On second thought, maybe we should tax bikes in Colorado.
Now hang on, before you fire off a literary missile attack against us — like much of the state did to GOP state Sen. Ray Scott in Grand Junction — consider a few things.
Scott offhandedly floated the idea of a bike tax last week, causing an uproar across Colorado. The chief complaints from critics was a bike tax would be unfair and likely result in fewer people riding bikes.
Such a tax certainly has precedent. Boats, trailers, pets, ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles, many things besides cars are taxed.
As to fairness? This comes from the idea that those who use Colorado roads by driving on them should be the ones to pay for them. Sort of. In reality, much of the money used to build and maintain roads comes from a variety of places. Federal funds help build roads and come mostly from gas taxes and income taxes. State road funds are also a mix of revenues. In reality, everybody already pays for Colorado roads whether you drive on them or not.
So if Sen. Ray’s ploy is to get bike riders to pay for roads as some kind of mean-spirited dig at bikers, then it’s clear such a tax would be unfair and misguided.
The notion of bikers getting away with something is prevalent among many non-bikers. It’s especially pronounced since it’s now state law that cars share the roads with bikers and ensure their safety.
As most bikers have pointed out, they all pay their road taxes with their cars, just like everybody else.
But the idea of dedicated taxes are something different. In theory, taxes levied on cigarettes and alcohol are supposed to be dedicated toward preventing kids from becoming smokers and offset the public cost of private nicotine addiction. In theory.
So why not levy a tax against bikes and bike riders and direct the money toward improving the bike system.
We’re at the front of the parade in insisting that bikes are a realistic and long-term critical part of solving the metro area’s traffic congestion mess. One of the chief reasons many would-be bikers still commute by car is because of safety and ease.
What if a bike tax were leveraged with other money to open up even more dedicated-bike lanes and paths across the metro area? Can you even imagine the change that allowing bikes onto local interstates on protected and segregated lanes would make? Amazing.
Improving winter maintenance of bikeways would greatly increase year-round bike access.
Why not consider it? Even the casual biker would jump at the chance to ride directly to destinations usually reserved for car travel, and if it’s safer and easier?
Things like that take money and focus. By creating a bike levy, the bike lobby has a louder political voice.
Sign us up if cities and the state were to give serious and pervasive consideration to bike travel on existing and new routes. Would it be worth $25 a year? $50? Absolutely.
Adults in the state absolutely don’t want to see bikes and bike riders punitively taxed for spite.
But if it truly opened up new roads to get places on two wheels? And if it gives Colorado bike riders real clout? Let’s talk.