Commuters can pedal all the way to the bank

Landon and Mary Monholland plan to commute to work by bicycles this year

Orchard Mesa couple Mary and Landon Monholland ride their bikes to work and back home again all week long. This year, they may hear a little more jingle in their pockets as their daily commute pays off, thanks to new legislation to benefit bicycle commuters.

“Why not?” Mary Monholland said about getting paid to bike to work. She and her husband,
Landon, work at Brown Cycles, 549 Main St., and commute about a mile and a half each way.

“It’s not bad once you’ve got the gear,” she said about getting out in the cold.

Starting this year, bicycle commuters can earn up to $20 a month in tax-free credit, $240 a year, from cooperating employers through the Bicycle Commuter Act. The money is intended to help defray the costs of wear and tear on bikes, clothing, bicycle storage facilities or other biking-related expenses.

As part of the nation’s financial rescue package, $1 million in benefits are offered to bicyclists who prove they commute to work most of the time. Employers can reimburse cyclists through cash, vouchers or pretax credit toward employees’ paychecks. Employers can then deduct the amount from their taxes.

Employees may have to show employers receipts associated with the costs of bicycle commuting as part of the program.

Landon Monholland said the extra cash would help with some of the costs of commuting by bicycle, which can add up. One tire costs about $20 and a weatherproof jacket can cost up to $150. Still, being reimbursed even a little bit is “a step in the right direction,” he said.

“You tend to go through tires and chains. The money would probably help out with that,” he added. “It’s about time that we’re not penalized for not driving.”

In comparison to the new bicycling legislation, motorists who use park-and-ride options can be reimbursed up to $210 a month in tax-free cash incentives. Like other transit benefits, employees and employers are not expected to keep detailed or complex records to reap the rewards, according to the bicycle advocacy group, League of American Bicyclists.

Executive Director Dan Grunig of Bicycle Colorado said though the bicycling credit is not substantial, it’s a step in the right direction for bicycling groups that have long sought some sort of financial reward for bike commuting.

“While the financial benefits aren’t huge, I’m confident that they’ll grow in upcoming years,” he said.

Gregory Luck figures he saves about $8,000 a year by not driving a car. Luck, of Grand Junction, uses his bicycle to get all around the Grand Valley after he gave up his vehicle more than a decade ago.

Though biking is generally a more cost-effective and an environmentally friendly form of transportation compared to driving, he noted the physical benefits of biking.

“You’re actually getting the real world on you,” Luck said.


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