And he’s not stopping at stalling safety measures. Yesterday, Sales—who says cyclists are “some of the rudest and most self-centered people he’s ever encountered”— announced plans to introduce legislation next session that would remove riders’ rights to use many state roads and highways. During a Wednesday morning interview with Bicycling Magazine, Sales clarified his comments, saying that 15 to 20 percent of riders have “left a bad taste in my mouth,” but cyclists “shouldn’t be on the roads anyway.”
“If cyclists want safety, we’ll give them safety.”
Sales’ potential bill would seek to ban riders from two-lane roads with less than a three-foot shoulder; require cyclists to use reflectors on both their bicycles and their bodies; and force them to pay a tax to use the road on a bicycle.
(For reference: Cyclists already not only pay road taxes, but pay as much as motor vehicle users. Learn about that false argument and more in this explainer debunking anti-cyclist claims.)
He also refuses to consider lowering the speed limit on certain dangerous roads, arguing that the Montana State Department of Transportation deemed those speeds safe for automobile traffic.
“If cyclists want safety, we’ll give them safety,” an audibly agitated Sales says. “Where I live, we have narrow county roads with hills and blind turns,” he says. “You’re driving at the posted speed limit of 45 or 55mph, come around a corner, and all of the sudden, there are bicyclists riding two or three abreast. … Both drivers and cyclists need to take responsibility for safety, but it’s more incumbent upon the cyclists because they have much more to lose.”
But this kind of language—which places safety responsibility on the most vulnerable road users, rather than those wielding two-ton vehicles—can be seen frequently in car-bike crash reports.
When asked if he was afraid that banning riders from many of the state’s roads would hurt the burgeoning bicycle tourism industry in the state, Sales said the impact of those tourists paled in comparison to mining and other resource-extraction industries in the state.
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“I’m not opposed to anyone making money,” Sales said. “I’m a free-market guy. But these are mostly part-time, summer jobs. The number of dollars coming in (from bike tourism) is miniscule.”
Yet the numbers argue otherwise. According to a 2014 University of Montana study, the average bike tourist spends around $75 a day and stays in the state eight days or more. Montana-based group Adventure Cycling argues that the sport has the potential to generate $377 million annually within the state, and more bike-friendly states like Washington see recreationalists spending $3.1 billion annually. (Resource extraction, in comparison, generates around $2.07 billion in revenue in the state of Montana, or about 4.7 percent of the state’s GDP, according to 2015 USEITI data.)
“Senator Sales needs to talk to the many business owners across the state, especially in rural areas, who rely on bike tourists to stay in business,” says Bike Walk Montana Chairwoman Saara Snow. “We hear from communities all the time who want more bike trails and improved roads, who want healthier lives for themselves and their families, who want to attract these tourists to their towns. But the words and actions we see up the political spectrum don’t reflect that.
“Mineral extraction is a boom-and-bust cycle,” she continued, “and bike tourism is not only sustainable, it’s also stable and benefits everyone in the state.”
Sales isn’t the first Montana representative to propose limiting regulations on cyclists this session: Rep. Barry Usher floated similar legislation recently that would have banned riders from any two-lane highway without a shoulder.
After significant backlash and communication from local cyclists and advocacy groups, that bill ultimately morphed into a proposal for the creation of a bicycle and pedestrian safety committee; unfortunately, it didn’t come up for a vote.
Feel like sending Scott Sales a note? Here’s his contact info.