Bicycling advocates are upset about a bill in the Maine Legislature that would impose a 2 percent surcharge on retail bicycle sales.

The bill’s sponsor says his proposal is intended to solve problems created by a law, passed two years ago, that requires drivers to steer at least three feet clear of cyclists, which can be impossible.

“In a sense, the law gives a false sense of security,” said Rep. Ralph Sarty, R-Denmark, sponsor of the bike surcharge bill. He said his bill would help pay to add shoulders to many roads that lack them.

The public hearing on the bill, L.D. 1189, is scheduled Tuesday before the Legislature’s Transportation Committee.

Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, said bicycle shops will oppose the surcharge, which would be on top of the 5 percent sales tax.

She said cyclists already are paying for safe roads and paved shoulders in a variety of ways.

“We pay local and state and federal taxes, property taxes and federal taxes,” Grant said. “Bicyclists wear out the roads so minimally … It’s hard to hear someone ask them to pay more.”

Sarty said his bill is not about hurting small businesses or the bicycle community, but about safety. He said the law passed two years ago created more danger for cyclists.

He said he has heard from truckers who say they often don’t have three feet to steer around cyclists. So while cyclists may think they’re safe, they’re really not, he said.

Sarty, a state trooper for 20 years, said he’s seen firsthand how unsafe Maine’s roads are, and how the lack of shoulders in rural areas makes many roads unsuitable for riding.

“My kids chipped in to buy two bicycles, for my wife and I, for our anniversary this past year,” he said. “We’re looking forward to using them. But I am very reluctant to use them where we live. We have no paved shoulders.”

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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