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October 11, 2016

University of Penn will begin reimbursing bike commuters

The University of Penn became the latest entity in Philadelphia last week to announce a bike-friendly initiative.

The school unveiled a new program to reimburse bicycle commuters through its employee benefits package. Beginning in January 2017, eligible employees can earn as much as $240 a year through the benefit.

The program will be available to full-time employees, who commute by bicycle more than half the time, do not participate in other commuting programs and register their bike with the school's Division of Public Safety.

The Bicycle Commuter Act, which was enacted in 2008, allows employees to claim bike-related expenses on a tax-free basis. Expenses such as bike purchases, maintenance, improvements, accessories, parking and storage costs are covered under the law.

According to, the statute has not been widely adopted by employers in the city. Only a few smaller employers currently offer the benefit. UPenn will be the largest employer in the area to do so.

The school cited recent data from The League of American Bicyclists that bike commuting has increased 155.4 percent in the last 15 years as a factor to implement the program.

Numerous studies have recognized Philly as a top area for biking and city officials have pushed for projects to encourage residents to bike more often while making the activity safer.

The city hosted its inaugural Philly Free Streets that allowed thousands of cyclists and runners access to car-free roads for a day.

Last month, the city opened its first protected bike lanes in the Mayfair section.

Earlier this year, the city also expanded its bike share program and partnership with Indego.

The school plans to reimburse employees who take advantage of the program through a direct deposit bank account.