That's good advice, DMC, to just laugh at the phools, but I felt obliged to send a letter to The Columbian editors. They replied that it was too long. I need to get this down to under 200 words:
Shame on The Columbian for publishing hate letters such as Jim Souder's "Why are bicyclists not taxed?" of Thursday, June 16, 2011, filled with trite allegations long since proven false. Once again, let's debunk all of those claims:
"Why are bicyclists not taxed?"
I ride a bike sometimes so I suppose I am a "bicyclist," among other things. I also own property and motor vehicles, work, shop, recreate and pay taxes here. I know that other bicyclists pay taxes, too. So, bicyclists are taxed.
"Why does the general public dislike bicycle riders?"
I'm a member of the general public and I don't dislike bicycle riders. I don't think I am alone in that, and I'd even guess that a majority of citizens have no general dislike for most bike riders (certainly, rude individuals of any category incur disfavor).
"I will give you a few answers. Riders of bicycles seem to think that traffic laws do not apply to them — they don’t stop at stop signs, they ride on sidewalks and they also ride in traffic lanes, even if a bike lane exists."
Every day, vastly more motor vehicle operators violate traffic laws than do bike riders, and the results of their violations are far more damaging, costly and dangerous than those of bike riders. Watch a stop sign in your neighborhood; how many cars come to a complete stop? Bike riders, like car drivers, should obey the law. Most do, most of the time, to a reasonable degree.
Bicycles can be legally operated on either roads or sidewalks.
Washington (like most states) does not have a mandatory side-path law and bikes are legally allowed in car lanes, yet most bike riders use a bike lane if one is available and safe (many are poorly configured with gutters, drains and door-zone hazards outweighing any benefit).
"Why did our city spend my tax dollars on paint for bike lanes? Why did the city spend my tax dollars to place signs that tell me to 'Share the Road'?"
Your tax dollars, like mine, go into a pool which benefits us all. While we all have a say over who manages those budgets and how, we don't get to say how the particular dollars we contribute are distributed. Never have, never will.
"I would rather have my tax dollars be used to repair our streets in order that we who drive cars and pay the taxes can have a decent street to drive on."
Bike riders also like well-maintained paving. Bikes do very little damage to street paving compared to cars and trucks, so road maintenance costs due to bike usage is almost nil.
"Are bicycles taxed? No. Why not?"
Bicycle sales are taxed, just like car sales. Bikes don't pay license fees here, and most everywhere that has tried licensing bikes has found that any appropriate fees do not generate enough revenue to pay for the bureaucracy needed to administer and enforce the program. (For example, San Jose recently stopped licensing bikes, and there are many other examples of places where it hasn't worked.)
Moreover, automobile user fees (fuel tax, registration, tolls, etc.) cover only part of public road costs. For federally funded roads, about two-thirds of the cost is covered by user fees, the rest comes from general funds paid for by all tax payers. Car user fees cover an even smaller fraction of local roads, for example in Seattle, gas taxes pay for roughly four percent of road costs. Registration fees go to WSDOT for state roads, not cities, and again don't cover anywhere near the total road budget. So, we all pay for roads and those who don't drive or drive less (such as some who ride bikes more) end up effectively subsidizing those who drive more. Some sources for those facts are:
Of course, more bike riders also means fewer cars competing for space on the roads and parking spots, cleaner air, soil and water, healthier urban areas, healthier populace with lower medical costs and less use of scarce oil resources. But bike riders are still paying their share of taxes even when they aren't the ones incurring the costs.
Perhaps Mr. Souder might like to try a nice bike ride this summer, and I promise I won't even dislike him for it if I encounter him while I'm in my car.