How does Seattle pay for bike lanes?

SEATTLE -- Underneath the West Seattle Bridge, there is a pit stop for cyclists. Every Thursday, the West Seattle Cyclery fixes bikes for free to help those on their way to work.

“I think a lot of people saw bike commuting as a really good alternative to sitting in traffic,” said Brad Loetel, owner of West Seattle Cyclery.

Over the next nine years, the city is adding 50 miles of new protected bike lanes as well as more greenways throughout Seattle. As part of a transportation levy, $65 million will go towards these bike lanes and greenway projects.

“The bulk of the money that funds the bicycle improvements that we do in the city come from the voter approved Move Seattle Levy,” said Dawn Schellenberg with the Seattle Department of Transportation.

In 2016, SDOT reports 86% of the funding for new bike lane projects comes from property tax and the remainder from a vehicle tax. Grant money and major projects like the Central Waterfront also help add bike lanes to existing street safety projects.

Over the years, some have argued for a bike tax or bike license to help cover the cost. Much like how drivers help pay for roads, supporters say bikers should help pay for bike lanes.

“There is a pushback. As more bike lanes show up and traffic gets worse people want to blame someone,” says Q13 News political analyst C.R. Douglas.

Douglas says it’s not uncommon for the topic to come up at city hall, but it is never considered because the city wants to be more bike friendly.

“The view at city hall is that taxing bicyclists for lanes is like taxing pedestrians for sidewalks,” said Douglas. “You could never really collect enough to pay for much. The bureaucracy it would take to just enforce would chew up any revenue you make,” said Douglas.

At Alki Bike and Board, life-long biker Stu Hennessey says it’s a myth that they don’t pay their share. He points out that he owns a vehicle, home, and a business.

“All these people you think are not paying taxes or paying their way are actually paying their way in every way the average citizen does,” said Hennessey.

However, there are some who say they would be willing to consider a so-called bike tax.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to paying a bike tax if we can have better bike roads. I don’t think cars and homeowners should have to pay all that,” said one biker.

Another cyclist added he would consider supporting the idea, but does have concerns over the cost and the effects on low income people who rely on their bikes to get around the city.