Going Green is Keen

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bike to work could mean green for your employers and you

Thanks Doug...Doug found this on the OrlandoSentinel.com blog

New tax law gives bicyclists credit up to $20 per month!
posted by Liam Miller on Oct 14, 2008 5:42:00 PM
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By Tony Bizjak
McClatchy Newspapers
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Bicycle commuters, Congress has your back.
Buried deep in the federal Emergency Economic Stabilization Act — the $700 billion Wall Street bailout — is an unexpected boost for the greenest of commuters:
With a tax-code change, beginning in January, companies can give up to $20 a month to workers who pedal to work. It would be tax free to cycling commuters, and a tax write-off for employers.
Riders would use the subsidy to defray commute costs, such as bike tires or lights, helmets or rental fees for bike lockers at work.
The author, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., said cyclists deserve a subsidy — albeit small — like the handouts some companies offer commuters who use transit or carpools, and even car drivers for parking costs.
“We shouldn't discriminate against people who burn calories instead of fossil fuel,” said Blumenauer, who bikes daily to his congressional office.
Blumenauer, ironically, voted against his own bill this month because it was inserted at the last minute with other energy measures into the mammoth bailout package, which he opposed.
“It's frustrating,” he said.
Sacramento cyclists, however, pronounced it good news.
“It's about time,” said Walt Seifert of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates. “I hope employers jump on the chance to offer it.”
Employers who offer a subsidy can determine who qualifies and how much they should get.
Several cyclists joked they'd use it to buy alternative fuel — Starbucks coffee.
“Hey, it's replacing the calories I burn,” said Phil Vulliet, an engineer with Mark Thomas and Co. in Sacramento, Calif.
Mega-rider Carlos Casillas, who rides “rain or shine” between Davis, Calif., and work downtown, figures he could save three months' worth and buy “some rubber.” Good bike tires cost up to $60, but last only 3,000 miles. Casillas rode that much last May alone, during the region's annual bike mileage competition.
Census data from 2007 show that just 1.8 percent of Sacramento commuters ride bikes to work, although riders say they are seeing more cyclists on the streets this year because of higher gas prices.
Advocate Seifert and others say the federal subsidy serves as a statement that cyclists are equal members of Sacramento's commute society.
But Marilyn Bryant, a downtown transportation coordinator for businesses, said it may take some time before government agencies offer the subsidies because many of their employee benefits are part of negotiated union contracts.
Jack Paddon, a principal with Williams + Paddon Architects + Planners in Roseville, Calif., said it's something his company would consider.
“It's not a huge incentive,” he said. “But it could be one of those enhancements to get more folks to consider bicycles as a commuting option.”
As the bike commuting population grows, however, employers face new expenses, including providing bike parking, showers and even company cars for meetings.
One bike commuter, J.J. Hurley, says the federal subsidy idea is great, but he doesn't need it.
His employer, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, already offers employees $4.25 to spend as they please every day they ride a bike to work. It matches the transit incentive the agency offers employees.
“It's a cool subsidy,” Hurley said. Plus, it makes sense for him. “I work in land use. I have to practice what I preach.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping the junk out of my trunk

A good way to save gas is to keep your car trunk free of excess weight.