Blumenauer bill aims to boost US bike manufacturing

    A look inside the Cielo workshop in 2013. The brand was shut down by parent company Chris King Precision Components in 2017. (Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

    Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer wants to incentive a more robust bicycle industry. Today his office introduced the Domestic Bicycle Production Act to “reinvigorate bike manufacturing in the United States.”

    Rep. Blumenauer, considered the biggest bicycling champion on Capitol Hill is founder of the Congressional Bike Caucus and ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade. In a statement today, Blumenauer said, “Domestic manufacturing is the missing piece of the bike revolution. My legislation would give bike manufacturers the foothold they need to establish a thriving industry here in the United States.”

    The move is inspired in part by a recent policy decision by the Biden Administration that will increase the price of bikes. A tariff exception on Chinese-made goods will expire next week and will result in a 25% tax on many products, including e-bike batteries and some kids bikes.

    Here’s what the legislation would do:

    • Institute a 10-year tariff suspension on imports of bicycle components (i.e. electric motors, frames, wheel rims, hubs, brakes, saddles, pedals, gears, etc.) to incentivize bicycle assembly operations in the United States. 
    • Create a transferrable electric bicycle production tax credit for bicycles manufactured in the United States to encourage companies to utilize domestic manufacturing. 
    • Establish a U.S. Bicycle and E-Bicycle Manufacturing Initiative to make low-interest, 12-year loans to purchase capital equipment toward establishing or increasing capacity of domestic bicycle manufacturing facilities.
    Blumenauer at his retirement announcement in October 2023.

    A one-pager prepared by Blumenauer’s office said the lack of domestic bicycle manufacturing is an illustration of “America’s industrial decline” since the 1970s when brands like Schwinn, Murray and Huffy drove a major renaissance for cycling in the U.S. The U.S. currently imports 97.8% of its bicycles, that’s down from the mid-70s when upwards of 10 million bikes were made here.

    “The bicycle market is one of the most overwhelmingly dominated import markets of all U.S. consumer goods. More than three-quarters of those imports are from China,” Blumenauer says. His office points to a bicycle making renaissance in Europe where production has gone up nearly 30% in the past decade thanks to a combination of trade policies and investment in manufacturing facilities. Blumenauer thinks there is a similar opportunity in the U.S.

    Portland has been down this road before. Back in 2008, when Portland was the epicenter of a national renaissance in handmade bikes, our “bicycle industrial complex” was featured on the cover of Oregon Business magazine. With several high-volume bicycle makers in the region we seriously pondered whether a U.S. city like Portland could become a significant manufacturing hub. Since then, our local bike industry has become a shadow of its former self and the industry more broadly is suffering from a slowdown in demand and over-supply from the Covid bike boom.

    Last fall, when Blumenauer announced he would not seek re-election, he said he’ll have more free time to pursue passion projects and has hinted since that he’ll lean into bicycle advocacy as a civilian. Helping reinvigorate America’s bike manufacturing heritage would be a fitting feather in Blumenauer’s cap. As the top House Democrat on trade, Blumenauer says he’s in position to frame this legislation as part of, “a pro-labor agenda that raises global environmental standards while leveling the playing field for American workers.” 

    — Read the full text of the bill here.

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