Congress Passes Commuter Act

Employers of people who bike to work stand to gain a $20 per month tax credit per cycling employee, according to the final version of the Wall Street bailout bill, H.R. 1424, passed this afternoon...

What does bicycle commuting have to do with credit issues or covering the debt racked up on Wall Street? Bicycle commuting advocate Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Representative from Oregon, was one of the 228 Representatives who voted against the House version of the bailout package on Monday. House members looking to pass a bailout bill needed to convince as least 12 of the dissenters to switch their position and vote for a bailout bill...

Congressman Blumenauer spearheaded a seven-year campaign to extend commuter tax benefits to those who bike to work. Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, said the Bicycle Commuter Act has been held up getting through with previous bills. “It’s been attached to a variety of different bills or devices—climate change, energy, transportation,” Clarke said. “It’s ironic that it would wind up in a financial rescue package, but we’ll take it. I’m not going to quibble with the method; I’m glad to see it done.” (Read more.)

A number of blogs have already commented on the inclusion of the Bicycle Commuter Act into the ridiculous $700 billion Federal pork barrel bailout of Wall Street, including great coverage by Cyclelicious,, StreetsBlog, and a survey of bicycle commuting attitudes by Outside Online. The bicycle commuter provisions of the bailout have also aroused hostility in less supportive quarters, summarized by Philadelphia Bicycle News:

"Bicycles are in the headlines today, but not in a good way. (The) Bicycle Commuter Act is tied into the Tax Bailout Bill lumping bicycle commuters with Rum Makers and tax breaks for NASCAR. They are labeling the Bicycle Commuter Tax Break as Pork, does this mean that Transit Check and commuter parking benefits are also Pork?"

As I understand it, the Bicycle Commuter Act provides employers a tax break of up to $20 a month if they give some bicycle commuting benefits to their employees. It's a modest step forward. "It may not be a total game changer," the LAB's Clarke told Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. "It's still a relatively small break. But it gets us closer to the kind of treatment that cyclists in the U.K. and other parts of the world have had for years."

This measure may attract a few additional bicycle commuters. Personally, I would have preferred that $700 billion spent on beneficial economy stimulating public works projects, such as passenger rail, bicycle facilities, and transit. However, this bailout will likely have another more significant favorable effect. Essentially, the Fed policy seems to be dollar devaluation, reducing the debt crisis through inflation. This can only mean even higher prices for gas, increasing the relative appeal of bicycle commuting.

Via Bike Commute Tips

1 comment:

Saferoutes said...

I guess we should be happy about any legislation that favors bicycle commuters. But this just seems so vague, weak and well... patronizing? I wish we could see some legislation for bicyclists that is not hiding in a controversial bail-out bill just to entice lawmakers to vote on dubious legislation. But, I guess it is better than nothing.