Scott: Bicycle tax reaction also criticizes rider behavior
As state Sen. Ray Scott continues to marvel at the level of response to his suggestion that Colorado consider a tax on bikes, it’s also focusing his attention on other issues such as the level of cyclist compliance with rules of the road.
Scott, R-Grand Junction, said in an interview that a number of comments he’s been receiving suggest a possible need for more enforcement of traffic laws when it comes to cyclists.
“I think there’s a lot of pent-up anger out there — a bunch of people that have had to deal with bad situations with bicyclers — and I think it’s got that group pretty fired up,” Scott said.
Scott recently floated the bike tax idea on social media, saying he was considering legislation for a bike tax similar to one just approved in Oregon. He said the ensuing discussion “is at a fever pitch.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s crazy. It’s kind of instigating a lot of people to say maybe we need to sit down and have a discussion about this and see where we’re going,” he said.
From what Scott is seeing, he thinks that discussion needs to be not just about a bike tax but other issues such as cyclists ignoring traffic laws and whether it’s fair for owners of ATVs, boats and snowmobiles to have to buy registration stickers if bike owners don’t.
Scott’s bike-tax proposal has generated numerous comments on his Facebook page from both supporters and opponents, and it even was the topic of a question by a caller Wednesday for Scott during a tele-town hall that was conducted by the Colorado Rural Energy Action Council and was intended to focus on energy issues.
He told the caller that it’s been “very, very interesting to hear the comments.”
“It’s amazing, as you know, how these Facebook and social media discussions, how one thing said can turn into 10 million, which is kind of what’s taken place here,” Scott said.
He noted that both the Denver Post and Colorado Springs Gazette have written editorials supportive of his idea as a means of helping pay for infrastructure like bike lanes. (The Daily Sentinel has editorialized against the idea.)
“It’s going to be a very interesting conversation,” he told the town hall caller. “Are we automatically going to have a tax on something? Absolutely not, that’s not way it works in our democracy. We’ve got a long ways to go, and we’ll have a lot of discussion over the summer. We’re gathering feedback right now and right now it’s tracking about 50-50, just so you kind of know.”
He told the Sentinel that some cyclists argue they already pay a tax when they buy their bikes, or pay a gas tax for driving their cars and shouldn’t have to pay a bike tax as well.
“Other people are arguing, well, if you’re using the road and you’re in my way and we’ve built a bike lane next to the road that you won’t get off the road and get on the bike path, why did we build the bike path? So all kinds of stuff is coming out on this thing. I had no clue that this would be such a hot-button issue, but sometimes when you say something everybody else is thinking, it kind of gets the blood churning, so let’s see where it goes.”
He said that maybe some public meetings are needed to let people air their differences, and maybe the bigger conversation will end up involving whether taxes should be eliminated on ATVs, boats and snowmobiles.
On the issue of cyclists breaking traffic laws, maybe enforcement is the issue, he said.
Or, Scott said, “Maybe the bicycle folks need a little more education on the rules of the road.
“There’s a lot of problems. We’ve got to look for some solutions, apparently.”
The tensions between motorists and cyclists are evident in comments on Scott’s Facebook page.
Following is one exchange, edited for spelling:
Garrett Stealey wrote, “I absolutely hate bicyclists! Not them personally, but what they’re doing. They run stop signs, don’t signal when turning. I almost hit one yesterday because they rolled right through a stop sign with their head down. Not even paying attention. Aren’t they supposed to follow the rules of the road? They think they’re better than everyone else out there. It’s high time to tax cyclists and have an even playing field.”
Ken McKisson responded, “While we are … stereotyping all cyclists, I absolutely hate motorists. They pollute, are lazy, think they are God in their metal casings, roll coal, are spiking my health insurance from their non-exercise, and congest the roadway, drive drunk, are noisy, think they’re better than everyone else, don’t contribute to tourism and revenue for the area, it’s high time we penalize them more and give rebates and incentives to cyclists.”
Scott isn’t decided about what if any legislation he might introduce next year, but said he expects to have further discussions throughout the summer, involving various user groups, lawmakers and others.
“There’s a long ways to go between now and January,” he said.