Happy New Year SMBC readers! It’s 2018 and we’re excited to continue bringing you the latest bicycling initiatives, legislation, and information throughout the new year… Read on to learn about the eliminated bike tax, the reduction of two national parks, and meet one of our all-star employees at the Bike Center!
Government scraps Bike tax credit
With a new administration in power, massive changes are occurring across all government programs. One of those changes is the elimination of the $20.00 per month tax benefit to employees who bike to work. Last month the Bicycle Commuter benefit was suspended until 2026.
The elimination of this modest tax break to commuting bicyclists leaves those in the industry perturbed. With an increased emphasis on living a healthy lifestyle over the past 10 years, the elimination of this tax credit doesn’t seem to make sense. For one thing, a larger tax credit of $255.00 goes to non-bike commuters for their vehicles and parking.
Tim Blumenthal, President of PeopleForBikes, certainly doesn’t understand it. He wonders why people who choose to drive their cars, which cause air pollution, congestion, and promotes sedentary behavior are rewarded, while those who choose to use their bikes to get to and from work are ignored.
The response to the elimination of the bicycle tax credit caused a furor in the bicycling community. As a result, PeopleForBikes sent a letter to both the Senate and House, requesting they reconsider. Additionally, 3,500 people in support of the organization sent letters to members of Congress in all 50 states.
Blumenthal sees the passing of the tax reform to be a plus for businesses, especially for bike shops, which will experience increased margins. However, for the activity and sport of bicycling, the loss of the tax credit certainly hurts. For over 10 years, the tax reimbursement illustrated that the government viewed bicycling as important to the health of the nation. Now that the tax reform has passed, it is important for us, the people, to continue spreading the value and benefits of cycling.
cycling in National Parks jeopardized
Last month, the government signed proclamations to reduce the public lands available for recreation in Utah, specifically Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The public lands, for exploration and camping will be smaller, and mountain bike riders will face shorter trails as land is opened up for oil and gas development.
Of the 1.35 million acres now available in Bears Ears, the proposed bill would reduce that to 229,000 acres, an 85% reduction. In fact, the area might be split into two separate monuments. For Grand Staircase-Escalante monument, 1.9 million acres would be reduced to 997,000 acres, creating three monuments. This will open up significant cultural, archaeological, and geographical landscapes to the gas and oil industry, and 150 miles of bike riding in red rock county will be lost.
National parks are one of the things that make America so unique. To lose them to big business just for profit is unfortunate, especially given the lands already bring in substantial economic and societal gains. In Utah alone, $12.3 billion in revenue was generated by the parks. 110,000 jobs were also created. At the local level, $737 million in taxes were garnered. Bike riding alone sparked $773 million, 7,000 jobs, and $44 million in taxes.
A proclamation made by a sitting president is usually considered “ceremonial or symbolic,” but with congressional approval, it can mean a lot more. And with both a Republican House and Senate behind him, chances are high Trump’s desire could be granted. Nevertheless, and in spite of his proclamation, the general public reacted strongly against it. In fact, 2.7 million messages from the public inundated the Department of Interior during its 60-day comment period. 98% of those messages expressed support for leaving the monuments untouched.
We were particularly impressed with Patagonia’s, an outdoor apparel manufacturer and strong environmental advocate, response to the situation. In an open letter on its website, Patagonia states that outdoor recreation is one of America’s largest industries, one which creates more jobs and spending than any in the oil and gas industry.
The major point Patagonia makes is that limiting access to public lands is unnecessary. As it stands now, 90% of public lands are open to oil and gas leasing and development with only 10% available to protection, conservation, and wildlife. Furthermore, in 2015, oil companies mined 175 barrels of crude oil from public lands, a 60% uptick from 2008. So, Patagonia makes it pretty clear that Trump’s proposal is motivated by other factors than the need for barrels of oil.
But the real concern is if Trump shuts down these two monuments, what other public lands might meet the same fate. Patagonia’s mission is to get more people involved in saving public lands, so it created a “take action” button at the bottom of its message where the public can stay in tune of the actions the Trump Administration via email, text, or Twitter. Hopefully, awareness and response can save public lands for future generations.
Meet the Bike Center Team!
Iggy Cortes – customer experience Extraordinaire
We sat down with Iggy Cortes, employee at the Bike Center. Read about how he got into cycling, his view for cycling in the future, advice to his younger self, and more below!
“Iggy! Such a pleasure to finally meet you. You’re new to the Bike Center, but not to cycling, what’s the story of how you started riding and how you got here?”
My 1st bike was a western flyer muscle bike. It was a knock off of the Schwinn orange crate. You could get them at Western Auto parts stores. I was about ten. I rode it everywhere. To the store, up and down the block, even all the surrounding wooded areas where some older kids made a few pump tracks and jumps. I’ve been hooked since. It’s where I do all my best problem solving and thinking. The bike has always given me back everything I ever needed. It’s brought me some stellar relationships, opportunities, and a way to let out steam.
“Wow, seems like you’ve been around the block a few times, what would you like to see change in cycling in the next year? What do you want to do to personally help with your mission?”
I want to see more participation and acceptance from the non cycling community. Me riding my bike more is a great way to inspire people, especially those who might not know how to start. I used to be the weird friend that bikes everywhere but, now with the price of gas, a lack of parking, not being able to make sense of LA parking signs many of my friends have parked their cars and ride bikes now.
“Again, WOW! With all of that drive and initiative, what do you do in your free time? If you have any!”
In my free time I read. Everything from current events stuff to fiction. I do have a few books I read once a year. A Confederacy of Dunces, Watership Down, High Fidelity, and Bodas de Sangre.
Now for a couple fun questions: “If you had one piece of advice for yourself when you were younger, what would it be?”
Advice to my younger self is to keep better notes. Maybe take a calligraphy class.
“What’s been your favorite bike to ride personally, and what bike would you recommend for a new rider today?”
My favorite bike to ride is my 2007 Reynolds Masi Sprint Espiciale. For a new cyclist I’d recommend a bike which serves multiple purposes. A cruiser might not be the best way to commute + 8 miles, get groceries, or hit a trail but, neither is a full carbon road bike.
“Thank you so much Iggy, so glad we got to chat!”
Be sure to stop by the new Metro Bike Hub, now open at Union Station, and say hi to Iggy and the team!