The Post editorial:
We say bring on the bicycle tax, and while you’re at it, a sales (or better yet gas) tax for roads and bridges.»
Taxing bicycles might seem like a crazy idea, pitched by an angry rural Republican looking to inflict pain on urban car-less hipsters who avoid beaucoup specific ownership and registration taxes by relying on their “fixies,” or fixed-gear bikes.
But before we all scoff at Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, let’s take a moment to consider what he’s proposing: a dedicated fund to help pay for much-needed bike lane infrastructure that makes riding safer and more feasible.
Colorado Springs implemented a small bike tax almost 30 years ago. Local elected officials approved the $4 per adult bicycle excise tax before voter approval was needed under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. That led former Gazette columnist Barry Noreen to call it “the last great tax” in a 2008 column celebrating the $2 million it raised in 20 years.
And it has been a great thing for the city, helping a conservative enclave leverage local dollars for federal grants to build bike lanes in a city known to house elite cyclists training at elevation.
What could a similar tax — call it a $15 statewide tax on adult bicycles at the point of sale, like the one Oregon just implemented — do for bicycle infrastructure? Quite a bit, and it would be infrastructure that crosses jurisdictions, rather than those that roll through neighborhoods. Expanding a highway to Boulder? Put in a protected bike lane that commuters can use to get safely to a city that is entirely too expensive to live in.
Such a tax could have complemented lawmakers’ proposal in 2017 to issue a statewide sales tax to fund roads, bridges and, yes, bike lanes and transit projects. Republicans, including Scott, balked at the fact that so much of the revenue from that proposed sales tax went to bike lanes and transit. Isolating some of that funding in a separate tax ask might have helped Republicans like Scott get on board with supporting needed funding for our roads — since obviously the hangup wasn’t the question of taxes in general.
But one thing is certain: Scott’s assertion that bicyclists should pay the same as drivers because they use the same roads is off base. Cars and trucks put much greater wear and tear on roads.
“Snowmobiles don’t hurt the snow, ATV’s don’t hurt the dirt, boats don’t hurt the water and they pay a tax, maybe we should eliminate those taxes,” The Gazette quoted Scott writing in a Facebook response to someone who raised that argument.
Scott must have never ridden an ATV, snowmobile or dirtbike, because those machines, while fun and extremely useful toys and tools, tear the holy heck out of a trail, dirt road or field. And gaspowered boats pollute the water, there’s just no way around it.
It’s nice that a Republican who opposed both efforts last session to raise money for transportation is finally willing to acknowledge that the state needs additional revenue for its infrastructure, including bike lanes.
If Scott thought his Facebook post about the tax was a clever way to stick it to spandex-wearing liberals by implying they aren’t willing to pay for what they want and use, he sorely miscalculated.
We say bring on the bicycle tax, and while you’re at it, a sales (or better yet gas) tax for roads and bridges, too.