Friday, October 3

Adventures of the Bike Commuter Act

Oregon's Rep. Earl Blumenauer introduced something called a Bicycle Commuter Act years ago, as a way to provide tax incentives for riding a bike to work. The idea was to include cycling to work as a recognized form of transportation and offer employers up to $20 a month in tax reimbursements for each qualified cyclist on the payroll. The language was woven into bill after bill over the years, but it never managed to hang on long enough to get passed and actually happen ... until now

... but somehow the circumstances are still sobering. The transportation fringe benefit was tucked into the sweetened bailout package that passed hastily all the way through the executive office today. It took me a good ten minutes just to find the darn provision buried in H.R. 1424 on the Thomas web site. The non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense estimated that $110 Billion in sweeteners were added to the initial $700 Billion purchase of mortgage-backed securities.

It's ironic that Rep. Blumenauer didn't even vote for his own Bicycle tax benefit due to his general opposition of the bailout.

Some perspective is important here. The bike benefit is expected to cost the federal government somewhere around $10 million a year, which is a small fraction of the amount currently doled out to help businesses pay for employee parking. Bigger yet are several more tax benefits for encourage automobile sales attached to this bill, and, of course, all of this is a drop in the bucket in the greater scheme of current events. Will this be the little push over a tipping point for workers around the country who have been meaning to save gas, get a little exercise, and help the environment? I guess time will tell.

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