This is a real thing. Other than biking to work tomorrow, I'm not sure how a local could participate (Update: BicycleSpace is sponsoring some things). I plan to enhance the experience by fighting off any polar bear I see with my bicycle pump, and drinking a gallon of chicken noodle soup. .
Effective January 2015, DOC now reimburses government employees who bicycle to and from work, up to $20 per month for bicycle commuting expenses (not to exceed $240 per calendar year). Commuting expenses under this program may include the purchase of a bicycle or lock, parking/storage, parts, rentals, repairs, and general maintenance. Participants may not concurrently use the bicycle benefit with other DOC commuter benefits (e.g., mass transit, vanpool, or parking) during the same month, but may cancel one benefit and initiate another one on a monthly basis. The DOC bicycle commuter benefit policy, frequently asked questions, application and reimbursement forms may be viewed at http://www.osec.doc.gov/ofeq/Documents/OSBM/Bicycle_Policy_1_5_14.pdf
I'm surprised that the whole federal government doesn't offer this already, but this is a good change. If Obama's looking to improve health and fight climate change using executive power, making sure every federal employee has access to this benefit is one (if perhaps tiny) way he can do that.
That part of the law requires employers with 20 or more employees to start offering their employees either (1) a pre-tax benefit that provides commuter highway vehicle, transit, or bicycling benefits under the federal bicycle commuter benefit law; (2) an employer-paid benefit program whereby the employer supplies, at the election of the employee, a transit pass for each employee or an equal reimbursement of vanpool or bicycling costs; (3) free employer-provide vanpool or bus transportation.
While that doesn't mean that any employer will be required to supply bicycle commuter benefits, it's almost guaranteed that some will choose to. For employers who were inclined to do so already, this may be the nudge they need; and for others the bicycle commuter benefit ($20 a monty) may be a very low cost way to meet the requirements or to compete for employees.
The law goes into effect Jan 1, 2016, so if you work for an employer who this law impacts, now is the time to talk to them about how they plan to comply.
What would be really nice would be for DC to eat its own cooking and start offering District employees the bicycle commuter benefit.
The Census' 2013 American Community Survery data is out, and the DC area continues to show gains in bike commuting. In DC, bike commuting when up from 4.1% of all commuters last year to 4.5%, meaning that for the first time, more people bike commute to work than work from home. Driving is down to 37.6% from 39.7%, walking is up to 13.6% from 11.9%, and transit dropped a little from 38.6% to 38.5%. More people are taking motorcycles or cabs too.
As a result, DC now has a higher rate of bike commuting than Minneapolis, Seattle and San Francisco. Not that it's a competition. (But if it were, we'd be winning). DC is now the #2 bike commuting major city in the US (behind Portland).
Celebrate with millions worldwide by going Car Free or “Car-Lite” onMonday, September 22nd -- The Commuter Connections Car Free Day website www.carfreemetrodc.org is now live and commuters, residents, and students can take a pledge today to show support for reduced traffic congestion and cleaner air in the Washington metropolitan region, while being automatically entered in drawings for great prizes such as a Kindle Fire, and more!
Commuter Connections, a regional commuter transportation network coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, organizes the annual event in connection with World Car Free Day. Participants can qualify for prize drawings whether they go Car Free or opt to go Car Lite by sharing the ride to make more efficient use of their cars.
“Car Free Day is a call to action in the Washington metropolitan region, and around the globe, to make a positive impact by using transit, sharing the ride, bicycling, walking, or working from home instead of driving alone,” said Nicholas Ramfos, Commuter Connections Director. “The idea behind Car Free Day is to raise awareness of environmentally-friendly transportation options that reduce the carbon footprint worldwide,” added Ramfos.
The US-Africa leaders Summit is going on right now in DC, and while the local media is doing much to alert drivers about how that impacts their commute, there has been less help for cyclists. This article in the Washington Post mentions drivers and motorists frequently, but cyclists never. True, the closures are probably much harder on drivers than cyclists, but still, it shows a narrow focus.
It doesn't even mention that Pennsylvania in front of the White House (the part that is closed to car traffic, but open to cyclists) will be closed, despite it being a major bike facility. Disappointing.
Richard Layman found an old issue of the Washington Star from 1972 about a 23-year old bike-commuting stewardess flight attendant and her tribulations in trying to bike to National Airport.
There are so many interesting things in this article. The MVT was originally gravel (and they don't even call it the MVT in the article). The airline discouraged her from bike commuting and from wearing her uniform if she did. Check out the bike in the photo with that big light and that giant rear view mirror (that's sweet looking). She had to get permission from the airport manager to ride her bike on airport roads! I've transcribed it below to make it easier to read and search.
She's Winning Bike Battle
By Mary Eisner
"I think cars are great, but if just half the people on the George Washington Parkway every morning rode bikes, we'd all be a a lot better off"
Cathy Gilbert, 23, a stewardess for United Airlines, has been struggling for the last 14 months to prove that her alternative to the parkway traffic works. After a couple of compromises with airline personnel and one brief confrontation with the police, she appears to be having some success.
Using the new gravel bicycle trail which has paralleled the parkway since May, Miss Gilbert pedals 5 miles each way between her apartment in Alexandria and United Airlines Hanger [sic] No. 3.
Soon she expects to install her own bicycle rack at the hanger, which she hopes will encourage other stewardess and airline employees to switch to riding bicycles.
Since she began pedaling to work, she's run into considerable opposition, Miss Gilbert reflected. Before the trail existed she rode on the parkway, bring forth numerous objections from United Airlines officials.
Refusing her request for a bike rack, the airline warned that it did not want to encourage employes[sic] to ride bicycles to work as long as no paths were provided alongside the highway.
"They (airline officials) said it wasn't safe, but I think it was a way out," Miss Gilbert said. "But I went ahead and rode anyway, until they told me I couldn't ride a bike in my uniform," she added.
Switching to street clothes, Miss Gilbert was soon informed by the airline that she needed to obtain permission from the airport manager to ride her bicycles on airport roads.
Although granted permission in August of last year, Miss Gilbert was stopped by police a few weeks ago for riding on the access road to the airport.
"They were tightening up on security and I was in civilian clothes. They simply didn't believe that I was an employe[sic] commuting to work and they forced me to walk my bike all the way to the hanger." she related.
Hoping to avoid further complications, Miss Gilbert now carrier [sic] with her a written statement of permission from the airport manager.
In bad weather, Miss Gilbert commutes by bus. But on a sunny day her bike has the edge, she claims, estimating her travel time at 22 minutes.
I know (on a bicycle) I can beat the bus," she adds, "and it's free."
I was able to find Miss Gilbert, now Gilbert-Silva and follow-up 42 years later. She said that the reason the article was written was that her boyfriend at the time was sitting next to a reporter while talking about how ridiculous it was that Gilbert couldn't bike to work. She had gotten into biking, in part for environmental reasons, and she was ahead of the curve on that. She was also recycling long before others were.
For my part, I tried to make my riding a positive thing for my airline because we had just purchased the DC-10’s and, at the time, they were the most fuel efficient and quietest airplanes made. I encouraged the airline to promote the DC-10 along with biking to work and other earth friendly endeavors at the airline in their print ads, etc. It was early 1970’s and there wasn’t news about global warming or saving the planet. Purchasing these airplanes was primarily to save fuel costs and to accommodate the noise complaints from airport neighbors. The airline wanted to bring the DC-10 into National Airport. At the time, the runways couldn’t accommodate most jumbo jets, but the DC-10 didn’t need as much runway length to land. The Airport Authority also felt their facilities, passenger waiting and baggage areas couldn’t accommodate the numbers of passengers on the jumbo jets. I don’t believe the DC-10 ever got landing rights at National Airport.
After the article came out, she got a letter from her CEO congratulating her on her fight for justice and her efforts to promote the airline. He spoke to people at the airport and she never was hassled again. Her street clothes, which previously would disappear while she was flying, were now always there when she got back. A bike rack later appeared near the hanger entrance that she used and she began to see mechanics and ground personnel using bikes to get around the property. She continued to ride to work until she moved farther away in Arlington.
Even then, I continued riding and often led bicycle tours into Washington D.C. Once my son was born, I purchased a “heavy-duty bike” that could accommodate the weight of a child carrier. We rode everywhere and as he grew older, our bikes were on the bike rack on the back of our van when we traveled.
I rode that bicycle even after we moved to the Delaplane, VA area but I didn’t feel safe riding on the country roads, especially alone. My ol’ bike finally gave up the ghost a few years ago and the price of a nice lightweight bicycle today is prohibitive for me.
Cathy Gilbert-Silva, a flight attendant for 18 years, wrote Mr. Hatch, ``I will be so grateful when burning eyes, sinuses, and lungs, as well as headaches, nausea, lightheadedness, and blocked ears for flight attendants, will be a part of the past.''
And in June of 1989 she testified before the House Aviation Sub-Committee about how working on airplanes filled with smoke damaged her vocal cords (she did not smoke herself).
The airlines made attempts at separating smoking from non-smoking but, in reality, that was obviously futile. Here is a long aluminum tube with mostly recirculating air that just recirculated the smoke and other germs, etc. too. Passengers complained about that even more because it was impossible to make everyone happy. If they were a smoker forced to sit in the non-smoking section or vice versa, vehement objections were voiced. It was always up to the Flight Attendants to settle the matter in the effort of making everyone happy. The worst part for the Flight Attendants is that most of our jump seats were in the smoking section so we had to inhale all that nasty smoke and we always smelled like ashtrays. My little boy wouldn’t even hug me when I came home from a flight until I either showered or at least got out of that smelly uniform.
She eventually had to have vocal cord surgery as a result of smoke exposure. In 2003, when the airline went into bankruptcy, she retired.
I wasn’t willing to accept the pay and benefit cuts that I knew would come. I loved my job and loved meeting the world. I loved renting a bicycle in Europe and riding too.
On being an early bike commuter she said
I suppose I was, and am, a bit of a rebel, but it was always to right the wrongs. There was nothing wrong with riding a bicycle to work and it made no sense to me that people were battling it. To use a current expression, “Duh!!” What was the big deal and why was such a big deal made over nothing?!
The four policy options analyzed were: (1) The creation of a regional cycling network (RCN), currently being pursued by the Auckland Regional Council. It involves marked lanes with no physical segregation on 46% of main roads, 25 kilometers of shared footpaths per 100,000 population and a small number of shared bus and bicycle lanes. (2) Arterial segregated bicycle lanes (ASBL), with one-way, barrier-separated cycling lanes on all main roads throughout the region. (3) Self-explaining roads (SER), which slow car traffic through structural changes and visual cues. (4) A combination of arterial segregated bicycle lanes and self-explaining roads (ASBL+SER).
Compared to the business-as-usual scenario, all four alternative policies had positive cost-benefit ratios, ranging from $6 to $24 saved for every $1 spent. The number of cyclist deaths and injuries increase under all the options, but the overall rates fall because of the rise in cycling mode share. The total number of deaths also falls, primarily through a drop in car-crash fatalities and an increase in physical activity and health.
There was a 2014 Federal Bike-to-Work Challenge this past May and one of the "award winners" was the , Department of the Interior's Stewart Lee Udall Building for Most Improved Commute Facility
Just two years ago, the DOI’s Stewart Lee Udall Building, otherwise known as the “Main Interior Building” (MIB), had less than ideal bike commute facilities. If you commuted to the MIB and weren’t a gym member, showering wasn’t a possibility. However, thanks to a recent modernization program from the Interior Business Center, 10 complementary showers and changing rooms were installed. Now, with free soap and day time lockers, both cyclist and runner commuters are part of the norm. The hot water always works, even on the coldest days. The facilities are kept clean and the sinks and mirrors sparkle.
Overall, the evolution of adult urban biking in D.C. from fringe specialist activity to a more mainstream transportation model has been positive. It’s easy to see at a place like Bicycle Space DC on 7th Street. The judgment free zone and inviting decor is designed to welcome people who might be new to the life. And judging from the 3-floor warehouse full of bikes next door to their main storefront, the strategy is working.
“The people I hear from most nowadays, are the ones who are buying cargo bikes. A lot of families are moving to taking their kids to school on bikes and doing all their grocery shopping on bikes…that’s who I hear from most,” Antonio Pelton, their marketing manager said Thursday. “Because they want to talk about their situation and how their needs are going to be met, if they can go car-free.”