Loss of Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit; Higher National Park fees- Are Cyclists being treated unfairly?

The entrance to Crater Lake National Park. How much will National Park fees rise under current plans? How will they affect bicycle touring cyclists. Photo by Dave Iltis

Guest Editorial by Lou Melini

Before my retirement, I received about $960 in total during 4 years I was able to take advantage of the Bicycle Commuter Act. In the Senate version of the tax bill, cyclists will see the meager $20/month Bicycle Commuter Tax break eliminated. Bus riders and car drivers will still see their $255 tax break remain intact. An article from the Washington Post quotes Ken McLeod, policy director at the League of American Bicyclists stated that cyclists are interpreting the purpose of pulling the tax break simply to send a discouraging message to cyclists. He further stated that the tax benefit costs the government about $5 million/year but is unsure how many cyclists the program benefits. CityLab summarized the Post article using the word “spite”. PeopleforBikes is also encouraging cyclists to contact their representative to restore the Bicycle Commuter Act.

Touring Cyclists will also see a boost in fees if they visit select National Parks during “peak season”. Yellowstone NP currently charges $15 for entering the park by bike (or foot). This fee will go up to $30 if the National Park Service (NPS) enacts the fee increase. Automobile entrance will also go up from the current $30 fee to $70 at Yellowstone. Personally I know the National Parks need the money. I sometimes think I should not use my senior pass that allows free entrance to the Park (that also includes my wife entering for free). I contribute to the National Parks Foundation (NPF) and to Yellowstone Forever as a way to help the Parks. (The NPF supports the fee increase according to the Washington Post)

National Park entrance fees are good for 7 days, so one could go to 2 national parks (Yellowstone and Teton for example) with one entrance fee. If 4 people are packed into a car, the per-person fee is actually quite small. Compare the Park fees with Disney World charges a minimum of $60/person per day with fees going upward to $130.

I am in favor of a fee increase but I would like the increase smaller and fairer to cyclists. Think about 4 people in a car paying $70 vs. 4 cyclists arriving and paying $120. This doesn’t seem right to me. Now if the NPS tells me that 80% of the cars coming to Yellowstone only have 1 or 2 passengers then I will back off with my complaint. 

However I am a bike guy and I think the proposed bike fee for entering Yellowstone should be no higher than 25% of the car fee and that was my comment to the NPS. If you want to weigh in on the propose fee increase go to: https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/10-24-2017-fee-changes-proposal.htm

To weigh in on the Bicycle Commuter Benefit, visit: https://bikeleague.org/content/save-bike-commuter-benefit

and/or visit: http://peopleforbikes.org/congress-bike-tax-benefit/

Or, for either issue, contact your US House of Representatives congressperson or your US Senator.

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