New Bike Fees, Taxes Coming?

Increased fees for bikers using state parks and other hikes could be proposed.

By - Jan 13th, 2017 12:09 pm
The Holy Grail of bike trails. Inside the tunnels it is cool, damp, wet, and very dark.

The Holy Grail of bike trails. Inside the tunnels it is cool, damp, wet, and very dark.

As the Wisconsin legislature starts to churn during the winter and spring you may be hearing discussion about license and fee increases related to natural resources. Here’s what’s going on.

The Department of Natural Resources has identified a $4 million to $6 million annual gap in the amount of money it is authorized to invest in fish and wildlife programs (like hiring wardens and stocking fish in lakes and streams) and the amount of money it is raising through licenses and fees (such as deer hunting and fishing licenses.)

The DNR has also opened a discussion on a new registration requirement for canoes and kayaks, designed to generate funds for water resource management.

In addition, the governor has mentioned that he is likely to propose an increase in camping fees for state parks. That is a result of a decision by the governor and legislature to eliminate all general taxpayer support for parks – not so long ago the state had a rule that half of parks costs would be borne by the general fund and half by fees.

So far nobody has proposed an increase in the $25 annual fee or $5 daily fee for bicyclists who ride state trails. But it seems likely that with fee increases being discussed for most other outdoor activities someone will ask why trail passes aren’t being included.

In addition, when the discussion comes to a new registration requirement for things like canoes and kayaks a natural question will be why a registration requirement isn’t extended to bikes. The most obvious answer is that registration for canoes and kayaks is being proposed as a response to a deficit in a fund that directly deals with water resources. However, there is also a deficit in trails funding with trail passes covering only a fraction of the actual costs of managing them.

The Bike Fed will be actively involved in these discussions. Our take on this is that – as long as the trail pass revenue is going to go for better trail maintenance – we would be fine with a modest increase.

This stance would be consistent with what other user groups are saying about their proposed fee increases. For example, both Ducks Unlimited and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation have endorsed hunting license price increases as long as the funds are used to improve habitat and related DNR functions.

But this is distinct from talk last session about a more general bike tax. In the last state budget a one-time $25 “registration fee” was proposed for most sales of new bikes in the state. We joined the bike industry and local bike shops in opposition to that because it really was essentially a special sales tax on bikes. It might have hurt already struggling local small business owners. And of course the state and most county governments already collect a 5.5% sales tax on sales of bikes and equipment.

With pressure for increases in outdoor recreation fees expect cyclists to be pulled into that discussion. We’ll be there representing your interests. And of course let us know what you think either in the comments below or you can email me at

Dave Cieslewicz is the executive director of the Wisconsin Bike Fed and former mayor of the city of Madison.

Categories: Biking, Transportation

22 thoughts on “Biking: New Bike Fees, Taxes Coming?”

  1. Caligula says:

    I won’t register my kayak and I’ll buy my next bike in Minneapolis.

  2. Jason says:

    This all good news and Democrats should support bike taxes. Bikers want to share the roads and have special bike lanes then they should share the cost of road maintenance. Hank Aaron Trail is a great asset to Milwaukee but it must be paid for by its users. The state is full of bike trails and its users should have to purchase annual registration licenses just as vehicle owners do.

  3. Milwaukee Native says:

    Yeah, Jason. Soak those cyclists–starting with those tot bikes with the training wheels!

  4. Roho says:

    The fees should be proportional to the damage the device causes (or the maintenance it generates the need for as a result of the damage). If it only costs $75/year to register a Chevy suburban a bikes fee to use the roads should be proportionally about $0.000001.

    Similar math for a kayak vs a powerboat.

  5. GPKWH says:

    I was a volunteer campground host at a near by state forest. Last summer our newly raised camp fees were mostly ignored since the staff had been cut back so drastically there were only two people left to enforce rules 24/7. This year, to further cut costs, the rangers will no longer have law enforcement responsibilities so no one will be enforcing the park rules. They can put any fee on bikes, kayaks, canoes, hikers, toddlers crawling, or grilling brats and there will be nobody to enforce payment. At the park I had hosted for more than twelve years the volunteer host was the park’s only authority at night. I was armed with my own cellphone and the park’s superintendent’s phone number. He lived two hours from the park and when he was on vacation the phone went unanswered. The majority of our campsites during the weekdays were occupied with campers who did not pay the fees. Our governor is doing to our state parks and forests what he did to the county parks in Milwaukee as County Exec. I expect him to propose selling off some of the land to cover his huge deficits.

  6. Casey says:

    Caligula- it’ll cost you much more when you get stopped.

    I agree with Dave. A modest increase is fine. I take advantage of the DNR’s resources. Next year I’ll be paying much more. I just want them to use my money effectively.

  7. Jason says:

    ROHO, it is not just about maintenance it is about the duration of the trip. If your taking what was a road that had two lanes of access for vehicles going both directions and making it less efficient for drivers,well than the biker should pay for the cost. Creating a bike lane takes two lanes down to one in both directions. This should be the bikers cost look it as a conveniece fee.

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    Less efficient for drivers by adding what 30 seconds to their trip?

  9. Jason says:

    Vince are you part of the Alt- Right movement, do you think roads just magically appear. We pay for them through taxes. Are you against snow plows removing snow pavement from bike lanes. When did you become such a right winger. Bikers should pay their fair share.

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    For some reason you have the need to put words in someone’s mouth every single time you post a response. I didn’t say a word about bikers or taxes or snow plows. I asked a question. What’s the burden for drivers exactly, the one you reference? Adding a few seconds to their trip? Why do you even care when one of those vans for seniors does all the driving for you?

  11. Jason says:

    Well Vince I had you pegged wrong. I am so glad that you feel that bikers have equal rights to the road as drivers? Now pay up.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    Same shit different day. If you ever answer a direct question I’ll die of shock. That should be some incentive for you. Keep on trollin’ troll.

  13. Jason says:

    Vince, is your question is it a hardship to get old? Yes, everyday I get older. Would I prefer to have a commute that is fifteen minutes versus twenty. Yes.

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    Neither one of those was my question. Keep trollin’ troll.

  15. Jason says:

    Vince if your question is do I thing drivers should pay more for state transit needs? I say no. Bikers want more road access then they should pay more. Bus ridership is down over the last eight years and passengers should pay more if fewer consumers want to use this service. Maybe we should ask more from Uber, Lift and the Bubler bike transportation businesses. If the street car is going to be this new smart tech mode of transportation downtown maybe we should charge more than a $1 a ride. Will downtown road’s future be a lane for the trolley, a lane for bikes and nothing for what most consumers want in the near future.

  16. Vincent Hanna says:

    Why is bus ridership down? Because routes keep getting slashed as prices go up? I seriously doubt the future of downtown is car-free. Do you speak for most consumers? The future is Millennials and they want public transportation Jason, like it or not.

  17. Jason says:

    So, Vince what are you saying Millennials are cheap skates and free loaders. They want to ride- share and bike and not contribute to transportation taxes. They want to use the roads but pay the bare minimum by forcing soccer moms in the suburbs to pay their frugal life style. Maybe, your right maybe the millennials will choose to live their lives childless in downtown Milwaukee or maybe they will enjoy the pleasant experience of raising children in the city of Milwaukee with out a car and the luxuries of an MPS education.

  18. Big Al says:

    Jason – if you think gas taxes and registration fees pay for all the roads, you’re sorely mistaken.

    That means two thirds of the cost of the roads are being paid for by everyone, including bikers, walkers, drivers, etc. So spare everyone your ‘concern’ over those poor soccer moms in the suburbs paying for all the roads.

  19. CJ says:

    Can we please have a walking tax? I don’t use most of the sidewalks and I don’t want to pay for them, crosswalks, or crosswalk signs.

  20. Jason says:

    Can the state legislatures suggest bike permits. So, all adult bikers know how to properly use their bikes safely. Maybe a 90 minute course on how bikes share the road with vehicles. Proper reflective gear. Wearing bright clothes at night. When to bike with on coming traffic. What a red light and stop sign are for. You than receive your $100 permit after taking the class.

  21. Kevin says:

    $25 is a bargain. I buy 2 to help support our trails.

  22. Lisa says:

    Most cyclists also drive automobiles in their spare time so they’re already paying. Maybe all drivers should be required to take a refresher course on the rules of the road- it’s never more than three minutes into my commute before I see one of then breaking an actual law. Additionally, an anger management, texting/distracted driving course should be required for a modest fee. Did I forget the criminal charges for killing a cyclist with a vehicle? Let’s do that too.

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