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Would Taxing Bikes Solve the Infrastructure Problem?

8:49 AM PDT on August 22, 2011

Around the Network today:

Would a tax on bikes and cycling equipment lead to a dramatic increase in infrastructure spending? Photo: Bike Europe

A Tax on Bikes, Deft Political Move?: Would you support a tax on bikes if it provided infrastructure that made your ride safer and more pleasant? Network blog Straight Outta Suburbia says that a tax on bike products which would be earmarked to support cycling infrastructure might not be a bad approach. We know that roads are already built with general tax dollars, which comes from cyclists and motorists alike. In that sense, cyclists are already paying to build roads — roads that may not have facilities that meet their needs.

Straight Outta Suburbia imagines a special tax on cyclists as sort of a win-win. “The main obstacle to more cycling seems to be bad cycling conditions, not the money cost of cycling,” he said. “A small surtax on cycling gear and services probably isn’t going to deter too many people, but better riding conditions could have a big impact on inducing more cycling.” More important, it might help bring a happy resolution the tireless political battles that dog cycling infrastructure spending decisions. “Providing a direct and visible source of transportation funding from bicycles to bicycle infrastructure takes one more argument away from people who want to portray cyclists as leeching off of tax money they aren’t paying into,” says Straight Outta Suburbia.

New Jersey Shifts Money to Road Spending: We’ve written about how, at one point, New Jersey was on the cutting edge of progressive transportation planning. Unfortunately, today Network blog Mobilizing the Region offers more evidence that that promising moment has passed under Governor Chris Christie. Christie used budgetary shortcomings as his stated rationale for killing the ARC tunnel project to Manhattan. But like his Tea Party counterparts in Ohio and Wisconsin, Christie seems to have a blind spot for road spending. New Jersey will dedicate an additional $25 million next year to expanding its road network — the highest increase in nearly a decade. Meanwhile, the state is reducing spending on bike and pedestrian projects by $2.9 million. The state has also trimmed $11 million from its transit allocations since 2004, Mobilizing the Region reported in a previous post.

Delaware Comes Through for Cyclists and Pedestrians: Network blog Bike Delaware is reporting that the First State has protected bike and pedestrian funding from “rescissions,” a federal requirement that states return a portion of their federal transportation money. While many states pillage the money that is eligible for bicycle and pedestrian projects, Delaware has done the opposite. The state returned $0 from each of the two funds that are most often used to fund non-motorized infrastructure.

Blogger James at Bike Delaware took the opportunity to applaud state officials on their forward-thinking: “‘Bureaucrat’ is the word people often choose when they want to imply something negative about either the motives or competence (or both) of people who work in government. This week, however, we rise to salute those Delaware ‘bureaucrats’ who, responding to the will of the General Assembly, moved quickly to protect bike-eligible federal funds last month. We’re not completely certain who they are, but they showed quick thinking and good judgment last month. We are lucky to have them in Delaware.”

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