April 16, 2013,
Volume 59, No. 29
Penn Bike Commuters
I was encouraged to see that Penn has been selected as one of the 23 “Best Workplaces for Commuters” in the country by the National Transit Research Center (Almanac, March 19, 2013). This honor recognizes the University’s commitment to “sustainable transportation initiatives and practices.”
Commuting by bicycle is not only sustainable, but also affordable, healthy and enjoyable. I would like to encourage all Penn faculty and staff who commute by bike (or are considering it) to email PennBikeCommuters@gmail.com to join an information clearinghouse and discussion forum on issues of mutual interest and concern.
Some bike commuters might not know, for example, that more than four years ago Congress passed the Bicycle Commuter Act, a law that provides a tax benefit to employers who reimburse employees for expenses related to their cycling commutes (up to $20 per month). (Penn has so far chosen not to offer this benefit, although it continues to offer much more generous benefits for parking and transit.) The Penn Bike Commuters forum will facilitate discussion on how to encourage and improve this sustainable transportation option.
Department of History
& Sociology of Science,
School of Arts & Sciences
Response: Commitment to Sustainability
The IRS tax law does provide the option of offering a $20/month reimbursement for anyone who bikes to work. Discounted tax options are difficult and costly to implement with organizations as large and diverse as Penn. While the University supports discounted transit options for public transit, this program is administered by a third-party contractor, ADP, which enables Penn to provide the service. Currently no such option exists for the bike reimbursement. As such, this particular discount is not currently being offered.
That said, the University has implemented a number of initiatives that make biking both safer and more convenient in and around Penn’s campus. We moved our transit stops to improve safety in bike lanes around campus; through a Green Fund grant we will be installing two bike repair stations on campus this spring; and we are working actively with the City to support its bike sharing initiative. These efforts complement a number of our other strategies associated with sustainable transportation and we continue to explore initiatives that support alternative commuting options. Recently we have introduced electric charging stations, expanded car and van pooling and launched occasional parking and the emergency ride home program–two initiatives that also support bike commuters.
In support of Penn’s Climate Action Plan, we have made significant progress toward providing transportation alternatives that help reduce our carbon emissions, but know that there is still much more to be done. We continue to explore ways to make transportation more sustainable at Penn which includes incentives to support our cycling community. We invite and welcome the community to provide feedback and suggestions.
Vice President, Business Services
Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday’s issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. —Eds.