Gas costs are high, pollution fills our air, and tax breaks are available for those who drive to work. Bicyclist enthusiasts, including some Congressmen in Washington, think the time is right to extend those tax breaks to bicycling commuters.
Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Mark Foley (R-FL) have reintroduced the Bike Commuter Act, H.R. 1265, which would amend Section 132 of the IRS Code to include bicycles as a mode of transportation that qualifies for transportation fringe benefit accounts.
Under current law, employers are entitled to create transportation fringe benefit accounts that provide tax exemptions for up to $180 to employees who park in qualified employer provided parking areas or up to $100 for employees who take mass transportation or participate in vanpools to commute to and from work. The money is provided to employees as a salary reduction that is not subject to federal income tax.
"It's time to level the playing field for bicycle commuters," said Rep. Blumenauer. "People who bike to work should have the same financial incentives as those who use transit or participate in a qualified parking plan." Rep. Blumenauer is a bicycling enthusiast who has biked to his Capital Hill office for years.
The League of American Bicyclists indicates that nearly 1 million workers commute on a regular basis by bicycle. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics has found that nearly 50% of the population commutes five miles or fewer to work each day. Reps. Blumenauer and Foley are convinced that many of these commuters would turn in their car keys in favor of bicycling with the proper tax incentives.
The Bike Commuter Act has failed to pass in previous years, however Rep. Blumenauer believes momentum is building to the point where the act could pass this time around. "It's the right thing to do," he said.