It may be only January, but Teddie Correa is already getting ready for the 2023 cycling season, which he hopes is even better than last year.
Correa opened Ted's Bicycle Studio in Stratford, P.E.I., just across the bridge from Charlottetown, two years ago. He sells bicycles and e-bikes, and does bike servicing and fitting.
Not only did the provincial rebates on bicycles and e-bikes encourage more people to buy — he said they also led to sales of more cycling merchandise with the savings.
"With that extra $100, it would make or break a deal on a better quality bike. Or they can buy extra accessories for the bike, like bike bags, racks or even a car rack," said Correa.
"So it's a win-win situation for me and it gets me well-established."
The province officially launched the incentive program in June 2022. It offers a $100 rebate for a new bicycle or $500 for a new power-assisted bicycle, or e-bike.
The province says 691 e-bike and 2,037 bicycle rebates have been processed — a total of $544,000.
Anytime anyone is investing in physical activity and helping people to be more active, I think it's a good thing. - UPEI professor Travis Saunders
A provincial spokesperson said the incentives remain in place and there are no plans to change the amounts offered.
The incentives have helped while inflation has been soaring, said Correa, because people are looking to use their vehicles less.
"Look at the gas price ... I know for myself, when I look at the bills at home, there's an extra couple of hundred bucks there that's missing already," he said.
The incentives are also helping Islanders get more active, said UPEI professor Travis Saunders.
"Any time anyone is investing in physical activity and helping people to be more active, I think it's a good thing," said Saunders, who is an associate professor in the Applied Human Sciences department.
"So the fact that it seems like quite a few Islanders are using those rebates, that's a good thing."
In terms of the difference in fitness benefits between cycling and e-biking — Saunders said the jury is still out, at least for now.
"We don't know a lot yet because e-bikes are pretty new, and any time that something new comes out, it takes four or five years to start getting really good evidence on it," he said.
"I think the evidence that we have so far suggests they're not likely to reduce your fitness."
In the meantime, Saunders said e-bikes reduce some of the barriers around cycling.
"I have an uncle in his 70s who really likes to bike, but he can't always bike with people in their 30s anymore and go the same distance or the same speed. By getting an e-bike last summer we did a 50-kilometre bike ride with him and it allowed him to do that much more easily and much more pleasantly than he could otherwise," he said.
Saunders said he'd like to see the rebate reflect people's income, like some other government supports do.
"I was looking yesterday and the cheapest bike I could find online on P.E.I. from the folks involved in the program was $1,900. So even with the rebate it's still $1,400 plus tax. So that's still a lot of money for a lot of people."
Besides the incentive, there are other things that could be done to get more people cycling, said Saunders, like building bike lanes with protective barriers in Charlottetown, especially on main routes.
"The painted bike lanes are fine ... but they don't really make people feel safe. You know, if you ask somebody, 'Do you feel safe biking down North River Road or University Avenue?' Most people would say no," said Saunders.
"That's why you don't see people using those bike lanes because you have no physical separation from traffic. Cars sometimes park in those lanes, so you're forced to pull out into traffic," he said.
The head of Cycling PEI said the government incentives are great and the group would like to see them continue.
"The more people on bikes, the healthier population we will have. And the more governments will pay attention to the infrastructure needed to support more people on bikes," said the group's president, Cynthia King.
"And currently we know all levels of governments have cycling and bike paths and those kinds of things on their radar. And they're investing in it, which is good."
Another request from Correa is bike storage racks that make it harder for someone to steal your bike.
"We've seen a jump in bike theft in the community, I'm always hearing about it," said Correa.
"If the government can provide a place, or even make bike racks that are more secure, especially for e-bikes ... you have a $3,000 bike but you don't know where to park it."