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Blumenauer says Bike Commuter Act matter of equity

Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on March 15th, 2007 at 7:40 am

Congressman Earl Blumenauer introducing his Bike Commuter Act at the House Office Building. Members of the Oregon contingent in the background.


Congressman Earl Blumenauer reinvigorated his effort to bring equity to all modes of transportation by officially announcing his new Bike Commuter Act (H.R. 1498) at a press conference today at the House Office Building.

"Stop the discrimination against people who burn calories instead of fuel."
-Earl Blumenauer

Blumenauer is leading what he called a "bike-partisan" effort to pass this bill. An identical version was just introduced on the Senate side by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

The bill aims to balance the incentive structure by extending the Transportation Fringe Benefit (which currently includes a subsidy for parking and mass transit use) to include bicycling.

A statement from Blumenauer's office says "excluding this highly preferred mode of transportation (cycling) is counterintuitive."

The tax benefit outlined in the bill has an estimated total tax benefit of just $49 million over five years, which is a miniscule amount compared to the current benefit for parking ($4.5 billion) and mass transit ($380 million).

According to Blumenauer, he designed this bill to,

"Stop the discrimination against people who burn calories, not fuel."

Blumenauer chats with Bike Gallery
owner Jay Graves and Alison Hill
from the Community Cycling Center.

He said he has fought for transportation equity on the Hill for years. He told a story about how they used to give unlimited free parking to members of Congress, but if you wanted to take transit you had to pay.

Blumenauer fought that policy and brought his concerns to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich,

"I finally tracked Newt down at the gym and made my pitch to him while we were on the treadmill."

Blumenauer also said that he plans to integrate this bill into,

"broader conversations on climate change, energy policy, etc..".

He then encouraged Summit attendees to promote this bill in their meetings with members of Congress today.

Click here to download the bill (243KB jpeg). [It's a photographed version so I apologize (it's better than nothing!).]

UPDATE: Here's a fact sheet on this Bill from Earl Blumenauer's office. (480KB PDF)

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Comments
  • Charles March 15, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Do you know what the chances are for this passing? Or, even making it further in the process?

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  • Scott Mizée March 15, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Very interesting again... I'm going to forward this post to our HR Department.

    Scott Mizee
    MulvannyG2 Architecture

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  • Dabby March 15, 2007 at 11:54 am

    Hopefully this does not pass, and leads to a re-evaluation and discovery of the real need, tax breaks and incentives for all working and commuting cyclists...Not just those who happen to work for the right company...

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  • Cecil March 15, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    I have been trying to post on this but for some reason my posts don't seem to come through. I have been looking for the actual text of the bill but have found only last year's Senate version - that may be the same, I don't know. The 2006 version merely states "Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (relating to general rule for qualified transportation allowance) is amended by adding at the end the following: "(D) Bicycle commuting allowance." The bill then defines the "bicycle commuting allowance" as "an amount provided to an employee for transportation on a bicycle if such transportation is in connection with travel between the employee's residence and place of employment."

    It is entirely unclear to me what that is supposed to MEAN. The other transportation fringe benefits are in the form of pre-tax set-asides from the employee's salary for money the employee would be spending on parking or mass transit. In other words, if I spend $100 per month on parking, I arrange to have $100 per month deposited into a pre-tax flex account - then I get reimbursed from that account as I incur the costs. In my tax bracket, that translates into me paying only $75 net per month for parking instead of $100.

    This amendment, however, reads as if it relates to a subsidy or cash compensation from the employer to bike commuters. That is a very different thing because it puts tax-free money in my pocket, rather than simply decreasing the money coming out of my pocket . . .

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  • Mark March 15, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    For 9 years I took Tri-met to work and got a $15/month subsidy from my employer (which has a terrible parking problem). I just finished my first whole year of bike commuting, and went and asked if they were willing to extend the subsidy to me, since I was still helping to ease their parking problem.

    "Blink, blink" was the response.

    So I'm for this bill, for equities sake. Employers won't do sh*t for workers, unless it costs them little to nothing.

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  • Martha March 15, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    Hey Dabby, I realize that you're not in a position to personally benefit from this bill, and I realize that it does reduce tax revenues, which means that there will be less money for education, infrastructure improvements, and overseas bombs. However, you're overlooking one major point here.

    In many businesses, car-driving employees are getting a tax break for driving their cars, and transit-using employees are getting a subsidy for riding transit, while cyclists are on our own. That's discrimination. It's also a message to me that my chosen mode of transportation isn't really a legitimate one -- someday I'll need to grow up and start driving to work (after this morning's commute, I'm about ready to drive to work just so I can ram into other car drivers and get them back, but I digress).

    Rather than argue that the bike bill shouldn't pass (which is akin to arguing that this inequality should stay in place), you should probably be arguing that the car subsidy should be removed. Until that happens, recognize that this is one more step towards equality and respect for bike commuters. Not every bike commuter will benefit personally, but bike commuting will benefit on the whole. This year, I'm working at a place where I could benefit from the bill. Next year, I might be in a completely different situation, but I will continue to support extending tax benefits to bicycle commuters.

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  • Garlynn March 15, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Dabby-

    Now, now, don't go abandoning the good in favor of the perfect again.

    This bill will go a long ways towards providing more incentives for folks with regular jobs and regular commutes to consider bicycling as a regular commute option, with regular incentives.

    That's all it does.

    Once it *passes*, there is room to talk about casting a wider net.

    I believe, however, that this bill is just a first, very initial attempt to "grow the base." Bluemenauer is just testing the waters of the new Congress, to see how bicycle bills might do with the new dynamics. If this is successful... more bikers on the roads. More bikers on the roads means more political will for more improvements to benefit bicyclists.

    And *that* is what will allow for more conversations about the needs of all cyclists and potential incentives to address those needs.

    Agreed?

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  • steve March 15, 2007 at 2:12 pm

    Not agreed!

    This bill will only benefit wealthy people in select work environments.

    I do not see this as the first in a long line of bills, at all. This will be tough to pass and if it does squeak through, it will be the end of it.

    They are simply going to debate whether or not to toss a tiny bone to those few of us on the top rung. Politics as usual. Most bike commuters have very little (if any) tax liability as it stands.

    All this shows to me is that the status quo is well in effect. The wealthy are represented, the rest of us are ignored.

    And "new" congress! Are you simply naive or a hopeless optimist? I laugh out loud every time I hear someone prattling on about our "new" congress.

    Keep those heads buried in the sand folks!

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  • steve March 15, 2007 at 2:18 pm

    Another point, if I may!

    Your point Garlynn, seems to be that if this passes, new cyclists will suddenly spring up. Then these new cyclists will suddenly use their political clout with our "new" congress to enact sweeping change that will affect us lowly huddled masses.

    How about legislation to benefit the ordinary working people, you know the bulk of our population! Legislation to benefit those of us already commuting!

    You say "regular" jobs and "regular" commutes... I think you may have let your lifestyle blind you to the fact that "regular" people are well below the income level that this legislation will impact.

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  • zmonteca March 15, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Does this include a tax break for bikers? I mean people who drive hybrids get a huge tax break? I ride a zero emissions vehicle everyday, everywhere I go. That should be worth something!!

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  • Dabby March 15, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    I do not agree.... Not at all...

    While I will agree that some of your points have validity, I must point out a couple of things.

    One.
    Removing the car subsidy from this program would effectively stop the entire program from happening, including the bicycle add on. So, your argument that I should push for that is sorta mute, if you are still in favor of this commuter act.

    Two. My main point here is not only to protect the non corporate bike commuter, but especially the "working" cyclist, the ones that the cities rely on, the ones the lawyers and court systems rely on, and the ones in some manner you probably rely on too.
    There are people that spend 8-10 hours a day on a bike, making sure that things get done, not only in a efficient manner, but in a very green manner as well.

    Not only are these working cyclists not paid in accordance with the service they provide, they are also, with the exception of possibly 5%, not offered any kind of even basic benefits, let alone tax breaks or commuter benefits.

    While the numbers of working cyclists are low in Portland, (just over 50) in some cities they number in the many thousands. And this is a nationwide bill....... Correct me if I am wrong.

    A quick calculation on my part just revealed a minimum of 132,000 miles I have spent "working" on the road in this city alone, on a bicycle.
    This amount is once again a minimum, and conservative calculation on my part, as I used the lower estimate of daily miles ridden, and the lower estimate of actual days ridden also.

    In other cities, the daily miles ridden by the working cyclist are much, much greater. There are working cyclists who put on more than 50 miles a day, not at all including the commute.

    Three.
    Testing the waters, as you put it, in this manner is a very costly test, which, once again, will affect so few here in our town, but is going to cost us so much in legislative time and funds (and our tax dollars) until it is passed.
    This "test" should once again be abandoned, in favor of a more effective, and useful to "ALL" cyclists
    transportation act now, while we have not spent too much money on it.

    Do not get me wrong.
    I am very appreciative of the time spent on cycling in Salem, and in Washington DC.
    It is just horribly sad that while we are all funding trips for legislation, through our taxes, so few of us will actually benefit from the end result.....
    The list of changes being lobbied for reflects this entirely....

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  • Cecil March 15, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Steve, I disagree that the commuters that would benefit from this bill would, as a rule, be wealthy. Rather, if I am understanding the bill correctly, the ones that will benefit are those who work for companies that pay a bike commuter subsidy. I don't even know what those companies are - certainly not mine, which I suppose would qualify as an employer of "wealthy" people. It's quite possible that the kind of companies that do offer such subsidies are progressive companies that can't pay high wages but can offer such subsidies as a benefit. It would be interesting to find out if there are private companies in Oregon that offer such subsidies. It is my understanding that City of Portland has some sort of cash for non-car commuting program, but I could be wrong about that.

    Dabby, I understand your concern, and I am wondering what you would propose as a fix. As it stands, people who use their personal cars for work are (under most circumstances) entitled under IRS rules to claim mileage to account for gas and maintenance costs. Would you seek some sort of equivalent for your bike maintenance costs?

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  • Dabby March 15, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    Cecil,
    i would love to answer that question for you at this moment. But, reflecting upon it makes me realize that it would be properly addressed, and more widely read, as a article, or essay on my thoughts, here on this very site, instead of in comment form.
    Luckily, Jonathan likes my writing style. (for some insane reason, lol)
    Look for this soon, as I will be writing it and sending it to Jonathan for approval as soon as he gets back into town.
    Dabby

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  • steve March 15, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    From my reading of this bill and the already passed legislation, it is clear that most employees are usimg this as a "tax-exempt" benefit for a given amount per month.

    The employers motivation for offering this is presumably through the negation of tax liability or as a requirement for government subsidies and/or contracts.

    The types of employers offering this, employ above average salaried individuals.

    Your anecdotal offering of your company not participating is completely irrelevant. My employer of "regular" type folks, which I suppose you could call "progressive", does not offer it either. How does that(or your point) have anything to do with this conversation?

    Again, for the nosebleed section... This bill will only help out a tiny fraction of cyclicts and they will most certainly not be the ones who need the help.

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  • Cecil March 15, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    Steve, the fact that neither of our employers offers a bike subsidy has a lot to do with this conversation. As I understand it, the point of the legislation is to offer a tax-benefits for bike commuting subsidies paid by employers to employees. The question then is, if none of our employers offers such subsidies, is it because there are no tax benefits and would they start to offer such subsidies if there were?

    Depending on how the tax break is structured, it actually could be more beneficial for "small" employers to offer it. If it is structured as a flex plan in which the employee has a certain amount of pre-tax $$ withheld and set aside to cover commuting expenses, then any of that money that the employee does not "take out" as reimbursement goes back into the employer's pocket. So again, we really need to know much more about how this benefit is supposed to work before we can start generalizing about who will benefit in the long run.

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  • ed March 15, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    Cecil, you need to go read what is being discussed before forming such deeply held opinions. You also need to look up "anecdotal evidence".

    This legislation already exists! They are merely wanting to include bikes into the law. In the name of equity they are tossing us an extra few million, compared to the BILLIONS earmarked for autos.

    This is not being redone to bring more companies into the fold, merely to change how the current businesses dole out their share.

    After this passes our employers will still not be a part of it. See the problem yet?

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  • Cecil March 15, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Ed, I am wondering if you read my other, earlier, posts in this conversation. If you haven't, maybe it would help to do so. If you have, then I apologize for my apparent inability to make my points more clear. What I have been trying to say is (1) It is unclear exactly how adding the bike component to the existing legislation would work to the employee's benefit given that cyclist's commuting expenses are not as easily quantifiable as those of motorists or mass transportation users; (2) It is unclear whether there are existing programs anywhere that would be covered by the legislation; and (3) whether, as Dabby has pointed out, there is a need for a different form of legislation that would better meet the needs of both bicycle commuters, which are vastly different from those of motorists, and those folks whose job is to ride their bikes.

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  • Martha March 15, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    It looks like there are two separate issues going on here, but people are trying to meld them into one and coming up with some odd conclusions.

    Topic one: there are a lot of bike commuters and bike professionals out there who earn low incomes, and because tax breaks benefit people with high incomes, this bill would do nothing for that crowd even if those workers' employers participated in the tax break deal (which they probably don't). That's one discussion -- how do we improve the situation for this group of cyclists? I'm looking forward to reading Dabby's ideas on that topic.

    Topic two: a benefit is currently being offered to car commuters and is not offered to bicycle commuters. Should this benefit be made available to all modes? I don't think that passing this bill will make the politicians pat themselves on the back for tossing this bone to us, then consider themselves alleviated of the responsibility of doing anything else for bikes. It's just one more step towards legitimizing bicycles as a mode of transportation.

    Because passing this bill would not preclude creating other bike benefits, I think that these two topics are separate. Finding a way to help low-income cyclists is a different discussion from asking whether the existing tax incentive for car and transit commuters should be extended to include bike commuters.

    When I was hired, I sat down with the office HR person to discuss benefits. She told me that if I drove my car to work, I could use pre-tax dollars to pay for parking. If I took the bus to work, I could buy a bus pass at a reduced rate (with pre-tax dollars). Nothing for bikers. I don't think that I'd have much of a tax reduction if there were a program for bikes (my income bracket isn't too high), but that's not the point. The point is that I want the HR person telling all of the new hires that they could ride a bike to work and have this benefit. I want to know that my government recognizes my mode as legitimate.

    Blumenauer's bill is about including bikes in a tax benefit. We can have extended discussions about who those bike commuters are and whether or not they're wealthy, but the bottom line is that existing tax structure benefits the car drivers in my office and shafts the cyclists. That's wrong, and it needs to be fixed.

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  • ed March 15, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Your point is my point! Even if they offered it at your work, it still would not benefit you. Or have altered your mode of transpost. Or anyone else's.

    I don't care if they pass it or not, I am just not deluding myself into thinking it matters one way or the other.

    You did a great job of clarifying the issues we are discussing. Thanks!

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  • Martha March 15, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    ed -- it WOULD benefit me mentally, emotionally, and (just a bit) financially.

    Given the mental state that those &^%$&^%$&%^$ drivers put me in this morning, I could use all the benefits I can get.

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  • Garlynn March 15, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    To Steve, Dabby & Ed:

    See Martha's post, #18:

    "When I was hired, I sat down with the office HR person to discuss benefits. She told me that if I drove my car to work, I could use pre-tax dollars to pay for parking. If I took the bus to work, I could buy a bus pass at a reduced rate (with pre-tax dollars). Nothing for bikers. I don’t think that I’d have much of a tax reduction if there were a program for bikes (my income bracket isn’t too high), but that’s not the point. The point is that I want the HR person telling all of the new hires that they could ride a bike to work and have this benefit. I want to know that my government recognizes my mode as legitimate."

    All this legislation does is to allow employers to give a pre-tax benefit to bicycle commuters, just like transit commuters and drivers who pay for parking now receive. This pre-tax benefit means that extra money is included on each monthly paycheck, excluded from taxes (or, expenses can be automatically paid for each month using pre-tax money deducted from the paycheck, depending on the employer).

    This benefit, as it applies now to driver/parkers and transit commuters, is irregardless of income. It benefits you no matter if you make $5k a year, $50k a year or $500k a year. The benefit is, I believe, up to $125 a month for transit (not sure if that ceiling also applies to parking). I believe Bluemenauer is proposing a $50 ceiling per month for bicycles.

    So, this just puts bikes on equal footing with cars that park in paid locations, and transit riders, at employers that already offer this benefit.

    If your employer does not offer a parking/transit benefit now, this bill will likely not affect you.

    However, at employers that already offer a parking/transit benefit, this bill may (and is intended to) have the effect of inducing more folks to use bicycles for their everyday commute.

    ...and perhaps they would bike instead of driving. Or, they might bike instead of taking transit. Whatever. It's more folks on bicycles. That, IMHO, is a good thing.

    Dabby, as for your concerns as to the plight of the endangered North American indigenous bicycle worker -- that is very definitely a separate issue. I encourage you to consider discussing it with your Congressional Representative if you feel that federal legislation could play a role in assisting with the issue. But please, don't confuse it with the issue at hand, which seems to be completely unrelated.

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  • steve March 15, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    I feel your pain. I just don't think sound transportation law should be based on emotions and/or scant tangible benefits.

    Sorry the drivers got to you today. When it is sunny out, I find it somehow easier to ignore their aggressions and intrusions. Sorry they got to you, better luck tomorrow!

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  • Sara March 15, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    Does this bill allocate only cash compensation for biking? I believe OHSU does or did have a cash compensation program (though the policy changed often), and while it's neat thinking you're getting extra money for biking to work, it isn't worth as much as having showers and a changing area at work, having secure covered bike parking, and having patience from your coworkers and boss(es) in dealing with issues that can arise from figuring out the ins and outs of bike commuting (that is, having your coworkers think of biking as the legitimate mode of transportation that it is).

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  • Cecil March 15, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Martha and garlynn, thank you for bringing clarity to the discussion. The only thing that I still see as somewhat unclear is that, at least in most companies, those pre-tax dollars used for parking and bus passes are not "extra" money from the company. Rather, it is a portion of the employee's salary that is set aside to be used for those expenses before taxes are withheld - hence the "pre-tax" moniker. That is why I am wondering how it would work for cyclists, who do not generally have those type of easily quantifiable and (for IRS purposes) verifiable expenses, regardless of their tax bracket.

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  • Martha March 15, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    Cecil -- I also wonder about the specifics of applying costs to bikes, but here's a guess.

    If I were in charge, it would work like those health savings account, where you decide at the beginning of the year how much you want to put towards your expenses (up to a specified limit). A portion of that amount is taken out of your paycheck each month and put into a holding account. As you spend money on eligible expenses, you submit a form for reimbursement (with receipts to prove you actually bought eligible items), and that money is taken out of your account and returned to you. My cycling expenses are pretty much all verifiable by the bike store receipt showing what I bought or what I paid the mechanic.

    All the while, the money in the account is not considered part of your taxable income. Car drivers can put aside up to $125/month, which comes out to $1,500 a year. So the IRS is not taxing them on that $1,500 that they're earning.

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  • Sara March 15, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    The difficulty I am having is that biking expenses are not regularly accrued the way that parking fees and public transit fees are accrued. If you typically drive (and thus park) 15 times a month, then you'll typically want to spend 15*, or if you take public transit 15 times a month, then you either need to pay 15* or buy a monthly pass, both of which are regular costs that directly relate to your usage. But if you bike, and you do much of your own maintenance at home, then how do you consider your costs of biking? Even if you take your bike into the shop for repairs, you will accrue costs so rarely and irregularly that it doesn't seem to work with this system. Furthermore, these costs don't relate so directly to your usage of your bike. It's just not the same as parking or transit passes.

    So while I think this bill might be good for political reasons ("hey, we're an important source of transportation, too!"), I just don't see it as being very practical.

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  • Sara March 15, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Oh, shoot, the words I had in carrots went away. Here's the correct version of the above:

    If you typically drive (and thus park) 15 times a month, then you’ll typically want to spend 15*(the cost of parking/day), or if you take public transit 15 times a month, then you either need to pay 15*(the cost of using public transit per day) or buy a monthly pass, both of which are regular costs that directly relate to your usage.

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  • Cecil March 15, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Sara's point is where my concern also lay - the transportation fringe benefit as it is currently applied does not apply to things like car maintenance or gas purchases, which would be the analogs of what Martha has described as what she envisions a possible bike application, so I am not sure that the IRS could allow an "account" for bike maintenance without motorists demanding the same treatment.

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  • Dabby March 15, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    I must say that my opinion about the uncovered cyclists does hold water because....

    In the near future, if this passes, they will be able to , in Washington DC, and in Salem, Oregon, say, " Well, we took care of the bike commuter with the Bicycle Commuter act back in 2007.
    Why do we have another bicycle commuter act in front of us again?"

    What we need to do is ditch this myth of a good bicycle commuter act, which benefits the very few, and replace it with an act that treats all cyclists equal.

    This constitutes no more than a clever tax break for the employer and the cyclist who works for a well paying corporation. It is obvious that no one who makes too little to put money into this tax shelter will be able to use it.

    Are we willing to sacrafice the need of many for a tax break for the few?

    I realize that this is the American way, and has gone on for years, but the proverbial buck must stop here, Now.!.....

    And Cecil,
    "the transportation fringe benefit as it is currently applied does not apply to things like car maintenance or gas purchases, which would be the analogs of what Martha has described as what she envisions a possible bike application, so I am not sure that the IRS could allow an “account” for bike maintenance without motorists demanding the same treatment."

    When people are reinbursed for mileage, the amount reinbursed takes into account maintenance and gas purchases.
    I believe it is now 36 cents a mile that is reinbursed to people using their vehicles for work, and if over 5,000 dolllars is used on the purchase or maintenance for a vehicle, this is also a write off.
    The IRS does definitely account for gas usage and maintenance... They actually overpay for it in reality....
    You can make extra money writing off maintenance and mileage.... Lot's....

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  • Cecil March 16, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Dabby, the mileage reimbursement for business travel is a completely different benefit than the transportation fringe benefit addressed in the bill, which is a pre-tax set aside. That was why I had suggested that some type of mileage benefit could be the answer to your concern about how to compensate those cyclists who would not benefit from a pre-tax set aside.

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  • Jonathan Maus March 16, 2007 at 8:48 am

    hi guys,

    I'm still at the closing ceremonies of the Summit...but just want to say thanks for the good discussion about this bill.

    good news is the Deputy Chief of Staff for Blumenauer's office reads this site and if he doesn't feel comfortable commenting himself, I will plan to follow-up with him to try and address some of these questions and concerns.

    James, if you're reading this, feel free to comment.

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  • Dabby March 16, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    I know that mileage reinbursement is a different thing, but I was pointing out that it is entirely available for automobile usage. Maybe not through this commuter act, but through many other resources.....
    That was my point.

    Thanks....

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  • Cecil March 16, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Dabby, thanks for clarifying your point - that was not how I understood your initial response - it's silly for us to snipe at each other on this one, because it appears to be one of the few issues that gets covered here that we actually have some points of agreement on

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  • Murnen March 16, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    You can keep track of the action / status of H.R. 1498 at OpenCongress.org.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 16, 2007 at 7:25 pm

    "Are we willing to sacrafice the need of many for a tax break for the few? I realize that this is the American way, and has gone on for years, but the proverbial buck must stop here, Now!"

    This is possible the worst place ever to take a populist stand on tax and bicycle rights issues. This is a rare victory for us (in the making). Sure, it could be lots better. But to argue that this is overall a bad idea because it is less than perfect reflects either a profound naivete or self-destructive impulse. Please get some perspective on the way the world works these days and help us take the steps we can take, help us fight for each inch, as this is the way this struggle will be won.

    Bike City will be built one rider at a time.

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  • Dabby March 16, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    Attornatus,
    It is a thing like this which is exactly where we need to take a populist stand, as you put it.
    This is a superficial add on to existing legislation. Maybe not entirely superficial, but rarely beneficial to anyone, and to the low amount of $50 a month.
    As I have already pointed out, it is not a wise usage of legislative time and funds.
    Yet, as I also pointed out, it is the American way to squander legislative time, privilege, and funds.
    I wonder why you question this, as I have made so very clear to you my position on this. It appears obvious to me what the problem is.
    You must be one of the few that will actually benefit from such an act...

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 16, 2007 at 9:45 pm

    "[I]t is the American way to squander legislative time, privilege, and funds."

    Well, what can you say to this? Cynicism will get you if the government don't get you first.

    "You must be one of the few that will actually benefit from such an act…"

    Yep. I'm a cyclist, an advocate. And I benefit. This is a victory for *some* cyclists. More affluent cyclists, perhaps. But plenty of regular Janes who work downtown as well. I understand why you resent that. You do not benefit.

    But as we benefit, so will you. More people -- like me, in *some* ways -- will be incentivized to take up bike commuting. And people in my demographic are relatively influential on policy. And guess what? We're on your side! So relax.

    Bike City will be built one rider at a time.

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  • Dabby March 17, 2007 at 12:28 am

    You benefit, and good for you....

    Most will not. but, due to the fact that I have read many of your postings here, it would not appear that that would make a difference to you at all.
    As long as you benefit, you are ok with it.

    I do not resent the fact that I do not benefit from this at all.

    I do not want to work for a corporation, or for anyone but myself. And by being self employed, there is no way that I would be included under the Bicycle Commuter Act being added onto a existing legislative action.
    This is the path I am on.....

    But I do want the chance for every single bicycle commuter, and especially working cyclist, to have the same opportunities as the next, no matter who or what they work for.

    This includes full benefits, a livable working wage, full tax break consideration for being green and earth friendly, and a safe trip on our shared roads...

    This is my stance, and no amount of convincing or prodding from you will be changing this....

    Thank you , and good night.....

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 17, 2007 at 10:16 am

    "As long as you benefit, you are ok with it."

    No. That's wrong.

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  • peejay March 17, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    A_O:

    I see you are having an enjoyable time sparring with our resident curmudgeon. Most amusing.

    Dabby:

    As they say in the south: "You'd complain if they didn't hang you with a new rope."

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 17, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    Yeah, fightin the good fight, peejay. We gotta battle for every inch of cyclists' rights. It's a shame naive idealism is so self-defeating in the real world, but I'm NOT gonna let this mo' we got going get slowed down by political myopia.

    Bike City will be built one rider at a time.

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  • peejay March 18, 2007 at 6:00 am

    A_O:

    Read my rant at the Shimano article. I'm in Japan right now, and boy do they have a different attitude about bikes.

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  • Dabby March 19, 2007 at 11:21 am

    We do not live in bike city, we live in Portland, and, more importantly, in reality.

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  • Garlynn March 19, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Well, I just checked out that link, looking for clarification on Cecil and Martha's posts (#'s 24 & 25). All I got was this:

    "(F) BICYCLE COMMUTING ALLOWANCE- The term `bicycle commuting allowance' means an amount provided to an employee for transportation on a bicycle if such transportation is in connection with travel between the employee's residence and place of employment.'."

    So... not much help here.

    I think this is a critical point. Exactly how would this benefit work, given the different nature of bicycle-related expenses? Would it just be some pre-tax cash every month, with no strings? Or... something else?

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  • Dabby March 19, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Garlynn,
    It is exactly questions like yours that help lead me to believe more and more that this is not a viable thing.

    How would this benefit actually work, beyond being a convenient way to receive $50 dollars of your pay, before taxes?

    While I understand that some of the people posting above think I simply like to hate ideas, this could not be farther from the truth.

    I have a great understanding of what is needed, and what is just frivilous additions, to almost more frivilous legislation.

    Wouldn't it be wiser to support legislation that for one, we can even thoroughly understand, and for two, that we can "all" actually benefit from?

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 19, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    "Wouldn’t it be wiser to support legislation that for one, we can even thoroughly understand, and for two, that we can “all” actually benefit from?"

    Perhaps. But until we actually get some such legislation, we're left with deciding whether to support what's actually being proposed. That, by the way, is based in large part on what people with knowledge of the political scene deem is possible in the current political climate. So you can either just sit on the sidelines until everything is exactly as you want it to be and hope for an overnight revolution in attitudes by the majority of the US population, or you can support opportunities for incremental changes that encourage people to get on bikes as they present themselves. Or I suppose you could simply complain about actual bills that encourage people to get on bikes, but that would be just plain ... self-defeating.

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  • JayS, March 19, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    We all have to make decisions about where to work and who to work for. You have stated that you will never work for a corperation. This puts you in a position of never having the benifits OR drawbacks of working for a large company.
    The little guy is almost always at a disadvantage when it comes to finacel benifits. But you and I are the little guy BUY CHOICE. We understand that there are benifits beyond money to being self employed or working for a smaller business. I value time much more than money. Some people value stability, for them the corprate life is great.

    Trying to create legislation and programs that we can all agree on as benifital is pretty much impossible. Think about people who don't want universal health care or proper funding for schools or spending on alternative transportation, and bike station type facilities. As I see it these programs are things that will help us all, even if we are not the target population that will directly benifit. Others just don't see it that way (as I view it they don't understand indirect benifits)and they will fight hard to prove anyone who says otherwise wrong. I hope my rambling made a little sense.

    JayS.

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 19, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Agreed, JayS. It is indeed unfortunate that people can be so short-sighted in their perspective on the world. It's the same as the argument that I should not pay for schools because I don't have children, or I shouldn't pay for parks because I never go, etc. Or, perhaps more accurately, people should not have tax breaks based on veteran's status because I'm not eligible to serve in the military. Unenlightened self-interest.

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  • Garlynn March 20, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Hey, I think this legislation is pretty much a no-brainer. Of course it would be nice to add a bicycle commuter benefit.

    But, I do recognize that Dabby has a point, as well -- this legislation should not be allowed to become a red herring. That is, there are much more important bills that would do a lot more to getting more bicyclists out on their bikes for non-recreational trips, that we would not want legislators to oppose because all of the bicycle lobby's political capital had already been spent passing this particular, rather middling, bill.

    So, I think that's the real question here: How much political capital will it take to pass this bill, and what the opportunity cost of spending it on this bill vs. spending it on something that might be of broader benefit to a wider cross-section of the population?

    cheers,
    ~Garlynn

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  • Dabby March 20, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you Garlynn, for understanding my point, and possibly stating it in a clearer manner than I myself have...

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 20, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    "[T]here are much more important bills that would do a lot more to getting more bicyclists out on their bikes for non-recreational trips."

    For example?

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  • Jonathan Maus March 20, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I just scanned and uploaded this fact sheet about the bill from Earl Blumenauer's office. It might answer some questions.

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  • Garlynn March 21, 2007 at 11:15 am

    A_O, #51:

    Good catch. That should have read:

    "There are *potentially* much more important bills that *could* do a lot more to getting more bicyclists out on their bikes for non-recreational trips."

    Since there are no actual bills that meet this definition yet, there is just the potential.

    I think that this merits its own discussion, however:

    What sorts of bills could this Congress pass that would do more to get bicyclists out on their bikes for non-recreational trips than simply changing a bit of the tax code to provide pre-tax commuter benefits to commuting bicyclists?

    P.S. Jonathan, thanks for the fact sheet, but it still doesn't answer our questions as to how the bill might actually work in practice. Though I'm on record in this discussion as supporting the bill, I agree with others who want to know how it would actually work. Also, would it be exclusive, or additive? That is, if you rode your bike to transit, could you claim both the transit and the bicycle subsidy? Or would you have to choose one or the other? Or, would that be at the discretion of the employer?

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 21, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Sure, it merits discussion; and it's an interesting topic for me. But I think the argument that we should not support this bill because we *might* someday get a shot at a better one is a bad one. If one has an appreciation for how hard it is to get a bicycle bill introduced in Congress, I think one would not make such an argument. Also, I'm not sure I agree with the "political capital" analogy you used in which support for bike bills is a zero-sum game. As you have seen, I say let's take our shots while we have them. It might be our only chance for some time.

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  • jane March 21, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    I am curious what Attornatus_Oregonensis thinks about all this?

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  • Attornatus_Oregonensis March 21, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Yes, if you did NOT want to hear my opinion, then you came to the wrong place. I suggest trying a blog on muscle cars.

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  • jane March 21, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    How about just hearing it 4 or 5 times on each topic? Must you always have the last word?

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  • [...] The fact that this bill is even necessary lends some credence to the warnings of Ivan Illich, but it’s good news nonetheless. I don’t know what the status is but I think this issue might make a good story for the first issue of the Practical Pedal. [...]

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  • [...] Introduced earlier this year by Congressman Earl Blumenauer as H.R. 1498, the provision calls for a $20 monthly benefit for riding a bike to work. [...]

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  • scott May 23, 2008 at 7:38 am

    This is now part of H.R. 5351

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  • [...] Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer's long-sought $20 per month tax credit for bike commuters, intended to extend a benefit to cyclists [...]

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  • 3000 man October 3, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    This Bill may be actually a behind the back door means to make in oregon or nationally that all bicycle users have to have a license(travel pass)or permit to travel,as businesses may soon call for safety regulations on bikers,to lessen costs and risks to employers.Then there will be calls for manditory insurance.Then almost all forms of travel except walking will require a license,pass or permit.Freedom and a free society never was meant that way,where eventually the only place that you have freedom to travel will be only on the private property you own,which is sad,since if you have to have a pass,certificate or license to travel even by a bicycle,then we all will be like under "house arrest"like slaves,as slaves travel was restricted,they had to have a pass,certificate or permission to travel.If you only can travel freely only on your land,house or apartment ,then you are restricted ,like "house arrest".I love bicyles,like many do.

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  • [...] readers of this site will recall several past occasions when Congress Earl Blumenauer spoke about “bike-partisan” efforts to [...]

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