Bicycle Trust Fund

On the Minneapolis Community Indicators project, someone (undoubtedly not a bicyclist) suggested bicyclists should have to pay a fee or license to use bike lanes (an idea totally tangential to the idea of the Indicators project which is about measuring success).

According to jailed car salesman Denny Hecker, Nobody Walks.
According to jailed car salesman Denny Hecker, Nobody Walks.

This drew some snarky comments on the super-secret streets.mn writers-only exclusive mailing list, and was ultimately silenced out of respect for state of people’s inboxes.

I (not a hard core bicyclist either, but in a world with better facilities, perhaps) suggested that Bicycling would get more respect at the table, and more resources, if bicycle owners and/or users paid some amount of money to support bicycle infrastructure.

For instance, a $10/year fee for registering a bike would raise more than a million dollars a year in Minneapolis (I am estimating more than 100,000 bikes in the city, and given bike sales > car sales, this doesn’t seem too out of line, I don’t actually know how many there are, or how effective a registration program would be), which would go a long way toward bike infrastructure.

Bike advocates should reframe and embrace. The Bicycle Trust Fund could be very powerful.

Some suggest the funds for bicycle infrastructure should be provided by the public out of general revenue. My first thought is, how is that working for you so far? If you are happy with the level of bike infrastructure in America’s number one bike city, Minneapolis, carry on. If you think it should be better, you can rally and exhort, but you can also bring some money to the table.

In contrast with sidewalks, which are largely maintained (or not) by adjacent property owners, and paid for from special assessments, bike paths are treated more like roads. Also, keep in mind, everyone walks, not everyone bikes.
Certainly car owners don’t pay for 100% of the cost of road infrastructure (like 50% of operating and capital costs, but depends how you count), but they pay more than non-car owners due to gas taxes and vehicle registration fees. For better or worse, this allows a lot of car-oriented infrastructure to get built.
Transit users don’t pay for 100% of the cost of riding transit (like 33% of operating costs and 0% of capital costs), but they pay more than non-transit users due to fares. This allows transit routes to be somewhat more widespread than otherwise.
There is a perception bike riders are free riders. Bike riders do not pay more for the available bike infrastructure than non-bike riders. Is this perception wrong? Step-up (or pedal-up) and claim some rights and funds in exchange for some responsibilities and “user fees”.
I realize the Minneapolis tax collection bureaucracy has high overhead, but there should be ways to do this and get a pot of money together. If you think a $10 annual fee is too administratively complex, make a $30  fee at the point of sale and/or at bike registration. Exclude bikes older than 3 years.
If you think the bike-tax cops will harass poor bicyclists, make it a secondary rather than primary offense, so you can’t get pulled over for it.
If you are worried about kids, set it up so parents pay for kids, or make it only for bikes > 20″ wheel or some such … there are a lot of strategies.
Think creatively.
Cross-posted on streets.mn

2 thoughts on “Bicycle Trust Fund

  1. I don’t know how it is in the Twin Cities, but local roads and streets are usually paid for through general local taxation (with state aid in some places, and in other places not). One has to assume (though I don’t know anyone who tracks this) that most bike travel happens on these local roads as opposed to state highways or freeways (where bike travel is almost always banned). So bicyclists already pay for most of the road services they use in their capacity as taxpayers and any subsidies for bike infrastructure at state/fed level are a pittance compared to subsidies provided by general taxpayers to motorists. The ‘perception’ that bicyclists are free riders – however broadly held – is incorrect. So while there might be some practical advantages to this idea – get a bunch of bike infrastructure built quickly – reinforcing the erroneous assumption that bicyclists don’t “pay their fair share” (and, by extension, that motorists do) is problematic.

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  2. Compliance would be the bane of registration. Cops have more important things to do, and bike registration could cost more to enforce than it would generate in income. A simpler, easier and less regressive solution might be an excise tax on bikes and accessories.

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