This concept has been talked about for a while and it took the bailout to make it happen. From the New York Times:
Cyclists, at Least, Praise a Bailout Provision
By Jack Healy
The $700 billion bailout may not have thrilled voters, politicians or even financial markets, but it’s made at least a few people happy: bike commuters. Here’s a taste of how some have been reacting:
“Awesome! It’s about time.”
“Great news for any potential US bike commuter.”
And two-wheel enthusiasts have sent messages to the League of American Bicyclists, exulting: “Finally!!! This is very exciting!!!!” and “It’s a small step forward, but a beginning of something very positive.”
Well, it wasn’t the bailout per se that thrilled them, but a provision tucked into the law that sets aside a $20 per month tax credit for employees who bike to work.
Critics (many bike-riders among them) have derided the bicycle reimbursement as just one more giveaway stuffed into an already porcine piece of legislation, but to the long-suffering bicyclists who dodge trucks and ride through freezing rain on their commutes, it represented a small but meaningful victory.
“We were just thrilled. We’ve been working on this for seven years,” said Elizabeth Kiker, vice president of the League of American Bicyclists. “We think it’ll help anyone who wants to get to work by bicycle.”
As for the measure’s connection to the maligned bailout, Kiker said, “We were sorry that it had to happen this way, but we’re thrilled that it passed.”