Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Bronx, Queens) has introduced a bill that he believes will improve the health of Queens residents and the Citi Bike sharing program.
The Bike to Work Act of 2014 would add bike sharing programs which already exist in numerous states and cities to the federal law that allows tax breaks for workers using mass transit to commute to and from work.
He said it would have the added benefit of encouraging the expansion of the Citi Bike program into Queens.
Crowley arrived at a press conference on Monday at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights on a Citi Bike, complete with the mandated safety helmet.
“We had to borrow this from Brooklyn or Manhattan,” he said.
Under the tax code, workers can team with their employers to use so-called “pre-tax commuter benefits” for things like MetroCards, Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.
“Thousands of New Yorkers have already embraced the city’s bike share program as a viable, environmentally friendly and cost effective form of public transportation,” Crowley said.
He was backed by supporters of the bill, including Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives, state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) and Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights).
“Biking to work is good for the environment, good for relieving chronic traffic congestion, good for public health and good for the wallets of New Yorkers,” Stavisky said.
Crowley said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) is working on a companion bill in the Senate.
“We’ll probably attach them to something larger, but I don’t think we should run into much opposition,” he said.
The congressman was up front about his hope that if passed, the bill would encourage more people to sign up for the Citi Bike program. He has been a vocal advocate of expanding the program into Queens, and that increased enrollment would bring some of the revenue necessary to do that.
He said Diversity Plaza, a pedestrian plaza on 37th Road, would be a perfect location.
“We have plenty of room here for one of those rental racks, with no worry for businesses or taking up parking spaces,” Crowley said.
He also pointed out that it is in the shadow of the 74th Street hub where buses meet the No. 7, E, M, R and F trains and many bus routes, giving commuters any number of options.
“It’s a matter of supply and demand,” he said. “I know my constituents want it.”
Stavisky, White and Moya all spoke of the health benefits that an expanded Citi Bike program would carry in terms of people getting more exercise and taking fewer trips in automobiles.
Crowley tied that into a question he received about the cost his bill would have to the U.S. Treasury, which he said has not yet been calculated.
“I’m certain the benefits would outweigh any costs,” he said.
He did not have numbers available on how much savings a commuter might receive on his or her tax bill as a result of bike share programs being added.
A representative of the Department of Transportation said plans to expand Citi Bike to the Long Island City-Astoria area are in preliminary stages.