Bicycle commuters pedaling uphill with tax credit

A program that offers tax credits to bicycle commuters is having trouble turning wheels locally, according to some of the area’s larger employers.

Starting this year, bicycle commuters can earn up to $20 a month in tax credits — $240 a year — from cooperating employers through the Bicycle Commuter Act. It was passed as part of the first bank bailout bill last fall to help defray the costs of biking-related expenses.

The act earkmarked $1 million in benefits for people who prove they cycle to work most of the time. Employers can reimburse cyclists through cash, vouchers or pretax credit toward employees’ paychecks and can then deduct the amount from their taxes.

Some teachers who cycle to work said they have asked School District 51 for the credit but were denied the request because “the school district didn’t see the value in it.”

District spokesman Jeff Kirtland said, however, the district hadn’t denied the credit. It just hadn’t had enough time to figure out how it would administer it to employees.

“We’re just now getting information on how that money would be divvied,” Kirtland said.

Officials of the city of Grand Junction and Mesa County said employees haven’t approached them about earning the credit.

Spokeswoman Kristin Winn of the city’s planning and public works department said Friday she is checking to see whether the city will honor the program. A bicycle commuter herself, Winn said she knows firsthand the cost of biking can add up.

“That would help because I think I need a couple more lights on my bike,” she said.  “There are some folks who do bike.”

Mesa County spokeswoman Jessica Peterson said the county’s human resources department hasn’t heard any interest in the program, but there are workers who bicycle to work.

“I think it may be too early in the program,” she said.

Chris Brown of Brown Cycles, 549 Main St., said he’s fielded calls from community members interested in the idea, but he didn’t know how to go about getting paperwork for the program.

“I appreciate the spirit of it,” he said. “Biking to work just makes sense.”

Employers with businesses of any size can take advantage of the program. Bicycle commuters and employers can get more information from Accor Services or Commuter Check for Bicycling. Links to those Web sites and more information about the program are at the League of American Bicyclists, http://www.bikeleague.org.


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