Some people believe that bicyclists don’t pay taxes. Typically this argument is used to justify banning bicycles. The logic goes:
Highways are paid for by taxes.
Bicyclists don’t pay taxes.
Ergo, highways are not for bicycles.
Putting aside the validity of the premise that highways are only for people who pay for them, the truth is that bicyclists do pay taxes.
I suppose the idea gets started because bicycles don’t use gas, and our highways—but not our streets—are partly paid for through fuel taxes. There are two reasons why it is incorrect to say that bicyclists are getting a free ride on our highways.
First, most bicyclists own cars, drive them, and pay fuel taxes. People will drive a long way and spend a lot of money to bicycle in a race or a charity ride. When my brother tried a car-free week, he had to cut his week short by a day so he could drive to the mountain bike trail!
Second, and more importantly, the fuel tax is not nearly large enough to support our highway system. Even after closing the Macon office and several others, MoDOT can’t maintain Missouri highways on the fuel tax alone and has proposed a 1% sales tax which I enthusiastically support. Highways are heavily federally subsidized, and bicyclists contribute to the non-fuel tax revenue stream through income taxes, sales taxes, etc.
Kirksville city streets are not funded through fuel taxes at all. Bicyclists pay property taxes on their homes and vehicles. Bicyclists pay sales tax on the things they buy in town. Bicyclists support the landowners who pay property taxes, through rent and patronizing restaurants and local businesses.
The idea that bicyclists don’t pay taxes may stem from a notion that bicyclists are predominantly poor people who can’t afford cars or pay taxes (another fallacy). I can peg-hole (or stereotype) the bicyclists I see easily. Without doing proper research, my feeling is that in order of quantity, the bicyclists I see are: 1) students, 2) training for fitness, 3) recreational bicyclists, 4) homeless, and 5) green. By “green” I mean they choose to bicycle because it is environmentally friendly. Bicyclists are NOT predominantly impoverished, nor do most poor people bicycle. Like the rest of us, most poor people rely on motorized transportation.
Choosing to bicycle to work allows me to spend more time and money driving to visit family and friends. I pay fuel taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes. I support landlords and businesses and the taxes they pay. I pay for the streets and highways that I bicycle and drive on and that future generations will use.