Vouchers May Help Encourage Bicycling to Work

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After the U.S. Congress offered an incentive in its $700 billion bailout plan encouraging employees to bike to work, a company announced Sunday it will sell a voucher that will simplify the reimbursement process.

The incentive, which went into effect Jan. 1, gives employers a tax write-off for offering $20 each month to employees who bicycle to work.

Starting March 10, Commuter Check Services, a company that sells transportation vouchers nationwide, will offer $20 bicycle vouchers businesses can use to reimburse employees with instead of cash.

"Finally there's something that gives people who bike a reward," said Stuart Baker, a representative for the company. "I think it helps to strengthen the image of bicycling."

Baker said the vouchers would eliminate the hassle of proving the incentive money was spent on bike maintenance, which is necessary to qualify for the tax write-off.

Matt Nichols, the city's principal transportation planner, said he does not know whether the vouchers will increase the number of bicyclists.

"It's not completely clear how much it would do," he said. "It will definitely create incentive for people to bike to work."

According to Nichols, the city's bike lanes and boulevards, signs and safety classes make it safe for the high number of bicyclists.

"(Berkeley) is actually the safest city in California for bicyclists by a very large degree," Nichols said.

The 2000 U.S. Census reported that five and a half percent of Berkeley residents rode their bikes to work. According to Nichols, the number has since grown.

In 2008, 33 more bicyclists passed the corner of Milvia Street and Hearst Avenue in a three-hour period than in 2002, according to an Alameda County Congestion Management Agency report.

Nichols said the city does not currently have a plan encouraging businesses to reward employees who bike to work, but is considering implementing one.

Robert Raburn, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, said bicycling to work is an easy habit to pick up.

"It's like an addiction," Raburn said. "Once you get over that hurdle of having a bike that's commuter-ready, people are ready to continue using that."


Contact Arielle Turner at [email protected]

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