Sen. Ray Scott calls for tax on bicycles to help pay for Colorado roads

Author: Joey Bunch - July 19, 2017 - Updated: June 21, 2018

Senate Republicans in the last legislative session wouldn’t allow any new taxes to pay for roads, but Sen. Ray Scott has found one he can embrace: taxing bicycles.

Scott, an influential Republican from Grand Junction, first made the announcement on Facebook Wednesday morning, atop a Washington Times story about Oregon becoming the first to implement a statewide tax on bicycles.

“We will be proposing something similar,” Scott posted. “They use the roads also.”

In an interview with Colorado Politics, Scott said he’s soliciting feedback to see if it’s viable, but he’s serious in his consideration.

“One way to get feedback is to put it out there and see where it goes,” he said.

Every other vehicle has a tax or sticker, but bicycles, which are ubiquitous on Colorado roads, get a free pass, even though they often have dedicated lanes, law enforcement and other taxpayer-funded public services.

“Maybe we should start from the other direction,” Scott said. “If we’re not going to tax bicycles, then let’s not tax boats, ATVs and every other vehicle out there that already pay all these taxes … how many rights do we give to cyclists that we don’t give to everybody else on the road? I’m asking.”

In Oregon, Democrats included a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles that cost more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches, so kids bikes are exempt. The tax was promoted by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.

According to Fox News, Oregon Republican Party Chairman Billy Currier called out Brown for  “anti-healthy, environmentally-unfriendly policies” who “continues to view the people of her state as nothing more than a piggy bank to fund her efforts to impose job-killing policies.”

Sen. Andy Kerr, a Democrat from Lakewood and a cycling enthusiast, didn’t think much of Scott’s idea.

“So the Republican Party now wants to put a special tax on my 13-year-old, who rides an adult bike?” he said. “Do they want to tax all students who ride their bikes to school, or anyone who likes to use their bike to get to work?

“Utterly ridiculous. People riding their bikes helps get people out of their cars, which in turn reduces traffic and wear-and-tear on our roads. We should be working to expand transportation options, and not decrease them with an anti-business, anti-freedom policy this Republican ‘bike tax’ would be.”

Sen. Mike Merrifield from Colorado Springs, another cycling Democrat, said the proposal is misguided.

“We should be encouraging people to go biking, not making it more difficult and expensive,” he said.

In the last session, House Bill 1242, co-sponsored by Republican Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City, would have imposed 0.50 sales tax for transportation projects statewide, which lawmakers for most of the session called their top priority.

Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee killed the legislation out of the opposition to the tax.

Scott’s post Wednesday morning drew more replies than likes.

“I own 3 houses in CO, have 4 cars registered here too,” replied Susan Shepherd, the former Denver City Council member. “Hubby is the senior-most biz partner of a firm that has $3-4 M in annual earnings. We pay tons in taxes annually, several times the annual salary of a state legislator. Why should I have to pay an extra tax when my kid and I are bicycling on roads and streets? CDOT and municipalities need to get their priorities straight!!!”

Grand Junction orchard owner Josie Bolton posted in reply to Scott that bicycles shouldn’t be taxed because they don’t damage the roads.

Scott replied to the post, “Snowmobiles don’t hurt the snow, ATV’s don’t hurt the dirt, boats don’t hurt the water and they pay a tax, maybe we should eliminate those taxes.”

Editor’s note: This blog was updated to include comments from Colorado Politics’ interview with Scott after his Facebook post, and again to add reaction from Kerr and Merrifield. Also I corrected that it was the Senate Finance Committee, not the Senate Transportation Committee that spiked the bill.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.


  • JW Stephens

    July 19, 2017 at 11:15 am

    This is not a bad idea if the tax is proportionate to the damage done. Which, of course, will be less than the cost of collection. Doh!

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  • CD

    July 19, 2017 at 11:25 am

    This is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard.

    Bicycles REDUCE wear and tear on roads because they get people out of cars and the amount of damage done to a road increases exponentially with the weight of the vehicle.

  • Archer Sully

    July 19, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    The difference between cars, ATVs, (most) boats, and bicycles is that the former have motors, while (most) bicycles do not. People do pay taxes on bicycles when they purchase them, and cyclists pay sales taxes, and most cyclists also drive cars, and so also pay gas taxes.

  • David R

    July 19, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    Sales taxes go partially to roads which bicycles are not degrading so the bicyclist is actually subsidizing the motorist.

  • John Howe

    July 19, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    This proposal is misdirected, at least as far as mountain bikes are concerned. What about a tax to support nonmotorized trail development?

  • Tfl

    July 19, 2017 at 4:33 pm

    I can’t believe this! It is so wrong. On top on the other comments, i will suggest to look at the bigger picture here: cyclist help by reducing pollution, help with the road congestion and are healthier.
    They should actully receive a reward to keep using their bike as they protect the environment, save on healthcare care bills and save time for other drivers.

    • Andrew Noiles

      July 19, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      My thought exactly.

  • Karl Hanzel

    July 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    From the source:

    “Road damage rises steeply with axle weight, and is estimated ‘as a rule of thumb…
    for reasonably strong pavement surfaces’ to be proportional to the fourth power of the axle weight.”

    So if you want to tax bicycles… don’t bother. They do nothing compared to large trucks, small trucks, SUVs and … well, your average, modest car doesn’t do much of anything either.

  • Brent Johns

    July 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    A much bigger ‘tax’ has been imposed by all the renewable energy cheerleaders upon electricity ratepayers to pay for partially-developed, expensive technology that in its current form cannot supply sufficient electricity to maintain a stable grid and fulfill the need for electricity at night, during stormy weather and on cloudy days. When electricity bills start doubling, tripling and quadrupling, or more, to fulfill the fantasy of a small minority, perhaps this latest way of ‘taxing’ every aspect of human activity will be publicly debated, rather than swept under the carpet.

  • Tammy

    July 20, 2017 at 2:36 am

    I believe that they need to be licensed yearly to help pay for the trails and bike paths that were created for their use. Whether they cause damage to road or not, there is always maintenance that needs to be done.
    Plates should be based on value, like an automobile. That way a child’s bike would not cost as much as someone’s bike that their frame alone cost over $5,000.

    • Bradley

      July 20, 2017 at 9:23 am

      Tammy, it would cost more to run/manage your ridiculous idea than what would come in to be used as extra revenue.

    • Dillard Odale Jenkins

      July 22, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      Tammy, the mountain bikers volunteer to build and maintain those trails. Also That a child’s bike does not cost as much as someone’s bike that their frame alone cost over $5,000.

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    July 20, 2017 at 11:12 am

    Come on tree munchers you guys have to pay for your way too. Paint and asphalt is not free for bike lanes in my city and in reality a small minority just use those lanes. Why does majority pay such high local taxes for a small group of bicyclist?

    • James

      July 20, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Your making stuff up Goldman, get our of your own head.

      • goldman

        July 24, 2017 at 3:29 pm

        No James I take this seriously, we all have responsibilities even if its riding your bike on busy crowded city streets. I pay fees every year to maintain our roads why can’t you pay for the extra bike lanes that are hardly used. Get that thru your hard head.

  • Jeff

    July 20, 2017 at 11:19 am

    Not surprising that he doesn’t have a clue about the ATV “tax.” ATV riders, dirt bikers and 4wheelers organized and asked for a tax on themselves to be used to maintain trails. That’s right, they asked to be taxed. And a portion of that tax, really a fee, goes to non-motorized trails too.

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  • Dillard Odale Jenkins

    July 21, 2017 at 10:42 am

    Sen. Ray Scott’s corpulent abdominal protrusion indicates that perhaps he should seriously consider doing a bit pedaling himself. An added benefit would be a higher oxygen delivered to his cerebral matter. Maybe that would eliminate such demented ideas.

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