CO lawmakers consider annual fee for larger vehicle registrations to fund cyclist, pedestrian infrastructure

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Posted at 10:50 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-28 10:25:40-05

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers are considering a bill that would add an additional fee to annual registrations of larger vehicles, such as SUVs and trucks, to fund local safety infrastructure projects for cyclists and pedestrians.

The bill, called the Vulnerable Road User Protection Enterprise, is under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.

The fees would be tied to the size and weight of a vehicle. During a committee hearing Tuesday, bill cosponsors said owners of smaller cars and sedans would likely see no added fees, whereas owners of larger SUVs and trucks could see an extra $5 to $10 per year.

“It then takes that money and puts it into a grant fund that then gets distributed to local governments to build pedestrian and bike infrastructure, general safety infrastructure to reduce traffic violence on our roads,” explained June Churchill, a supporter of the bill. Churchill is also known as the "Denver Bike Mayor."

The fees would only apply to drivers in Colorado’s 12 most populated counties, which would then be the recipients of grant money awarded through the program. Smaller counties would have the option to opt into the program, according to bill cosponsors.

Exemptions will be given to owners who use their trucks and vehicles for agricultural or commercial purposes.

During a hearing Tuesday, dozens of advocates testified about their dangerous encounters as cyclists and pedestrians on Colorado’s roads, pleading with committee members to advance the bill to the full Senate. Because larger vehicles on the roads present more danger, they argued the extra fee was reasonable for future investment.

“We are at a time where cars are getting larger, the speeds are getting faster, reckless driving is increasing,” Churchill said. “And as a result, we see an enormous amount of violence on our roadways affecting everyone.”

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, there were 133 pedestrian deaths and 20 bicyclist deaths in Colorado in 2023, representing a 16% and 33% increase over 2022 respectively. There were 716 total traffic deaths last year.

The Vulnerable Road User Protection Enterprise needs the support of four Senate Finance Committee members to advance to the full Senate. A vote in the committee is expected next week.

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