Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bicycle Commuting

Rep. Blumenauer got the Bicycle Commuter Act passed. This amends the law concerning transportation fringe benefits offered to employees, expanding it to include up to $20/month for bicycle expense.

This is certainly a welcome step but it still leaves 26 U.S.C. §132 heavily tilted toward subsidizing driving. Look at the law before amemndment
and you see that parking is worth $175/month. Mass transit is worth $100/month. While $240/year is a nice sum for operating expense of a bicycle it doesn't address acquiring the bicycle -- or the lock and related upgrades to make the bike safe to lock up on the street -- in the first place.

All this about money for the employee, which is a deduction for the employer and therefore not really going to help those who work for the public sector or non-profits, aside there remain two serious issues:
  1. What do you do with your bike when you get to work? We need indoor bicycle parking and we need it in quantity. Many cities already have indoor parking garages but they are not set up for bicycles. The garages need a proper bicycle rack and ready access to it for cyclists. Take some of the space currently used for cars and convert it to bicycle parking. In the space used for 4 cars you could put enough bike rack slots for over a dozen bikes -- I estimate about 16 inches of horizontal space per bike.
  2. Not everyone has a short ride, and may need to change out of bicycle riding clothes into office clothes. My own commute isn't terrible at 8 miles each way and in temperate months I can and do commute in street clothes with the sole concession of mountain bike shoes (so that I can walk in them when I'm off the bike). I have winter cycling gear: I am not up for just putting on long johns and a parka and pedaling to work, I want to wear my insulated tights and so forth. Am I to just show up at my office and change clothes in a bathroom stall in the men's room? I've tried that in the summer, its annoying at best (and the door to the stall has an annoying habit of swinging open as I lean against the stall trying to get my pants on or off). A locker room would sure help.

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