Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Bicycle Commuter Act

If you commute to and from a job by bicycle, as of January 1 you may be eligible for some new employer incentives... if you can get your employer on board. Now is the time to do some lobbying, I'm thinking.

(I mentioned this before, last October. Thanks to bob t for reminding me.)

The Bicycle Commuter Act was added as a "sweetener" to get at least one congressman (Earl Blumenauer, D-OR) on board with the recent $700 billion taxpayer-sponsored bailout. (Ironically, he voted against the bailout anyway, and he has my admiration for that. Of course, the bailout passed.)

In a nutshell: "For employees who regularly commute to work by bicycle, employers may offset the costs of bicycle purchase, improvement, repair, and storage at the rate of $20 per month. Based on how the employer chooses to offer the benefits, the employee may bring receipts to be reimbursed, may sign up for regular monthly payments, or devise some sort of voucher system with their employer."

I sent a message to my Human Resources manager at the office. She promised to look into it, and to advocate for some bike-rider props.

(We've always had sheltered and fairly secure bike parking - they could probably just start taking the $ credit for providing parking. But I hope they'll choose to encourage more employees to bike-commute, by dangling some kind of carrot in addition to the parking.)

If your employer provides free car parking to employees, seems to me you'd be on pretty solid ground asking for some decent bike parking, if nothing else. And Uncle Sam (the taxpayers, actually) will help foot the bill, starting in January.

(More specific information, including the actual statute, can be found at Congressman Blumenauer's website. He's arguably the bicycle commuter's best friend in Washington, D.C.)

Frankly, I'd much rather see Congress remove the tax incentives that encourage people to drive single-occupant motor vehicles to work. That would be the fiscally-responsible thing to do. But since that obviously ain't gonna happen, and since Congress is totally detached from the concept of fiscal responsibility, we might as well get a small slice of the pie, huh? Our kids and grandkids can pay for it.

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