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EDITORIAL: Conservative makes case for taxing bicycles

By: The Gazette editorial board
July 20, 2017 Updated: July 20, 2017 at 9:43 am
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State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, says we should consider a new tax on bikes similar to one passed by Democrats in Oregon. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

Baby boomers saw the bicycle transition from toy status to a mainstream transportation device that competes with cars on the road. Cyclists demand more pavement, but motorists pay the bill. At least one state legislator wants that to change.

Colorado drivers encounter a proliferation of new bicycle lanes on streets throughout the state, often narrowing capacity for cars. Cities and counties build on-road and off-road bicycle lanes, competing to become the most bike-friendly communities. Bicycles are everywhere, and their numbers are growing.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced last summer a commitment to spend more than $100 million over four years to make Colorado "the best state for biking," even as state government cannot afford to maintain or upgrade highways. People move here to ride bikes, and we can expect the trend to grow.

It is all a move in the right direction, but those who benefit most pay no more than those who never ride.

State Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, says we should consider a new tax on bikes.

"They use the road also," Scott explained in a Facebook announcement of his plan. Scott wants the tax to help solve Colorado's transportation crisis, resulting from years of highway neglect by Hickenlooper and both parties in the Legislature.

The tax, based on one enacted by Democrats in Oregon, would exempt bicycles designed for children. The Oregon tax added a $15 excise tax on sales of bicycles costing more than $200 with wheel diameters of at least 26 inches.

Scott will meet opposition from those who ride and sell bicycles, as well as environmentalists who want more bikes and fewer cars. He may also encounter opposition from fellow conservatives, some of whom loath new taxes of any type. Oregon Republican Party Chairman Bill Currier called his state's bike tax "anti-healthy" and "environmentally unfriendly."

Scott correctly points out that every other vehicle in Colorado has a tax sticker, including boats, ATVs and snowmobiles.

One opponent of Scott's idea points out on Facebook the fact bicycles do little harm to 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," Scott replied.

Colorado benefits from bike lanes, paths, racks and other public assets that make our state a better place to ride. Bike-friendly infrastructure protects the environment, improves public health and enhances Colorado's role as America's playground.

To make a more bike-friendly state, we need bicyclists to help pay the cost. If they don't, we will continue building bike lanes with money desperately needed for our crumbling and dangerous roads, bridges and highways.

Scott has identified an injustice in our tax structure, in which bicyclists create costs and don't have to pay for them. His proposal for a bike tax warrants serious consideration as a source for new transportation funds.

the gazette editorial board

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