Another one of the speakers at Bike to Work Day was Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. He, along with Senator Cantwell of Washington and Maine's two Senators - Snowe and Collins, introduced the Bicycle Commuters Benefit Act of 2006. This is the Senate version of the bill; Rep. Earl Blumenauer, also of Oregon introduced the House version. The bill extends the transportation fringe benefit available to those who take mass transit to bicycle commuters. I wish I'd listened to Senator Wyden on BTWD but I got distracted. But I hope the speech sounded a lot like his Statement of Introduction for the bill:
According to recent Census reports, more than 500,000 people throughout the United States commute to work by bicycle. Yet, they are commuting by bicycle at their own expense. Their fellow employees who take mass transit to and from work have an incentive created in the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century that enables their employers to pay for their bus or subway ride. This incentive is great for mass transit commuters but it discourages people from riding their bikes to and from their jobs. The Bicycle Commuters Benefits Act of 2006 will eliminate this discrimination against bicycle commuters.
The bill extends the fringe benefit that employers can offer their employees for commuting by public transit, to those who ride their bicycles to and from their jobs. Employers can deduct the cost of their benefit payments from their taxable income. This reduces the taxes that they pay to the federal government. And, in turn, employees will receive anywhere from $40 - $100 per month as a non-taxable benefit, to help them pay for the costs of riding their bikes.
This is not unlike one of the Solving DC Problems entries - and one of the best received, even if it didn't make it to the top 20. There is a lot of evidence that the metrochecks program is, in part, responsible for the boom in metro ridership lately, and I think this bill could result in an equal boom in bike commuting (along with $4 gas). (Later in the speech Sen. Wyden sends a nice shout-out to WABA, but doesn't mention Cycle Oregon - take that Rose City).
I already think biking is
significantly cheaper, but for those of you who disagree or are
unconvinced, I think $40 -$100 per month should take care of it. My employer
doesn't offer metrochecks, so they probably won't offer this benefit either -
but I hope to garner free rider benefits as all that money pumps into local
bike shops and more people get on their bikes and get involved.
The disappointing thing is that not one Senator, Representative or non-voting Delegate from Virginia, Maryland or DC has signed on as a co-sponsor (though the website warns that Cosponsorship information sometimes is out of date.). With an election season upon us, I think it's fair to go to a meet and greet and ask your local representation to co-sponsor the bill. (Pictured is John Kerry at the National Bike Summit - he also hasn't signed on)
Forbes has a great write up about the bill out today.
Employers can currently offer employees tax-free
reimbursement for up to $205 a month for parking and $105 a month for using
mass transit. So the cyclists want a similar benefit of maybe $40 to $100 for
employees who bicycle to work.
The four co-sponsoring senators sent out a "Dear Colleague" letter earlier this month asking for others to sign on, but they've gotten only a few takers.
Discovery Communications, owned in part by Discovery Holding (nasdaq: DISCA - news - people ), reimburses employees $350 for a bike, and it designed its three offices in the Washington, D.C., area as "bicyclist friendly," with secure bike racks, day lockers and showers.
The article talks about how no one wants to cut taxes right now. Ok, fair enough. Why not cut the parking benefit (to $190 or something) to pay for the biking benefit?