If the Bicycle Commuter Act of 2021 passes, it will provide bike commuters a benefit worth up to $81 per month. I think this is positive, yet far from what we really need.
I’m afraid that this post may sound negative, so I want to make it clear that I’m in favor of any legislation that makes life better for bicycle commuters, this included. Only a tiny percentage of people in the U.S. bike commute. If an $81/month benefit is what it takes to nudge even just a few more people to start biking, then that’s a success.
However, I’m also skeptical of its effectiveness. There was a previous Bicycle Commuter Act, which was suspended in 2017, and I’m not familiar with any data on how it helped more people start bike commuting. It was a benefit offered through employers, and no employers I worked with ever participated in it.
One thing I do know, and there is a wealth of data to support it, is that fatalities among pedestrians and bike riders continuously increased over the past decade. In places with dangerous streets, which is almost everywhere now, then biking is simply out of the question for a reasonable person. This reality can’t be fixed with $81 per month.
I would go so far as to say that $81 is probably the minimum amount you would need to offer the average person in exchange for them to just try bike commuting once. Most people, in my area at least, probably wouldn’t even accept that deal.
I hope the best for this bill, but, whether it passes or not, we need to keep focusing on the real problems: our deadly-by-design streets, our lack of bicycle infrastructure, and our culture that prioritizes automobile comfort over human life.