In-Depth: Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced this bill to reinstate and modify the bicycle commuter tax benefit to incentivize bike commuting:
“Communities of all sizes are demanding better transportation options to get to work and it is past time that the federal government provides the flexibility and incentives needed to encourage bike community. We must offer more transportation choices that are better for the environment, cheaper for families and incentivize burning calories, not carbon.”
In floor remarks introducing this bill in the current Congress, Rep. Blumenauer added that the bicycle is the “most efficient form of urban transportation ever devised”:
“The bicycle is the most efficient form of urban transportation ever devised. Cycling reduces carbon emissions, provides enormous physical and mental health benefits, and is one of the most cost-effective modes of transportation available. Communities across the country have realized these benefits and substantially invested in building better bike networks and improving facilities for biking to work. Across America, more than 100 communities of all sizes have installed or permitted bikeshare systems, supporting a nationwide network of nearly 5,000 stations, more than 100,000 bikes, and more than 120 million trips since 2010. These investments are one of the reasons that rates of biking to work have nearly doubled since 2000 while driving and public transportation rates have increased by 16 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Despite these impressive developments, there is currently no commuter tax benefit for biking to work. Public Law 115-97 suspended the bicycle commuting reimbursement benefit through 2025, taking away a valuable financial incentive for people who choose to bike to work. The Bicycle Commuter Act reverses the benefit's suspension, changes the structure of the benefit to be more flexible to, and adds bikeshare as eligible for the benefit. Employees don't commute the same way every day and our commuter tax benefits should reflect that. The Bicycle Commuter Act provides the flexibility that people need while also incentivizing a clean and healthy mode of transportation: the bicycle."
PeopleForBikes supports this bill. Its Vice President of Business Network and Government Relations, Jenn Dice, says:
“During the last decade, bicycle commuting has grown by more than 50 percent nationwide, leading to reduced traffic congestion and the promotion of good health. The reinstated bicycle commuter benefit will encourage additional Americans to commute by bike, and further reduce traffic congestion throughout the country.”
Eillie Anzilotti, an assistant editor for Fast Company’s Ideas section, argues that while it’s a nice gesture, this bill won’t significantly impact bike commuting rates:
“Creating a financial incentive for people to bike to work won’t be enough to counteract the forces that keep people from doing it in the first place. For the U.S. to truly become a bike-friendly country, it needs to invest much more heavily in infrastructure like protected bike lanes and cycling trails, and attempt to rein in reckless driver behavior like speeding, which endangers cyclists and pedestrians. But recognizing people who do bike to work with a little extra cash can’t hurt.”
This bill has 15 bipartisan cosponsors, including 14 Democrats and one Republican, in the 116th Congress. The Association for Commuter Transportation (ACT), League of American Bicyclists, PeopleForBikes, the Coalition for Smarter Transportation, and the New York City Department of Transportation support this bill.
Of Note: In 2009, Congress established a $20 per month reimbursement for bike commuters in an effort to give cyclists the same types of tax benefits that drivers and transit riders access through their employers. However, in 2017, a provision in the Republican Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) suspended that benefit through 2025. After the TCJA’s bike policy was revealed, HuffPost reporters Arthur Delaney and Dave Jamieson speculated that the move was meant to punish Democratic voters:
“[E]limination of the bike benefit will raise an estimated $5 million a year for the federal government ― barely a rounding error among the $1.5 trillion in tax cuts. Since the provision barely affects revenue, the cycling advocates HuffPost interviewed sensed a political motivation at play. After all, even though people all over the country bike to work, the cyclists are more likely to live in or near big cities than in rural areas. Like the highly controversial elimination of the state and local tax deduction, the death of the bike benefit may have been a way to stick it to liberals who live on the coasts, shop at Whole Foods and vote for Democrats. But nobody seems to know for sure.”
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / stockstudioX)