A handful of people take the inaugural ride Thursday down the new 15th Street Bikeway in downtown Denver. The bikeway is on the left side of the road and is expected to feature a shared vertical barrier with the roadway.
A top Republican state lawmaker this week floated a proposal to tax bicycles to help pay for the state’s infrastructure needs, an idea that would make Colorado only the second state in the country to do so.
State Sen. Ray Scott, the assistant majority leader from Grand Junction, wrote on Facebook that he plans to introduce some sort of bicycle tax in the wake of the Oregon legislature voting this month to levy a flat $15 sales tax on bikes worth more than $200.
“Maybe it should just be a license plate?” Scott wrote on his Facebook page. “What do you think?”
Whatever form it takes, the suggestion is sure to inflame long-standing tensions between motorists and cyclists, with cycling advocates already promising to fight the proposal.
“Bicycles are part of the solution for our roads, not the problem,” Bicycle Colorado wrote in a post soliciting donations.
In just over a day, Scott’s Facebook page has already received more than 100 comments from both sides weighing in on the idea.
The tax would be a drop in the bucket towards the state’s projected $9 billion in infrastructure needs over the next decade. The Oregon tax is expected to generate less than $1.4 million a year, according to a state revenue analysis.
But there are key differences between the two states. For one, Oregon doesn’t charge state sales taxes. In Colorado, bicycles are already subject to a 2.9 percent state sales tax plus local taxes.
In Oregon, the bike tax was also adopted as part of a larger package of fee and tax increases. The legislation also included a 4-cent gas tax hike, a $16 vehicle registration fee increase and 0.1 percent payroll tax and 0.5 percent tax on new car sales, according to the Oregonian.
Colorado transportation advocates have been trying for years to raise gas or sales taxes to pay for roads, but the efforts have always failed at the legislature due to Republican opposition.
But to supporters of a bike tax, there are good symbolic reasons to tax cyclists, as well. If cyclists share the road with motorists, supporters say, why shouldn’t cyclists chip in a small fee for construction and maintenance, like drivers do through license registration and fuel taxes?
“We will be proposing something similar (to Oregon),” Scott wrote on Facebook. “They use the roads also.”