Thursday, November 12, 2009

U. S. Dept. of Transportation bike commuters

U.S. DOT bike commuters are featured in a recent blog post by the Secretary of Transportation entitled DOT bike commuters leading by example: "Last week, on a walk through DOT headquarters, I met Thomas Dorset. Now, Tom is in his late-ish 60s, works for our Federal Railroad Administration, and commutes the 10 miles to work (and 10 back) by bicycle." We did not add the emphasis, and yes, it is possible to commute 10 miles by bike. It takes an average cyclists about 45-60 minutes, probably not much longer than driving in DC rush hour traffic, and parking is free, as is your workout.

The DOT Bicycle Commuters Group "consists of about 80 people who meet monthly to share information and come up with ways that DOT can provide more support for its bicycle commuters." I hope they are taking advantage of the Bicycle Commuter Act benefits of $20/month. As was pointed out back in August, the Government Accounting Office has authorized at least one federal agency to implement the benefits under the Transportation Fringe Benefit Program.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

GAO ruling on Bicycle Commuter Act

According to The Wash Cycle, the Government Accounting Office recently ruled that employees of a federal agency, the National Indian Gaming Commission, are eligible to receive the bicycle commuter benefit of $20/month:
Under the federal government's transportation fringe benefit program, as established by 5 U.S.C. sect. 7905 and Executive Order No. 13150, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) provides monthly transit subsidies to employees who certify that they use mass transit to commute to and from work. NIGC may use its authority under 5 U.S.C. sect. 7905 to extend the program to provide a $20 cash reimbursement to those employees who commute to and from work by bicycle. If NIGC chooses to do so, NIGC should consider the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. sect. 132(f)(5), and guidance provided by the Internal Revenue Service and the Office of Management and Budget.
Many agencies have been investigating the benefit but to my knowledge, none have yet provided it to employees. The GAO ruling should settle the issue. If you are a federal employee and would like to apply for the benefit, you should be able to reference the GAO ruling to convince your employer that they can provide the benefit.


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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dutch bikes and bike commuter benefit in NYT

The classic Dutch bicycle is featured in an article in the New York Times, Riding the It Factor. As bicycling becomes more popular in New York City and elsewhere, more people are using bicycles for transportation, without the need for special bike clothes. In the Netherlands, bikes are a regular transportation option for people, most of whom ride simple, upright bikes with fenders and chain guards that protect their clothes.
The Great Downturn may have its first real status symbol. It has plenty in common with recent extravagances. Like the Range Rover or the Sub-Zero fridge, it has a solid frame designed for function. Like a Louis Vuitton trunk, it has a chic design and a patina of history stretching back to the 19th century. And like a bottle of San Pellegrino, it evokes that genteel way of life that Europeans are always going on about. This new It object is the glossy black Dutch bicycle, its design unchanged since World War II.
The second article, Biking Has Its (Tax) Benefits. Or Does It?, describes some of the problems with the Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit. The main problem is that cyclists are not able to combine the public transit benefit with the bike benefit ($20/month), so most choose the transit benefit. In a place like New York City many cyclists combine public transportation with their bike commute. As we noted in an earlier post, Congressman Blumenauer's Multi-Modal Commuter Transit Bill will allow cyclists to use both benefits when applicable.

As we mentioned earlier, Accor services "began offering a bicycle commuter check to employers only last month", although only to companies with fewer than 50 employees.
Next week, on Earth Day, the company plans to announce that it will be setting up its Commuter Check program for participating medium sized companies — those with as many as 5,000 employees.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

H.R. 863 The Multi-Modal Commuter Transport Bill

As we perused Congressman Blumenauer's website recently, we happened across his Bicycle Goals for the 111th Congress which includes a description of H.R. 863 The Multi-Modal Commuter Transport Bill:

"On February 4th, 2009, Congressman Blumenauer introduced the 'Multi Modal Commuter Transport Bill,' a bill which amends the existing Bike Commuter Tax Credit to allow employees to receive transportation fringe benefits for the same month both in the form of transit passes and reimbursements of qualified bicycle commuting expenses. This bill also makes technical corrections to the tax credit to make it more user friendly for employers and employees."

This is a much needed modification of the current Bike Commuter Tax Provision which doesn't allow commuters to combine the transit and bike benefits. Many cyclists use both modes and both should qualify as transportation fringe benefits. The proposed bill should also clarify implementation of the bike commuter benefit, which as Bike Portland has stated, is currently the source of much confusion.

Both the San Francisco Bike Coalition and The League of American bicyclists have info about the provision on their websites.

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Congressional lobby visits

FABB joined the Virginia Bicycle Federation and Bike Summit participants on Capital Hill yesterday to lobby for better bike facilities. Allen Muchnick, VBF President, scheduled visits with legislative staff for members of Congress representing Northern Virginia: Rep. Frank Wolf, Rep. Gerry Connolly, and Rep. Jim Moran. We asked that the representatives support the Complete Streets Act of 2009, and the Clean, Low Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (CLEAN TEA), both of which will help provide safe, convenient facilities for bicycle transportation. We will track these bills as they work their way through Congress and will encourage cyclists to contact their Congressional representatives to ask for their support at the appropriate time.

We also discussed implementation of the Bicycle Commuter Tax Provisions, extension of the Mt. Vernon Trail from Rosslyn to the American Leagion Bridge, and a list of N. Va. projects compiled by Allen. Thanks to Allen for arranging the meetings.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Commuter Check Voucher for Bicycling

Does your company offer the new Bicycle Commuter benefit of $20/month toward the costs of bicycle commuting? Accor Services recently announced the availability of Commuter Check Vouchers for the Bicycle Commuter Act that went into effect on January 1, 2009. Employers can implement the program in one of two ways, 1) as a $20 per month subsidy (where the employer pays the cost) or 2) as $20.00 per month pre-tax salary deduction (where employees take the money out of their salary pre-tax).

Vouchers are then issued for the subsidy amount. According to the Commuter Check website, "Vouchers are redeemable at dedicated bicycle shops and bicycle parking and storage locations across the country."

The only "dedicated bicycle shops" (Excel file) listed for Virginia are REI stores in Bailey's Crossroads and Fairfax. Bicycle shops can apply to participate in the program, so contact your local shop to encourage them to sign up.

[Update: It looks like The Bike Lane and bikes@vienna will both be accepting vouchers in the future.]

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