Lo Semple wrote an interesting column about the proposed fee for bicyclists riding to the Maroon Bells (“Hey road cyclists, what time do the Maroon Bells ring?” Aspen Daily News, June 21). Semple is entirely correct that most of us could easily afford a modest fee to ride the Bells. However, this begs the question of whether the Forest Service should “tax” those who choose a healthy activity that has literally no environmental impact. Shouldn’t we tax things we want to discourage and not those we want to promote? Isn’t that why we tax plastic bags in Aspen?
Furthermore, to compare bicycling to the Bells with motor vehicle traffic, is like comparing an Exxon smoke stack to a windmill. They both create electricity, but should they both be taxed equally? Of course not. In fact, we already recognize the difference through special credits written into our tax code to encourage environmentally friendly technology like wind, solar and geothermal.
However, very few have touched on the real “opportunity” to be derived for Aspen from this fascinating debate. I suggest this is a terrific chance for Aspen to gain some positive national and international publicity. Don’t we want eco-friendly, bicycling tourists to come to Aspen? Don’t we want the world to know that we are a community that values healthy lifestyles? Isn’t that why we live here?
Accordingly, if there is a misguided attempt to legislate a fee on cyclists, I have a simple suggestion. Our open space and trails board should negotiate to pay that fee for anyone and everyone who pedals up the hill. We already pay for trails for hikers. We should do the same for cyclists. Like the plastic bag issue, it’s largely symbolic, but Aspen should set an example on healthy, environmentally correct issues, and cycling fits in both those categories. Moreover, we will more than make up the cost of this modest subsidy through growing sales tax receipts from happy tourists.
What an advertising bonanza. “Come to Aspen. We pay. You enjoy. Free bicycling for everyone!”