EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island is launching an electric bike rebate program, in memory of a late journalist, public servant, and environmental advocate.
The Erika Niedowski Memorial Electric Bike Rebate Program was announced Wednesday morning at Trek Bicycle on Warren Avenue in East Providence.
“She was just a great person who had the best interests of the people in mind when she was doing her work,” said Governor Dan McKee, for whom Niedowski had worked as communications director when McKee was lieutenant governor.
Niedowski was a renowned journalist, working for the Baltimore Sun from 1998 to 2007 — where she was a 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist for explanatory reporting ― and the Associated Press in Providence. She later worked for McKee and, after completing a master’s program at Tufts University, became the Rhode Island director for the Acadia Center and then the northeast regional director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access. She lived in Lincoln.
Niedowski died at 46 in October 2020 after a brief and unexpected illness. After her death, her loved ones set up a scholarship fund in her honor. And this past weekend, friends and family went “Out Riding,” as Niedowski would call it.
Now there’s a state program named in her honor, too.
“The Erika Niedowski Memorial Electric Bike Rebate Program is an amazing merger of two of Erika’s main loves: cycling and working to protect the environment,” said her longtime partner, Patrick Laverty.
The program will make $250,000 available for rebates when Rhode Islanders buy a bike that has an electric motor, a battery, and functional pedals. It’s an addition to the Office of Energy Resources’ DRIVE EV electric vehicle rebate program. Of that $250,000 total for e-bikes, $150,000 will be set aside for low- to moderate-income Rhode Islanders. The e-bike program formally launches Monday.
People will be able to get up to $400, or 30 percent of the final purchase price of an electric bicycle, whichever is less. The program for low- to moderate-income residents will be for up to $1,000, or 75 percent of the final purchase price, whichever is less. The bikes must be bought in Rhode Island, on or after Monday. It doesn’t include electric motorcycles or scooters. The rebates will be first-come, first-served.
The program was announced at Trek’s location on Warren Avenue in East Providence, which offers gear, repairs, and bicycles — including a model branded, appropriately for the locale, “Townie.” Store manager Adam Anderson said that while they’re not their top seller, e-bikes are a popular option among customers these days.
E-bikes are good for people carrying cargo or children or navigating the hilly streets of Providence, or all three at the same time.
The e-bike rebate is in addition to the state’s electric vehicle program, which launched in July and still has more than $1 million available. When the state opened public comment for the electric vehicle rebate, one of the top responses was that people wanted to add e-bikes to the program, said Sara Canabarro, who’s administering the program in the Office of Energy Resources.
“A few months later, here we are,” Canabarro said. “We heard the public.”