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Bike commuter benefits is now USA law

by Richard Masoner

President Bush signed the Bicycle Commuter Benefits Act into law today.

Congressman Blumenauer of Oregon included a bike commuter benefit provision in the $700 billion Wall Street bailout package that passed both houses of Congress this week.

“We are delighted that the bicycle commuter benefits act has passed after a lengthy and persistent campaign spearheaded by Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR),” said League President Andy Clarke. “Bicycle commuters will now be extended similar benefits to people who take transit and drive to work – it’s an equitable and sensible incentive to encourage greater energy independence, improve air quality and health, and even help tackle climate change. Thanks to everyone who has helped reach this milestone, especially Walter Finch and Mele Williams, our government relations staff over the years who have worked tirelessly with Congressman Blumenauer, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and many others in Congress.”

The benefit allows employers to reimburse bike commuters up to $20 per month tax free for expenses related to their commute by bike. Bke commuters who receive other commuter benefits, such as a transit pass, are not eligible for further reimbursement.

 
The Chariot Summer Sale - 2013

38 Responses to “Bike commuter benefits is now USA law”

  1. Noah says:

    As much as I hate legislative riders appended to miscellaneous bills and acts… This is pretty cool stuff.

  2. Andrew says:

    but what does it do?

  3. Fritz says:

    I just posted full details at my personal blog, but briefly it allows US employers to provide up to a $20/month tax-free benefit to those who commute by bike. The $20 is in the form of reimbursements for buying supplies or paying for repairs and bike parking/storage.

    Multimodal commuters who already receive a commuter benefit (e.g. people like me who get a free transit pass) are not eligible.

  4. Just to clarify… Blumenauer did not put the bike commuter tax benefit into the bailout bill. It was put there by members of the Senate to entice him to switch his vote on the plan.

    so it’s sort of a bittersweet victory because the bailout bill is junk in my opinion.

  5. Fritz says:

    Thanks Jonathan — didn’t know that.

  6. AC says:

    How do you go about getting your $20? Do I have to submit receipts to my boss or what?

  7. LM says:

    I have the same question as AC, especially since my employer doesn’t even provide transit pass benefits. I have a feeling that if I ask for the $20, I’m going to have to write the work policy myself…

  8. mike says:

    wow this is pretty sweet to hear

  9. TKP says:

    What? This means if I ride my bike to work, my boss has to pay me $20 a month? Isn’t this just another tax? Once again, politicians are screwing some people while benefitting others. Anarchism is a much more peaceful way to get along together than politics, the world runs on it if you look at it, government is only hindering progress.

  10. someoneelse says:

    Anarchy is a good solution? Please tell me you’re joking.

  11. enrique says:

    This isn’t really the “news” part of the article. What this does is further illuminate how the bailout plan was passed: By the exchanging of political favors that have nothing to do with the point of the bill: to address a frozen market.

    This will come across as cynical; I’m sorry: Enjoy your $20 a month cycling benefit. The additional taxes taken from you will far exceed that amount. The net-net is really a loss.

    Wait and see.

  12. Fritz says:

    TKP: Employers are not required to provide the benefit, just as they’re not required to provide the already available tax-free free parking and other commuter benefits.

  13. Stuart M. says:

    Everyone who opposes the bailout is just advocating “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” Face it, the economy is broken. People can’t get credit to buy a home, companies can’t get credit to pay their employees or buy inventory. Unemployment is going up. People’s retirement IRAs are going down. All the House’s first voting down of the bailout before passing it did was hit the stockmarket for another 700 points. Of course the government had to step in. Allowing our disgust for investment bankers to thwart helping anyone else is really stingy and downright “Hoover-esque.”

    Oh, this is a bicycle forum. Sorry.

  14. Mike Panic says:

    So when I go into work tomorrow and give this info to my employer, do I just cross my fingers and hope they choose to give me the $20 in 2009 every month? Does anyone have any other info I can give them, such as how they get reimbursed for it? Exact details on this seem kind of gray right now and I’d like to do any of the labor work I can so they don’t just immediately deny it. $20 / month over several months a year I commute goes towards replacing a lot of tubes, tires, bar tape, blinky lights, etc. etc.

  15. Fritz says:

    Mike, the new law is an amendment to IRS Section 132(f). If your employer already provides fringe benefits under this section (e.g. reimbursement for parking or mass transit) it probably shouldn’t be too difficult to make the changes needed to add this additional benefit. At my employer, the company’s Environment, Health and Safety Division handles these benefits under their alternative transportation program. At other employers this may be through your HR department.

  16. Andrew says:

    Fritz. So is this more of a suggestion to employers, with a little bit of a tax break in store if they pay me extra to ride my bike?

    I think a lot of us are a little fuzzy on whether this is a “law” that employers are required to follow or something else that’s much more loose where it’s essentially up to us to convince our bosses to institute this. Sorry you have to do all of the heavy lifting with regards to explaining it, but I know I appreciate it.

  17. Fritz says:

    There’s no requirement for employers to provide this or the other Section 132 fringe benefits. Providing the benefit gives the company a (small) tax break, so basically the employer needs to already be inclined to provide this sort of benefit.

    I’m plan to talk to an HR or business tax expert this week to get better details and write it up.

  18. Andrew says:

    Thanks!

  19. Mike C says:

    That this legislation was included in the latest boondoggle is insulting. It was thrown in there to get a vote, no more no less. Part of an additional $150 Billion in tax cuts and spending on top of $700bil of actual bailout money. If the bailout was so critical, it should have passed on it’s own without the add-ons. Whichever Congresscritter’s vote this bought should be ashamed.

    By contrast, in the budget bill passed just previously, there was $25 billion in subsidies for the auto industry. If cycling was given the credit it deserves, it would have been part of a usual budget, not some red-headed stepchild tacked on to buy a vote. That opponents to cycling and spending in general can now use this as an example only shows it for the net loser it is–weigh the benefits and tell me if however many million being made available as tax breaks for companies to establish yet another bureaucratic process outweighs the negatives here.

  20. Ryan K says:

    I have already drafted an email to send to my HR representative. I think any company could get a lot from offering this benefit.

    http://www.goingCarless.com

  21. Fritz says:

    For those sending inquiries to their employers about possible changes to Section 132(f) benefits, I’d love to know the response. Thanks!

  22. Thank you. I am a bike commuter and I love it. It’s fun and good for my health and the Earth’s.

  23. Wayne says:

    I am glad the commuter act was passed, how ever once again it seems to only benefit those that work for major business’s in large metropolitan areas. My city doesn’t give any benefits to other transportation types so why in the world would they give me 20 bucks a month to ride my bike to work. Parking is NOT a problem in my neck of the woods, not even for cars, unfortunately. Yep every business is surrounded by ample blacktop full of cage spaces, gota love it… its the small towns and citys in America that need to change their habbits, if we ever want to wean our selvs away from the auto.

  24. Whoopee. I blabbered on about this legislation a while back and had sort of decided it wasn’t much worth the effort that’s been put into it. The only real positive is that cyclists are now offered a tax break just like transit users, vanpoolers and (drumroll, please) drivers, except that the benefit for cyclists is much smaller. For example, the (single-occupant motor vehicle) parking benefit can be as much as $209 per month.

    As for me, I get a transit pass worth about $39/mo. through my employer. Given the choice between the two, I think I’ll stick with that and enjoy cycling in good weather for its own sake.

  25. Ryan K says:

    Mauricio, I wouldn’t really consider the $20 “lousy” as you call it on your blog.

    I bike nearly every day. I, for one, think it would stellar to get that $20 to ride!

    http://www.goingCarless.com

  26. ray says:

    “…similar benefits to people…who drive to work?Think about it bikers,when you allign sometimes with private business and government,then eventually there may be the call for increased regulation for bikers,like registration,manditory insurance(whom benefits from that hmmmmn?),licensing,take and pass a safety course and you receive a certificate(that can be taken away,revoked by a law enforcement officer,judge,or state-Then what happens is you bikers that now have a Right to travel,then it becomes a Privledge.This has happened incrementally in many states(except alaska,and some others)where for private,pleasure,personal use of small boaters,one has to take a safety course and recive a certificate(that can be revoked),thus making for boaters-those that use the rivers,lakes,streams that was once a Right to travel on the waterway ROADS,then became a Privledge,this has an effect on bikers,as there seems to have been an effort by incrementally in usa,to control,regulate all forms of travel,first it was roads,then the waterways,then lastly it is bikers.Historically,the Founders knew what “liberty”was,look at what Thomas Jefferson said what “liberty”was.Then we have the declaration of Independence,and one of the Rights is Liberty.Liberty at that time,and now applied to the general public,but not members of the military,as they were issued”liberty pass”to be able to travel.And also blacks and whites in the Civil War were issued”liberty pass”to travel,and if they were caught travelling without such pass,certificate,they would be arrested,beaten,fined,their possessions seized or killed.this also happened to jews in the pale of czarist Russia.You see when travel is militarized we have no liberty and we all loose our freedoms.If we have to have a pass,license,certificate,registration,insurance,complete and pass a safety course,to travel by all modes the general public-for pleasure,private,non-commerical purposes,then we are not free,and the only place we can only be truly free to travel unrestricted is on our own private property,be it a lot,farm,apartment,condo,and that is sad,like many are like under”house arrest”.So many states’ are under economic distress,that we need to repeal some laws,to reduce our budgets,like the state boating laws,to save money.alaska residents should vote down all efforts to regulate private boaters also.I think that scientific innovation can lessen accidents,save money,and reduce the necessity of regulation.I love bikes.keep it simple.

  27. @Ryan K,

    Perhaps some detailed formula was applied to the various forms of transportation by our revered lawmakers to arrive at the $20 monthly amount for bikes, but I sorta doubt it. Compared to $100-200 per month available to the users of other modes, it’s paltry. If the objective of the legislation is to influence commuters’ behavior, I doubt such a small amount would do the job; if that’s not the objective, then why bother to clutter our already-byzantine tax code? Seems to me that only people who already commute by bike would take advantage of it.

    None of this is to say that I wouldn’t take advantage of it if I’m eligible, regardless of what I’ve written in by blog. Twenty bucks is twenty bucks 8-)

  28. @ Mauricio Babilonia

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. It’s not much and it probably won’t influence too many people, we both agree we’d take the $20.

  29. Eric says:

    @someoneelse: Why should TKP be joking? Anarchism (Libertarian Socialism if you prefer) is an ideology that is based on the radical idea that neither state power nor capitalism are equitable, logical ways to operate a society. Getting to an alternative system is at best tricky, but it has existed in various places/times. Civil-war Spain operated via anarchy with confederal systems of ‘government’ (Government? in an anarchy? Yes, many forms of decision making can exist in anarchy, they just cannot be hierarchical). The Iroquois confederacy was pretty anarchic. Also, one could say (and Murray Bookchin wrote) any confederal city-state system during feudal times was a better option, which while not perfect was more egalitarian than our present day decision making. Anarchy is just direct democracy (a republic like the USA likes to talk about Democracy, but it is a pretty pathetic excuse for it at best) for the 21st century.
    Check out “What is Anarchism?”
    http://www.infoshop.org/faq/secA1.html

  30. someoneelse says:

    Eric:

    I’m sorry, I need to correct one thing:

    The US isn’t a “democracy”. It’s a representative republic. Please understand this very important difference that most people don’t get, if you’re going to bring it up.

    “Direct democracy” sounds to me like “rule of the masses”. That idea makes me *very* uneasy.

  31. Andrew says:

    someoneelse: I’m with you. Rule of the masses is a scary thing.

    And anarchy might be the best for human rights (I assume that’s the main thrust of your argument, Eric), but it wouldn’t be a good thing in the modern world. We need a large centralized government that has the power to write rules that cover big groups of people and large swaths of land.

    If we didn’t have that it would be nearly impossible for larger corporations or institutions to operate. This might seems like a good thing at first pass but without large corporations we probably wouldn’t have things like the Internet, highways, standardized health insurance or international aid groups.

    Also, say we break it down to the city level… the isolated groups could very well get more and more extreme in their beliefs or government, as a more liberal/conservative city would attract a larger liberal/conservative voter base. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t feel very safe living in Boulder, knowing that just 2 miles south is Colorado Springs – essentially our political opposite. We could easily turn into modern-day battling greek city states.

  32. Fritz says:

    Nitpick: Co Springs is about 100 miles south and a little east of BOulder. From Boulder go southeast toward Denver, hang a right on I-25 and drive for two hours.

    Ward has their own little anarchic republic going, with their doomsday roadblocks in place to keep the wealthy Boulderites out of town when TSHTF.

  33. Eric says:

    @someoneelse: “a republic like the USA” I said. I know its not a democracy, but most people think it is somehow democratic, as suggested by the term “representative democracy.” I was just making the point that I don’t think our system works very well and it doesn’t seem very sustainable either.

    The idea is direct democracy in which people do not hold authority or power over others. Their ability to accomplish things other than survival as a hermit would pretty much depend on cooperation and

    @Andrew: You make some good points. Anarchy is anarchic and it’s hard to make sure that people are good, but an anarchic society would support human rights, environmental protection and justice. Look, there’s a lot of evidence that capitalism and centralized federal power structures suck for the environment and people. I don’t think they’re a necessary evil either corporations probably reduce more innovation than they promote (more innovation happens these days outside of them in small companies that collaborate with others, often with help of the internet, eg. Kogswell, Cetma, Xtracycle; Thomas Friedman talks about this for hundreds of pages). Anyhow, I could blab about this a while, but this doesn’t seem quite like the place. I just think we should think about alternatives in more areas than just transportation. Please check out the Anarchy FAQ above and actually think about if we really need all this stuff. Modern civilization depends more on language, agriculture and human creativity than it does corporations or hierarchical power structures.

    PS. I live in Boulder as well and think city-states like Boulder and Colorado Springs could probably keep to themselves…so long as they had enough bikes, food and beer. I’ll put it this way: liberals, at heart, just distrust the market, conservatives distrust the state, and anarchists distrust both. In the end, I think we can all find things we agree on as human beings.

    PPS. I’ll stop posting now. Sorry.

  34. Andrew says:

    Fritz, you got me. I said 2 miles and meant 2 hours [by car].

    Hey Eric, it’s cool to see so many Boulder people here. I’ll keep this short since this is supposed to be a biking website. I agree with you about innovation and the internet, my question is just how stable the internet would be in an anarchy. Would Qwest (for example) have the ability to go in to a sovereign city-state if they had to make repairs to a major fiber-optic cable? and how would it be maintained if currencies start to diverge?

    I’m sure I can find some of these answers on the FAQ above, I’ll check it out.

  35. Eric says:

    Andrew, not to diminish your point, but it seems there are many ways for this particular issue to work. I must admit there are many other issues that I might not have the answer to, this is one that’s obviously important to all the people reading a bike commuter blog online :-p. Corporations aren’t the only people who can fix things like that and aren’t the only way to organize people within a certain field or business. In civil-war Spain, syndicates, (basically an anarchically run union) organized and ran all the public transit services inside the country. Being that they were Anarchist as well as Spanish, I’m sure they were always late (har har). Alternately, in the future, I’m not sure we’ll need fiber lines anyways… I mean in remote regions that the OLPC (one laptop per child project) is targeting, ad-hoc wireless networks are how everything is supposed to run. Decentralization of power, internet, economies, everything, while still maintaining ties and organization and collaboration between distinct groups of people. No longer defined by imaginary lines and walls, rather by community and communities of communities, free to assemble and associate. Anarchy.

  36. @Andrew & Eric,
    Like we all know, this is a bike blog, so I too will keep it short. I find this conversation very interesting though, and I can’t resist.

    I have done quite a bit of reading about anarchism. Especially related to the christian church. In the end I believe the word anarchy has a negative connotation, but it can be a beautiful ideal.

    The one issue we have seen throughout history is sustaining anarchy. It is cyclical. Something shakes everything loose and we have anarchy working. The borders and inhibitions are down. Then these communities start to congeal. A pattern is formed. When we study a country or people group we look at: religion, government, economics, among other things.

    All of these things are part of any people group whether they have an official name or not.

    Ok, off my philosophical haranguing and back on my bike!

  37. Mike C says:

    This has strayed way into the political, but I would offer a couple of articles dealing with anarchy:

    http://mises.org/story/1778

    http://mises.org/story/2066

    I especially like the story about Somalia because it points out a huge thing–it works there because there are other forms for societal organization, including tribal/familial structure and religious ethics/morality. I have a harder time imagining anarchy in a more secular society without such underpinnings.

  38. Jerry Kalish says:

    Here is a link, http://www.retirementplanblog.com/-401k-plans-the-next-generation-of-taxfavored-commuter-benefits-bicycle-commuting.html, on benefit blog that talks about the new benefit. We have several clients who will be adding this benefit.

    Jerry Kalish

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