Editorial: Why not have a tax on bicycles?

Published 10:27 am Friday, August 2, 2013

Letter writer Larry Forster proposed a good idea in his July 29 letter.

The resident of Riceland Township proposed a tax on bicycles, with the revenue going to fund bike trails.

Forster wrote: “We now have a new county tax on our cars and trucks. Snowmobilers pay a tax and can’t even use this trail; they have to maintain their own trails. Cross country skiers are licensed, so why not bikes? It’s about time we institute a bike tax.”

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True enough. People buy a bike, and no matter their age or disposition they can hit the streets and break all the traffic laws.

Cities often allow bike riders to pay a fee for a license, which then comes in handy in recovering a stolen bike. But licensing a bicycle is not mandatory.

A bicycle tax could pay for the increasing desire for infrastructure to accommodate bikes. Such proposals have circulated in the legislatures in Oregon and Washington state. The proposals met with heated debate. Many bike riders opposed it, saying it discourages use of fossil-fuel-free transportation, but some bike advocates like the idea.

They say car drivers put dollars into public works. Bike riders ought to do that just the same.

Here’s our point: Sure enough it has taken the Department of Natural Resources far too long to get funding for trails people in Minnesota say they want. The decade of zero progress on the Blazing Star Trail is a prime example. And, yes, the trails the tax builds would be used by walkers, skaters or other non-motorized users beside cyclists, but cyclists are the primary advocates for them and the longest-distance users.

Imagine a tax of $10 on bikes less than $500 and $20 on bikes over that amount. It probably won’t pay for the trails completely, but it would offset the rising costs of trail building and allow the DNR to handle unexpected setbacks. People ready to buy a two-wheel non-motorized machine surely can afford a few extra dollars to pay for pavement.