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Thanks for this data. Are these funds also used for local roads & streets or are those funded separately (with money NOT generated through the gas tax)? In other words, does the gas tax fund 51% of highways, or of roads generally? Thanks!

I generally like the idea that people who ride bikes to work should be encouraged in every way possible -- I know some agencies and businesses who subsidize frequent riders, which I think is great.

This doesn't fit the mold of "encouragement", but I don't know how I feel about it yet....

I think the general issue here is that gas taxes are consumption-based taxes and bikes don't consume anything to make them go (except for miniscule amounts of lubricants for the chain). So, if they want to add the proportion of the 27.5 cents or whatever the tax rate per gallon is to the 2 ounce bottle of chain oil, go ahead. That would be less than half a cent per bottle.

[*sarcasm*] Oh, I know: Implement a special food tax on anything that a bicyclist consumes before getting on a bicycle. If it is not self-reported on the tax return, then the IRS can estimate based on caloric input tables. That would teach those bicycle commuters and take that smug smile off their face. [*sarcasm off*]

Everything else is already covered in the sales tax at the point of purchase. I don't pay an extra tax when I buy a car in Virginia. As a matter of fact, until some years ago, the tax rate for car purchases was 3% and not 4.5% (now 5%).

Considering 74% of new bikes are sold through mass merchants [Walmart, Target, etc] with an average price of $80 that's kind of a steep tax rate.

Stats from NBDA:


I forgot to post the link to the list of Virginia fuel tax exemptions. Here it is:


In Europe there can be a 100%+ excise tax on the purchase of a new car.

To Contrarian's main point, in our "user pays" system, the users clearly no longer pay. Add into this the bias against urban areas (aka your primary habitats for 'active transportation') in transportation financing, and there's basically no way to avoid the conclusion that cyclists are subsidizing, rather than free-riding. Self-imposing nickel-dimey taxes on ourselves tacitly says "no problem" to all this. As a bicycling property tax payer, I have a huge problem with that.

We can fiddle with trying to correct the funding imbalance, and the recipients of funds, etc etc. But in a larger fantasy world sense, it's time to abandon the goal of transportation use taxes simply for 'financing the system'. Instead set gas and carbon taxes for the explicit goal of managing energy demand for our security (cut oil imports), environment (cut GHG), safety (encourage rational travel speeds), and economics (make efficient cars/transit/activetrans a rational economic decision). The money for the system (and then some) will result.

darren, I, too, have a huge problem with the "OK, tax us" approach.

A while back, I added up the Transportation Dept. funding that was being/had been lavished on multi-user paths (AKA "bike trails") and bike lane striping in all of the local jurisdictions; I quit looking when I hit $100 million. The lion's share of that sum was spent on park trails that probably should have been paid for with Parks and Recreation funding, since all such trails inevitably get taken over by recreational users even during rush hour. What we get for that massive investment in n00b infrastructure are trails in riparian zones that flood during thunderstorms and other rain events and are rendered impassable for weeks during winter because of snow and ice. All the while, car drivers charge by on dry streets. Of course, it doesn't matter if the trails are rendered unusable during inclement weather because none of the n00bs ride during that kind of weather, anyway.

Why in the world should any year-round bike commuter be obligated to pay for trails that were designed primarily for stroller-pushers, dog walkers, joggers, and fair-weather lolligaggers on two wheels who can barely ride in a straight line? These park-like facilities BEG to be paid for by the General Fund.

As a formerly dedicated bike commuter/vehicularist, I always have to wonder what DC-area roads would look like if that $100m in DOT funds had instead been dedicated to competent, innovative traffic law enforcement. Given some time to weed out the bad drivers and change bad habits of otherwise good drivers, we wouldn't NEED special striped lanes or trails. But we can't have that because, in the timeless words of an Arlington County Sheriff's deputy, they don't write tickets because "people don't like receiving them."

Everyone seems to have missed the fact that Contrarian calls his proposed $.75 tax good "political theater." The point is not to raise revenue from bicyclists, but to neutralize the argument that we don't pay our fair share. So we tack 75 cents on the price of a bicycle and then move on to more substantive issues.

I think it's pretty clever...

Let's allow a 75-cent tax writeoff for each new bike purchased. Now that's fair.

I think it is pretty clever political theater, especially since it is negligible in impact yet attracts attention to the current cross-subsidy mess that short changes cyclist.

Instead of a tax on sales, they could have some sort of registration requirement, which would both collect $ and serve to monitor bike usage.

Doompatrol, Most of the money spent on trails comes from Federal Recreational Trails money or NPS money or local money. So it couldn't really be spent on anything else. Much of the "bike specific" money goes to things like maps, Street Smarts campaigns, Confident city cycling classes, salaries for bike coordinators and staff, bike education for kids etc... so not facilities. But it did pay for the bike station, thousands of area bike racks, bike racks on Metro buses, the Wilson Bridge ATL, the cycletracks on 15th, etc...What things should we be spending money on that we aren't? And "recreational" trails are used by many people for transportation. I suspect 70-90% of bike commuters in the DC area at one point or another during their commute get on a trail that was paid for recreation money. But your point that cyclists shouldn't bear the full cost of these mutli-use facilities is a good one.

With all due respect. I find this discussion pointless.

Nobody can make a coherent and principled argument that motorists pay their fair share. I am a motorist at least some of the time and I know that must be true. Providing roads to the general public is one of the responsibility of the government and of course the money has to come from somewhere. It costs an enormous amount of money and has considerable environmental impact to build these roads to withstand the demands of heavy automobiles and trucks. Money raised through the sales tax for cars (if that money actually were meant to pay for car infrastructure, mitigation of environmental impacts etc) and gas taxes is not going to be sufficient.

It is entirely obvious, that any argument to require bicycles to pay anything for these roads entirely overengineered for them cannot pass the red face test. How about Segway operators on sidewalks? Special tax? Special tax on pedestrians? maybe a shoe leather tax? Then you'll need to close the loophole for the rubber soles!

I think the $.75 argument is a nice little demonstration of how ridiculopus the whole undertaking is and I think even at $.75 it seems too high.

It is entirely obvious, that any argument to require bicycles to pay anything for these roads entirely overengineered for them cannot pass the red face test. How about Segway operators on sidewalks? Special tax? Special tax on pedestrians? maybe a shoe leather tax? Then you'll need to close the loophole for the rubber soles!

I think the $.75 argument is a nice little demonstration of how ridiculopus the whole undertaking is and I think even at $.75 it seems too high.

Good grief. Does no one understand what "political theater" is? The tax is *supposed* to be absurd.

Our access to the roadways is codified in the uniform vehicle code; we don't have to buy it. As soon as we indulge the opposition by discussing these kinds of user fees in exchange for provision of facilities (for purposes of theater or otherwise) you start to undermine hard fought programs like Transportation Enhancements and Complete Streets standards. DOT person to cyclist: Sorry, no shoulder will be built on that state highway because the Bicycle Trust Fund is bankrupt.

Would I, as a cyclist, pay 25 bucks/year to build out a bicycle network? Absolutely.

Do I trust a DOT to spend that money wisely? With history as my guide, that answer is an emphatic 'No.'

This isn't original, nor my idea.

A tax on bicycle tires and/or tubes.

Amen, bikermark.

Though I would still object on principle, I would grudgingly pay a bike user tax that would go into a fund that -- rather than providing complete facility funding -- would be given to local/regional governments exclusively for the purpose of meeting local match requirements of TE, CMAQ, STP, or any of the other alphabet-soup Fed funds that require 'skin in the game'. Imagine how much more TE (or even STP) money would be steered to bike projects if relieved of the 20% local match... All those tales about Massachusetts leaving half of its TE money unspent would go away.

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