Do we need a bike infrastructure sales tax?

October 21, 2019

Why do we need a sales tax to improve the bike lane network?

The imposition of universal sales tax that would be allotted to the bike lane network in Los Angeles would create a more bike-safe and bike-friendly city. Creating a more bike-safe city addresses a number of the General Plan elements, namely air quality, conservation, health, mobility, infrastructure systems, and noise. More community members who commute by bike, even if their commute includes mixed transit methods, cuts down the volume of car emissions, the amount of light pollution caused by headlights and taillights. In the same vain, increased bike activity conserves natural resources (particularly in its elimination of the use of fossil fuels and/or electricity) and is less corrosive to existing roadways than cars. Biking provides an economical mode of transportation in comparison to personal vehicles, and increased bike safety would increase mobility opportunities especially for lower-income community members. Assuming we can create a safe environment for cyclists, biking provides important health benefits to keep community members thriving outside of their commutes.

Where should we begin improvements?

We should start improving bikeway infrastructure in the areas that have the most densely concentrated high injury risk corridors. These also happen corridors to be historically subjected to redlining. First, it is sensible to address the most concentrated areas of high injury risk, and then to address the areas which do not experience such a severe need for safer bikeways. Second, improving the infrastructure of these areas increases the residents’ access to their city and could potentially remedy some of the economic burden they have historically faced by providing a safe, alternate mode of transportation than a car or public transit.

Oppositions to improving the bike lane network

In opposition to imposing a sales tax and allotting it to bikeway infrastructure, it could be argued that bike lanes are used by a small population, and so the burden of funding should not fall on the majority. In the same way that a bike-user would not have to pay a tax on fuel at a gas station, folks not using bike lanes should not bear the burden of funding them. Additionally, there might not be enough people using bike lanes to actually cut down on traffic, rendering increased and improved bike infrastructure useless or an unnecessary burden on the overall public. Lastly, bike lanes are often perceived as a tool or precursor of gentrification – a luxury that historically disenfranchised communities do not benefit from and that typically leads to or signals ongoing gentrification of an area.

Counterpoint

While it is necessary to consider these oppositions, they do not necessarily warrant disregard for the effectiveness of creating a bike-safe city on the quality of life for community members. Everyone has the opportunity to utilize bike infrastructure, whether or not one chooses to do so, and so everyone should bear the burden. In much the same way that everyone pays taxes that contribute to the upkeep of public parks, emergency services, and other roadway infrastructure – we don’t all use these but they are for the public good nevertheless. Cars are expensive to have as a primary mode of transportation. Creating more and safer bike lanes gives people an alternative mode of transportation that is more economical, even if they are using the bike lanes to access public transit. Making active transportation (and heck biking for recreation!) improves communities – it gets people out of their cars and onto the streets together where they can interact and build support for one another through shared activity. This could help current residents strengthen communities as a means to create overall safer cities as well.