Uncle Sam's Bike-to-Work Allowance Remember that big $700 billion bailout package that Congress passed? There were all sorts goodies tucked inside, including one for bicyclists. Yes, bicyclists. It's called the Bicycle Commuter Act and goes into effect January 1. While employers can already dole out tax-free funds to employees for parking and public transportation, this Act permits companies to provide $20 a month tax free to employees who bike to work, allowing the money to be used for bicycle purchases and bike upkeep. Spearheading the campaign for a bike commuter bill was Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. "We have legislation that is designed to promote cycling and to provide a little equity for the people who burn calories instead of fossil fuel," he says. ( Read more .)
It's 2009, and the Bicycle Commuter Act is getting significant media attention, from warm West Palm Beach to frosty Minneapolis . This media attention is very welcome. Most employers are probably unaware of the new bicycle commuting benefit, and many employers are struggling to understand implementation. One Silicon Valley bicyclist, entrepreneur, and Bike Commute Tips blog reader is developing a website to help cyclists gain Bike Commuter Act benefits at their workplace, including an application where you can send an e-card to your boss or HR director explaining your interest: BikeBux.com.
The actual benefit of the act, about $240 per individual cyclist each year is helpful, but minimal. The biggest benefit of the Bicycle Commuter Act is that it legitimizes bicycling as a commuting mode. This might inspire more employers to think about providing showers, lockers, secure bicycle parking, and other inducements to their employees. Providing free vehicle parking for employees is expensive (construction, maintenance, insurance, security, lighting, etc.), wastes valuable real estate, and offends a company's neighbors ("Too much traffic!") Employers can save money and burnish their corporate citizen credentials by offering their employees diverse transportation options, especially sustainable ones like bicycling.