66 Percent of Denver Voters Would Pay a Sales Tax to Build the Bike Network

Photo: David Sachs
Photo: David Sachs

Would Denver voters enact a small sales tax to build out the city’s bike network? New polling suggests they would.

OnSight Public Affairs polled 621 likely 2017 voters and found that 66 percent would pay a 4-cent sales tax for every $100 in purchases (that’s 0.04 percent) to complete the citywide bike network in five years.

Bicycle Colorado commissioned the poll. OnSight conducted the survey in partnership with Keating Research. Keating worked on Mayor Michael Hancock’s election campaign. OnSight has worked on various ballot initiatives, including the successful 2015 campaign to end development restrictions around Denver International Airport.

OnSight co-founder Ben Davis presented the findings at Bicycle Colorado’s Moving People Forward conference Monday.

“This is not something we’re actually pursuing today, so everyone please don’t pick the phone up to the mayor’s office quite yet,” Davis told the crowd. “But we just wanted to know if people’s values and perspectives would stay consistent when we actually ask them to spend money and to increase the sales tax in order to do so.”

Here’s what OnSight found.

66 percent of people would pay a small sales tax to fund a citywide bicycle network.

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Image: OnSight Public Affairs

OnSight also asked people whether fewer parking spaces or car lanes would change their minds. Of the people who said they would be willing to pay the tax, 62 percent said repurposing parking and car lanes would not affect their decision.

Only 14 percent of people feel “very safe” biking around Denver.

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Which of the following best describes how safe you feel when you are riding a bike around Denver? Image: OnSight Public Affairs

When cities have a network of safe, protected bike lanes, more people will opt to bike instead of drive. With Denver’s patchwork network, only 14 percent of people feel “very safe” while biking. While a large share feel “somewhat safe,” the results suggest that Denver has a lot of work to do to make cycling around the city a stress-free mode of transportation for most people.

Building out the bike network would make many Denverites more likely to ride.

Denver Moves, the city’s underfunded bike plan, calls for a fully connected network with plenty of protected bike lanes that physically separate cyclists from motor vehicle traffic. If the city built out that plan, many more people would ride, the poll results suggest.

Pollsters asked the question, “Now I’d like to read some specific improvements to bicycling in Denver and after I read each one please tell me if honestly speaking you think it would do a lot, some, a little, or nothing at all to make it better to ride a bicycle in Denver.” Here’s how people responded:

Image: OnSite Public Affairs
Image: OnSight Public Affairs

Additionally, a great bike network would reduce car traffic. Pollsters asked Denverites if they would bike instead of driving if they had a protected bike lane “between your home and your workplace, or school, or favorite restaurant.” Sixty percent of people said yes — a share that rises to 85 percent among people age 18 to 34.

Most people have a bike and ride it, sometimes.

Sixty-six percent of respondents said they “have access to a working bicycle,” and of those, 84 percent ride it either weekly or monthly. “So this notion that we’re a small minority, that cyclists are a small group of the Denver electorate… is actually wrong,” Davis said. “Most drivers have a bike at home.”

This article was changed to reflect who commissioned the polling.