Insane! That is all I can say.
Sales has said cyclists need “to put some skin in the game” when it comes to road and recreation funding in the state, and even some of those in his own party think his tax amendment targeting cyclists goes a step too far.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” fellow Republican Senator Steve Fitzpatrick told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
Sales didn’t respond to a voicemail seeking comment.
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It’s not known yet how the sticker requirement would be imposed or how law enforcement will determine out-of-state riders on the road—if the bill passes with that language.
It is noteworthy that users of motorized fishing boats, which unlike bicycles can actually spread the invasive mussel at the core of the bill, are exempt from a similar fee.
Melinda Barnes, executive director of Bike Walk Montana, fears Sales’ crusade will negatively impact the state’s bike-tourism industry. Montana-based group Adventure Cycling has reported that cycling could generate $377 million annually within the state.
“This is the third time this year that [Montana has] gotten national attention, but for the wrong reasons,” Barnes said. “People are starting to wonder what’s going on up here. It’s entirely possible that riders are just going to avoid coming to Montana.”
Those fears may soon come true. Bike & Build, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that leads bike tours during which young adults build low-income houses, might remove the state from its annual cross-country tour in coming years if the anti-cycling sentiment in the legislature continues.
“We’ve been doing this trip with 36 volunteers since 2003, and Montana is always one of the favorite places we visit,” said Ron Stepanek, executive director of Bike & Build. “This year we plan to spend more than two weeks—and a lot of money—in the state. But the legislature doesn’t seem to value the positive impact we have. If this or some other piece of [anti-cyclist] legislation passes, we might have to reconsider our route in the future.” (For great rides all over the world, read The Cyclist’s Bucket List, published by Rodale!)
Tacking on that language to this particular bill was telling, Stepanek believes.
“It definitely sends a message that we’re the invasive species,” Stepanek said, “and that’s so far from what we are.”
Riders from all over the country, including USA Cycling CEO Derek Bouchard-Hall, deluged Sales with calls and e-mails last month after he helped kill a bill mandating vehicles going 35mph give riders three feet when passing and five feet when going even faster. After the blowback, Sales doubled-down on his anti-cycling sentiment, saying he would propose a bill for the next legislative session banning riders from two-lane roads with less than a 3-foot shoulder, require them to use reflectors on both their bicycles and their bodies, and force them to pay a tax to ride on the road.
Sales is not new to controversy. In 2012, his wife was convicted of embezzling at least $20,000 from her mother, and two years later Sales paid a $500 fine to avoid an ethics investigation into allegedly conspiring with an anti-environment group.
SB 363 is scheduled for a hearing in the Natural Resources Committee this Wednesday and will likely be voted on Friday. Barnes, of Bike Walk Montana, said she was optimistic that it would pass, but without the bicycle fee attached.
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