Subsidies for Cyclists

For years,Tucson Arizona has earned the award of being one of the county’s most “Bicycle Friendly Community”.  Good for Tucson.  It’s good for Tucson’s economy as well.  The el Tour de Tucson alone brings in thousands of  riders and millions of dollars annually. Let’s face it, Tucsonans are into their bikes.

So how does this bike-friendly town fare when we add a government bicycle subsidy program into the mix?  Apparently, we don’t need/want any federal help, thank you very much.

From azstarnet:

Gov’t peddles subsidies for bikes — to little avail

Two-wheel commuters could get cash, but the program just isn’t catching on.

Not a big surprise there.  Government programs are everywhere and of course, few of them ever work as intended. Make it a green program and the results are even more preposterous.

Enter the Bicylce Commuter Act of 2009 sponsored by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, (Dem. Or), took effect in January.

How does it work?  Employers can pay workers who regularly commute by bicycle $20 a month to cover any expenses related to using a bicycle for commuting.  A participating employer recovers the payments made to employees by deducting them from the taxes the business owes the federal government.

Who’s using it?  Apparently nobody.

Calls to local transportation officials and several local companies didn’t turn up any employers who have offered the benefit.

I don’t know anybody locally that uses that subsidy. People aren’t big on subsidies,” said Ruth Reiman, travel-demand manager for the Pima Association of Governments.  When talking with employers, “we go in and market commuter fringe benefits; the bike commuter (act) is part of that.  We market the whole package,”  Reiman said. “At this point, when we go out and tell them, no one is asking for it. They’d have to know that there are people that would actually ask for it. Maybe none of their employees have asked for it.”

But surely the eco-loving University of Arizona has their feet in the peddles right?  Guess again, Lance.

The University of Arizona is generally aggressive and enthusiastic in promoting “green” transportation for commuting students and employees, said Jeff Harrison, a UA spokesman. But he said it’s his assumption that the structure of the law — it reimburses employers through tax credits — didn’t provide a way for government agencies to recover their costs under the program.

Why is that you ask?  Again, it’s another  do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do policy, where government somehow forget to include themselves in this save the planet sing-song.

  • Those getting the subsidy cannot participate in any other subsidized commuter program (free or subsidized mass- transit, car-pooling or van-pooling).
  • Government agencies are not participating because they don’t have tax bills from which to deduct the payments they make to bicycle commuters.

What’s the cost?  According to the League of American Bicyclists:

The total anticipated cost of the provision, estimated by the Joint Committee on Taxation, is a very modest $1 million per year.

Bureaucrats, who are always concerned with intentions, never results, doubled down on another bike subsidy with equally predictable returns.

Remember the great SmartBike program in Washington DC?  It is a commuter bicycle rental program in our nation’s capitol.  Price tag, $3 millionResults? Almost 1000 people have signed up for the program.  You can do the math on that one.

Echoing my same thoughts from the Smart Bike article:

If someone wants to ride their bicycle to work (I did, before the company I worked for went out of business), let them take their hard-earned money and go out and BUY a bicycle.  (I did that too)  They can purchase a cool bike of their choosing from their local bike shop (which would actually stimulate the economy), reduce the size of government, silence blubbering politicians and save the planet at the same time.  Now that would be a win times 4.


Leave a Reply