Bike Commuter Benefit
If you're a regular bike commuter, talk to your employer about the Bike Commuter Tax Provision. The Federal Bike Commuter Benefit became effective Jan. 1, 2009 and for the first time, the federal government is recognizing bicycling as a commute option and rewarding those of us who choose the greenest form of transportation. If your employer elects to offer this benefit, you can receive up to a bonus of $20 a month for each month you commute primarily by bike from your employer tax-free, so long as you don't accept any other transit benefit.
How to get the bike benefit at your work:
- First, talk to your employer and tell them you want this benefit. If there are other bike commuters in your office, tell them to speak up too! Employers can defer about 9.5% of their FICA contribution on the $20 payment.
- If your employer already contracts with a Commuter Benefit Provider, ask the person who coordinates these benefits to request enrollment in the bike benefit program. If the provider doesn't offer it, find out when they plan to implement it- it's law as of January 1, 2009. If your employer is looking for more information, a list of providers is available from the SF Department of the Environment.
- If your employer prefers to manage transit benefits in-house, rather than with a Commuter Benefit Provider, the bike benefit works like other employer-paid transit benefits. (Note: very few employers actually do this in house. Confirm your employers participation before going on a spending spree!)
How to qualify for the benefit:
- Ride your bike for a 'substantial portion' of your commute.
- Accept only the $20 benefit for biking for transit benefits. Unfortunately, the law prohibits people from accepting both the transit benefit and biking in the same month. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition is working to fix this by helping Rep. Blumenauer (D-OR) pass H.R. 863
- Use the money for 'a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, [or] storage' at your local bike shop!
For more information:
- IRS Publication 15-B (2009), "Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits" (See Section 2, "Transportation (Commuting) Benefits")
- American League of Bicyclists Commuter Benefit FAQ
A Few Helpful Tips for Getting Started Bike Commuting
The Week Before
- Determine your route to work.
- The route you drive to work may not be the same one to bike to work.
- First, choose roads that have wide outside lanes or paved shoulders. Collector streets (those that are at the half mile mark between major streets) are often a good choice.
- Second, drive the route during your normal commuting time to determine potential traffic problems.
- Third, bicycle the route on a weekend to examine the road surface for potential problem intersections and the approximate time it will take you.
- Talk to your employer.
- Inform your supervisor that you will be commuting by bicycle. Ask where the bicycle can be parked during working hours, and what, if any, advance arrangements need to be made.
- Check out your bike.
- Make sure your bicycle is in proper working order. Not only should all the mechanical parts be in good repair (e.g. brakes, tire, gears) but the bicycle should be adjusted properly for seat height, handlebars, etc. If you do not have a helmet, borrow one or buy one. If you will be riding at night, you need and must have a light.
The Day Before
- Dress for the Occasion.
- Wear a helmet. It's also a good idea to bike in comfortable cycling clothes; either pack a bag with your work clothes, or bring your attire the day before you cycle (so they won't get wrinkled). Also make sure you have a place to change and freshen up, and keep a "kit" of toilet articles and a towel at work.
- Pump Up.
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. If they are low, it will make riding more difficult.
The Day of the Ride
- Don't cycle on an empty stomach
- You will need energy for your ride, so eat a good breakfast andtake along something to eat along your way.
- Get an early start.
The first time you bike to work, allow yourself a little more time than you think you will need. If you tested the route on the weekend as suggested you will know the approximate time it takes. BUT remember, rush hour traffic may slow you down.