efficacy, expediency and cost effectiveness to save lives, not based on politics and pressure from industry. Staff should have viable, trusted options to report ethics and accountability issues rather than be silenced and trapped while public resources and opportunities are misused and wasted. CARB has grown in power rapidly without provision to protect the misuse of that power, and that must change – our lives depend on it.

You can find my written comments and attachments (left and right column links respectively). You can also read the transcript with my statements and download or stream the video or audio of the entire day-long meeting.

CARB has not replied.

A short list of recent articles with a variety of perspectives on how California/CARB are failing:

This article will be updated over time. It serves initially (January 26, 2021) as a way to post certain references for a whistleblower retaliation complaint aimed at addressing CARB malfeasance.

Update 2022: A high level official at an evil-sister agency explained that within the Governor’s politic, doing anything in support of bicycling could bring public outrage that we are “trying to force people to ride bicycles.” Weak excuse to try to force people not to ride bicycles.

[1] Recording of the webcast workshop (Cargo Bikes: the California Potential!):
(Presentation available on DVD in the CalEPA library, along with full webcast file.)

[2] The Airwaves article on Cargo Bikes (accessible from inside the agency):

[3] Neil Maizlish presented ahz ITHIM analyses of SB 375 scenarios, finding the bicycle scenario most effective, at the CAT-PHWG in July 2017:
Webcast of talk:
Academic publication (Health and greenhouse gas mitigation benefits of ambitious expansion of cycling, walking, and transit in California):

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sasha Spring permalink
    January 27, 2021 2:03 am

    Jason , Thank you for sending . It’s good to read what you are up to . Hoping that you get “Heard “ Love Sashax

    Sent from my iPhone



  1. Where Are California’s E-bike Incentives? – Streetsblog California – slickandsmart
  2. Where Are California's E-bike Incentives? – Streetsblog California - Streetsblog California -

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