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Sadie Robinson, assistant to the chair of the Department of Genetics, and professor David Barnes worked to build support for the program.

Credit: Lucia Huo

Penn will add a financial reimbursement for bicycle commuters to its employee benefits package in January 2017 after nearly seven years of requests.

The Bike Commuter Expense Reimbursement Program will offer bicycle commuting compensation to qualified faculty and staff for any out-of-pocket eligible expenses of up to $240 annually.

Sadie Robinson, assistant to the chair of the Department of Genetics, said she and history of medicine and public health professor David Barnes worked for nearly seven years on building support for the reimbursement to show the administration that people were interested in it.

“They were dragging their feet because they believed it was too difficult to implement or too expensive,” Robinson said. “However, Brian Manthe, the current director of [Penn] Business Services, was crucial to getting the reimbursement now.”

With the federal Bicycle Commuter Act, employers can offer bicycle benefits on top of a salary without having it be considered taxable income. Funding for this program is provided by the Penn Business Services in support of the University’s Climate Action Plan.

Under Penn’s new program, expense categories that the University will reimburse include bike purchases, parking and safety gear.

The introduction of Penn’s new bike commuter program parallels the continual increase of biking as a primary means of commuting to and from work. According to recent data from The League of American Bicyclists, the growth of bike commuting in Philadelphia has risen 155.4 percent in the period from 2000-2015.

Harvard University has offered its employees the bike commuter benefit since 2013.

“This is a big step forward for recognizing the legitimacy of cyclists as commuters," Robinson said. “I hope this reimbursement acts as an incentive for Penn staff and faculty to commute using their bicycle. ”