editorial in support of bike commuter act

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Brent Hugh, Apr 2, 2003.

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  1. Brent Hugh

    Brent Hugh Guest

    From The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.

    This was picked up in an "editorial roundup" and evidently published in a whole bunch of newspapers
    around the U.S. I found it at



    The decision to move against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was based in large part on the calculated
    fear that the Iraqi leader's weapons of mass destruction could be shared with terrorists unafraid to
    use them against the United States and our allies. Concern about human rights abuses suffered by the
    Iraqi people at the hands of a ruthless dictator also was considered.

    But more conspicuous to the rest of the world might be our nation's tangible interest in oil
    reserves of the Middle East.

    Instability in the Middle East inevitably motivates Americans to seek ways to reduce dependence upon
    that region for U.S. energy needs. Unfortunately, as long as our nation is predominantly fueled by
    oil, there is a limit to how much that dependence may be reduced.

    Some lawmakers in Congress are looking for ways to reduce oil dependence by reducing overall
    consumption. One small plan would reward people who ride their bikes to work. ...

    Those effects might be compared with the savings to a household from adjusting the thermostat a few
    degrees and turning off lights in unoccupied rooms. Over time, thousands of dimes add up to hundreds
    of dollars. ...

    The Bike Commuter Act, which has failed to gain much support in Congress in previous years, might be
    subtle, but it sends the right message. ...


    --Brent bhugh @ mwsc.edu


  2. Paul Turner

    Paul Turner Guest

    The editorial cited concluded:

    > The Bike Commuter Act, which has failed to gain much support in Congress in previous years, might
    > be subtle, but it sends the right message. ...

    "Subtle" overstates the case. This legislation comes ridiculously close to being purely symbolic. It
    is a waste of time and energy. It can be dressed up to look nice in a press release, but what the
    bill actually does isn't worth doing.

    What the bill says is this: If an employer decides that it would like to subsidize those of its
    employees who commute from home to work by bicycle, the employees won't have to pay income tax on
    the subsidy, as long as the subsidy is no more than $65 per month. This means a highly compensated
    employee paying income tax at the maximum rate could save about $20 a month in taxes if his or her
    employer were to adopt such a program.

    Does anyone think employers would establish subsidy programs in any significant numbers if this bill
    passed? It would require not only payment of the subsidy, but record keeping and enforcement. The
    subsidy couldn't be paid to everyone, only to actual bicycle commuters. The IRS would establish
    rules -- as it does for all similar tax-free fringe benefits -- and at a minimum employees would be
    certifying how many days they rode to work and the employers would be holding those records for
    seven years. I simply don't think the cycling contingent is strong enough at more than a handful of
    companies to talk management into the expense and trouble of such a program. The editorials and
    advocacy pieces seem to me to skim the surface on this issue, leaving some readers to imagine that
    the bill would create a direct tax benefit all bike commuters could take advantage of. No, all it
    does is permit employers to subsidize cycling tax free if they want to, and they won't want to.

    Even if this weren't true, I think it is silly to claim that a law like this would encourage
    commuting by bicycle. If there is one thing that is abundantly and irrefutably clear about commuting
    by bicycle, it is that we save loads of money. There is no earthly need for the government to
    provide a financial incentive for cycling to work. The incentive is there. If financial benefit were
    sufficient to get people out of their cars and onto bikes, everyone would be cycling.

    Our office moved last weekend and I got to ride to the new location for the first time Tuesday. I
    discovered that the daily cost of garage parking in the new building is $18. You can buy quite a
    bicycle for one year's saving at that rate. I realize that's higher than in most places, but parking
    only scratches the surface of ways in which cyclists save money over motorists.

    Whatever the cost of this tax law change is thought to be, the money could be spent in dozens of
    ways that offer cyclists more. Widen some curb lanes! Enforce some traffic laws! Create some safe,
    enclosed bicycle parking! The government would do far better to address the real concerns that keep
    people from biking to work, because cost isn't one of them.

    I guess some could say this tax bill is better than nothing, but I don't agree. It's a chance for
    some legislators and some cycling advocates to say that they're working for us, when they're not
    really offering anything useful. Their efforts should be devoted to more practical goals.

    (Apologies to non-U.S. members of the news group for ranting about our local tax policies.)

    Paul Turner
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