Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Metro, BTA support bike tax concept [updated]

Posted by on November 12th, 2008 at 10:57 am

*[UPDATE: I have edited this story to clarify that the bike tax is not, at this time, a part of Governor Kulongoski’s Jobs and Transportation Act.]

Sauvie Span Rally-9.jpg

The BTA’s Karl Rohde (in red) says he
supports the concept of a bike tax.
(Photo J. Maus)

Both Metro and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) are supportive of an idea to create a bike tax.

According to BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde, the idea — which he stresses is still just a “concept” at this point — was one of the recommendations of the Governor’s Transportation Vision Committee (on which he and BTA director Scott Bricker were a part of).

Governor Kulongoski has not included the bike tax in his Jobs and Transportation Act of 2009 that he announced last week.

The bike tax comes up just briefly in a section of a report given to Kulongoski titled, Transitional First Steps: Immediate actions for an evolving transportation system. The report reads (emphasis mine):

…Existing programs, such as the Safe Routes to Schools program, which receive federal, state and local funding, should be expanded to reach more of Oregons children through education and infrastructure improvements.

Implementing a point-of-sale excise tax on the purchase of adult bicycles should be used to enhance bicycle transportation, including Safe Routes to Schools.

(Update: The discussion of the tax so far has revolved around a fee of between $5 to $20 per bike. The committee also urged a 0.5% increase in the amount devoted to bike infrastructure in the Oregon Bicycle Bill.)

Rohde says he supports the bike tax concept for two main reasons. First, he feels like it will be an important political tool to counter arguments that bikes don’t pay their share to maintain and build roads.

Story continues below



Rohde says the revenue source created by the tax “would be safer” than other funding streams. “If we’re relying on gas tax or something like that to pay for bike programs, it could be at risk,” he told me via telephone yesterday.

He likened the BTA’s support for the idea to licenses for hunters and fishermen. Rohde said hunting and fishing groups are supportive of the licenses (they’ve even pushed to make them more expensive) because the money goes to firearm safety education and other programs.

Metro, a regional, elected government agency, also seems to support a bike tax idea. In their recently published case statement that was sent to Congress as part of a funding effort by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, Metro included the text below in a section titled, New Funding:

Potential for Bicycle Community Contribution. Pursue a contribution or registration fee for bicycles to engage cyclists and to address concern, however mistaken, that cyclists dont carry their weight. This may be an important equity effort, rather than a key funding source.

It will be interesting to see how the bike tax idea develops in the coming months. Depending on your point of view, it can be seen as a massive mistake, or a welcome opportunity to finally silence critics who have long complained that bikes don’t pay their way.

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  • Dennis November 12, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Honestly, I don’t mind paying a little extra, for safe roads. However, What are we trying to stay safe from? I guess a good example, would be charging non-smokers a fee, to create non-smoking places. Doesn’t that sound a bit odd in that context. Once people realize that automobiles are not a “right” but a “privilege”, and pedestrians and bicyclists are using their “rights”.

    Are they going to charge a fee on shoes? to create pedestrian friendly areas? This just sets a negative precedent.

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  • Fritz November 12, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Bah. Tax the things that cost society.

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  • Elly Blue November 12, 2008 at 11:10 am

    My concern here is what Karl means by saying that other sources of bike funding (such as they are) might be at risk.

    It looks as though there is going to be new federal and state momentum building to invest in transportation infrastructure and countering climate change. There isn’t any better return on investment in these two areas than bike infrastructure. To hear talk about belt tightening in this area worries me, a lot.

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  • Icarusfalling November 12, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I cannot even believe these groups are thinking of supporting this ludicrous idea.

    For example, if it was not for unsafe drivers, there would not be unsafe routes to schools.

    I am all for improvements, but they should be funded by those that make improvements necessary.

    This will just open the door also for the entirely crazy licensing of cyclists, an idea tried and failed in many places, including partially in Portland.

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  • K'Tesh November 12, 2008 at 11:20 am

    As much as I’d like to shut up the “don’t pay their way” people, I think that the solution is to not to tax, but to show people where the money really comes from, and how it is laid out.

    Most, but not all, cyclists are also drivers, so they’d be taxed twice. Also, who’s going to pay? Are they gonna tax Little Jimmy who is getting his first two wheeler? Or John, the sophomore in High School? Come on…

    I think that perhaps The Oregonian, as pennance for their sensationalizing the whole “US VS THEM” issue should actually do a front page spread showing how much each mode of transport costs, and use real figures, including health costs/and burial costs for those killed in each mode, rather than glossing over the fact that over 40,000 people die in the US every year in car crashes (compared to India’s 100,000 fatal car crashes/year (source PBS last night)).

    Also, peds use the road funds, so lets make sure that they pay their share too… How much tax goes on their shoes?

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  • Karl Rohde, BTA November 12, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Just for the purpose of this discussion, it should be noted that the idea that was kicked around at the Governor’s Transportation Vision Committee was something in the order of $5 to $20 per bike purchase. There is a lot of research to do on this, but we are willing to be a part of that discussion.

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  • Andy November 12, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Simply put:

    I am willing to pay for those things that I want.

    I want bike lanes/infrastructure, so I’ll happily pay for it.

    Same with universal health care.

    Think of how nice it would be to not have to search for cash for all these bike based projects. The money is just there, waiting for cyclists.

    My only concerns would be that this money would get diverted away from cycling at some future point, and that because there is this tax based source of funding that other (federal) sources of funding would dry up.

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  • Dennis November 12, 2008 at 11:32 am


    Unfortunately, the rest of the country sees automobile infrastructure as more beneficial, as it is seen to enhance auto sales, fuel sales, tires etc.

    I see automobile jobs as being less than productive, because much of the funding immediately vanishes overseas. But try convincing auto workers in detroit, or the petroleum companies of this fact.

    Unfortunately, I see bicycle transportation funding being re-routed too easily to automobile projects, as a way to “enhance the economy” and people that disagree, will be called “unamerican”. To be honest, I see Portland as being a bit of an island of sanity, floating in a sea of unconscious living. It’s going to have to remain a local effort, and eventually, the rest of the country will see how well we’ve done, and start copying our efforts as well.

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  • N.I.K. November 12, 2008 at 11:34 am

    So when cyclists already pay their fair share and then some, the answer to the shirkless hypocrites in the “user pays!” camp is to establish an additional tax, rather than to point out the myriad ways we do pay? Pathetic. If it allows additional infrastructural improvements and public service campaigns, great. If instead, however, a huge chunk of the revenue generated by the tax winds getting up devoted to, say, actually running a licensing or licensing-similar system, then you’ve just spat in the eye of those who pedal twice over – not only are you wasting money on stuff that isn’t beneficial, but you’re also giving fuel to the bicycle detractors! Obviously, their next step after the establishment of a tax is to say, “Okay, bikers, now you’ve got a way to pay. We want all funding not coming out of your pocket diverted back to freeway and interstate infrastructure.”

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  • Eric November 12, 2008 at 11:34 am

    The bicycle tax as part of the 1899 Cycle Path legislation had an important role in creating legitimacy for bicyclists as roadway users. Bicyclists’ refusal to pay the tax contributed greatly to the deterioration of the effort to build cycle paths in the early 1900s.

    It seems likely to me that a tax today will not generate large amounts of money to fund infrastructure, but it does, as the Metro report suggests, “engage cyclists and to address concern, however mistaken, that cyclists dont carry their weight.” I think this is an instance where bicyclists “lose the battle” but “win the war.” We give a little to gain a lot.

    Moreover, I would note that Fred Merrill, the largest bicycle dealer in Portland, and perhaps on the west coast, in 1899 took out large display ads in The Oregonian to support the tax and say

    who would be more benefited in having more cycle paths, better roads, and better streets than the Fred. T. Merrill Cycle Co., who sells 50 per cent of all the ‘cycles sold in the Northwest? We will furnish free of charge a year’s bicycle tax with every ’99 new Rambler sold for cash at retail price.

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  • wsbob November 12, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Which most fundamental need would such a bike tax meet? The suggestion that a tax would appease people making complaints ‘…that cyclists dont carry their weight.’, or ‘…counter arguments that bikes dont pay their share to maintain and build roads.’, is weak.

    People lodging those complaints likely have only one main objective: discouraging people from riding bikes for transportation. In other words, ‘Get the bikes off the roads’.

    On the other hand, if the tax were called for because funding was needed for education of people intending to use bikes for transportation, in safe operation of bikes in traffic, that could make some sense. That might be supportable.

    For a funding base, point of sale on bikes doesn’t seem so good. Turn-a-round on purchase of a new bike isn’t sufficiently frequent. Tax on a bike necessity such as tires would probably represent a better source.

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  • N.I.K. November 12, 2008 at 11:36 am

    Oh, and then there’s the whole “if they succeed…” scenario where all funding shrivels up into a crusty black clot, infrastructure turns to dust, kids eat sludge out of the gutter, surplus Postum instead of coffee, and so on.

    I’ll learn to finish posts properly one day, I swear it. 🙂

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  • Shane November 12, 2008 at 11:42 am

    So what is the ratio of people that only cycle. I own a car and ride my bike to work. I pay my fair share. I have never heard an intelligent arguement of how bikes don’t pay their way. Most people own a car too, and pay their share that way. If I don’t pay property taxes, I pay through increased rent. I pay my share there too. I pay income taxes. Those are the three sources that fund these areas. I don’t know the numbers but I would say that 95% of people pay all three of these taxes. I don’t mind paying a bicycle tax to shut up idiots, but there is no substance to their arguements. Even if we do pay a tax; to these people, it will never be enough.

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  • a November 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I don’t mind the idea of a bike tax, per se. But, it’s not realistic to think that it would pay any significant amount for the infrastructure that it purports to support.

    Also, I drive too. And, I am paying for the roads already. I really don’t mind if my gas tax goes to cycling projects.

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  • El Biciclero November 12, 2008 at 11:45 am

    If you want to collect $$ from cyclists, charge a registration fee, not a tax on new bikes. Create zones in which, to park your bike, you need to have registered for that zone. Zones would conceivably be urban areas or “downtowns”, e.g., Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, etc. An “All Zone” registration could be offered as well; fees would be $5-$10/year. Such a use-oriented system would seem to be more fair than charging someone whose only bicycle use might be on rural roads where no bike accommodations would ever be built. Pros: it would collect from a wider base; Cons: it is a tax on bikes, it would be hard to enforce.


    Convince motorists that accommodating bikes takes cars off the road, making driving easier. Inform motorists that for the amount of the road that a bike uses, and for the amount of wear that a bike causes, the non-gas-tax portion of road construction/maintenance funds is enough to cover what a cyclist demands of the roads. Inform motorists that many (if not most) “cyclists” also own motor vehicles for which they pay registration fees (and gas taxes when they drive). Let motorists know that those cyclists who can afford health insurance are subsidizing the medical care of sedentary drivers by paying into a system that cyclists use much less because they have fewer health issues…

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  • Brian Johnson November 12, 2008 at 11:46 am

    I don’t understand how the money generated by a tax on bike (and/or related equipment) could be enough to meaningfully contribute to infrastructure.

    Perhaps we should just go one step further and license cyclists? Use the money from the licensing fees to pay for cyclist education. Teach folks how to ride safely and responsibly on the roads.

    Laying down new paint stripes on the roads and calling in “bicycling infrastructure” is all well and good, but what we really need is EDUCATION. If people are going to ride bikes on the roadways — with cars — they need to know how to ride responsibly and safely.

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  • Stacy Westbrook November 12, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Don’t I already pay my way by paying state income tax, having a registered car, and paying county taxes? I’m all for supporting bike education and road improvements, but the idea that cyclists don’t pay their way is pretty faulty. I only know two or three cyclists who don’t own a car at all.

    It seems that publishing data about cyclists who also drive could help counter the idea that we’re all carless hippies that cost “real taxpayers” extra money. Adding a tax just to make things seem fair isn’t that compelling.

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  • Kevin November 12, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I am for the tax because it gives cyclists more leverage. It would be nice if the tax revenue could only go to bike infrastructure projects and education.

    I think the tax should be on adult bikes as well as parts that would be used on such bikes. For example 26″ tires get taxed not 12″.

    At this point, its either taxing bikes and supplies or The Chris King Willamette Greenway brought to you by Yakima.

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  • RyNO Dan November 12, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Say NO to selective sales tax.
    Are we gonna place
    a sales tax on trees because the city
    puts trees in public places ?
    Why cow to a “mistaken” premise ?
    It’s not gonna silence the critics.

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  • mmann November 12, 2008 at 11:59 am

    I’m opposed to the tax IF we’re just doing it to silence a “mistaken” belief that cyclists don’t pay their own way. That’s just dumb. We’re either already paying our share or we’re not. I’m afraid that the BTA is on board because they know their programs will get part of the money – good as those programs may be, the BTA is not an unbiased voice in this discussion.

    What I’m more afraid of is that this opens the door to licensing (with a fee) cyclists or, worse, requiring all bikes to be registered (for a fee). Not only is that a bad idea, but I’d be forced to thin the stable!

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  • beth h November 12, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    Licensing bicyclists and requiring them to take “bike safety” courses is a joke as long as we have roads designed for and favoring automobiles. Also, licensing bicyclists will likely be about as successful as licensing bicycles — and we know how few municipalities are doing that these days.

    As for how many people who own only bicycles (and not cars) do so out of choice, we simply can’t know, or even assume that we know. I sold my car in 1990 strictly for economic reasons (I couldn’t afford to insure and fuel it anymore); the environmental and social reasons didn’t become apparent to me until much later.

    Taxing folks who ride because they’re too broke to afford a car seems harsh as well as pointless.

    Further, many used bikes are sold, traded, stolen and/or otherwise procured in a large and vaguely “underground” (read: unregulated) marketplace that the federal government has little control over. If they could exercise more control over the used bike scene the revenues would be ten times as great as those from new bikes.

    Until we can truly change the transportation paradigm to favor people and not automobiles, I am in favor of less regulation for bicycles and bicycle riders, not more.

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  • Anonymous November 12, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    This is a retarded idea. Whats next? Taxing shoes for building sidewalks?

    Cars are the problem with the transportation system. Tax them MORE.

    Why do we need a ‘safe routes to school program’? Because of people who don’t responsibly drive cars.

    Why do we need bike paths? Because of people who do not responsibly drive cars.

    How much wear and tear on infrastructure do bikes cause. None to minimal.

    Politicians… Listen up. This is easy. Incent desired behavior, i.e. bike riding. Dis-incent the undesired behavior, i.e. bad driving. Got it?

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  • red hippie November 12, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I pay BTA $50/year. If I pay for $1 of a bicycle tax that BTA supported, then I pay BTA $0/year. Plain and simple.

    We pay for a ton of roads and infrastructure through out general taxes. The whole “Safe kids,/schools” thing is just a red herring, just like all tax hikes are advertised for cops and schools.

    This really reminds me of the Northwest Forest Pass Fees. Only a fraction of those actually went to the trails and was the excuse to further de-fund trail maintenance. The result 5 years later is closed trails, less maintenance, and less of a wilderness experience. I left the Sierra Club when they supported (overtly and through lack of action) the passes.

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  • bahueh November 12, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I think the BTA has a big reality kick to the head if they actually try to support something like this…

    Makes me even more glad I get factory direct pro orders on gear now…and do all my own wrenching.

    Seems like a very misplaced and misdirected idea…

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  • Opus the Poet November 12, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    I just posted on this very subject on the Yehuda Moon comics comments section.

    Here in TX it has been revealed that our gas taxes only pay for 40% of the state highways, and 0% for all other non-Federal roads. In other words everybody pays for state highways, and everybody in the community pays for those streets, and car taxes, well they barely pay for the cost of collecting them in TX. I have proposed a weight based registration fee that will include bicycles to my state rep as a means to fund road repair and maintenance but not new construction. I stated that repair and maintaining the roads was of such high priority that it demanded a separate tax, and that tax should be in proportion to the amount of repair work a single vehicle (or group of that class of vehicle) was capable of causing. From my days studying civil engineering damage caused by motor vehicles can be estimated by a product of weight and speed. The heavier and faster a vehicle, the more damage they would cause to a road. Therefore to reduce costs of repair Gov’t can tax vehicles by weight and reduce the speed limits.

    To make this a fair assessment I proposed that bicycles pay only a token tax to cover the costs of mailing the registration plate. I also proposed that registered bicycles be returned to the registered owner when recovered as an additional incentive to register a bike. To reduce the costs I also suggested that registration only be done at the purchase of a bicycle and once every 5 years after, as the amount of damage caused even by heavy bicycle traffic was indistinguishable from the damage caused by normal weathering without traffic, as verified by repeated long-term studies performed in the late 1940s and early 50s.

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  • Jeff November 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    “he feels like it will be an important political tool to counter arguments that bikes dont pay their share to maintain and build roads.”

    Except isn’t this just factually wrong? The idea that bikes get a “free ride” on roads is a huge misconception. From what I understand, general taxes “subsidize” roads because it’s a public good.

    A bike tax is a step in the wrong direction, towards the ridiculous “pay for what you use” attitude of neoliberals. If more funding is needed for roads, other taxes should be imposed that affects everyone, since roads are (again) public good.

    Someone really needs to come up with the figures for how roads are funded to clear up this misconception.

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  • BURR November 12, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    just one more reason the BTA is becoming increasingly irrelevant

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  • c November 12, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    How about an optional tax – a check box on state tax forms that says “$10 for better bike paths?” Judging from these comments, many people would be happy to pay. Best of all, it would not discourage ridership or bike retail in the area. Taxing bike sales seems pointless; I’m not planning to buy a bike from a store anytime soon. I’m more intrigued by the idea of taxing tubes and tires at a low $0.10 level. A high tax on anything would just drive sales out of the area.

    A bike/rider registration tax seems like the worst possible way to increase ridership, especially amongst occasional an nascent riders. Who would go through the trouble of registering for a spontaneous trip to the grocery? Biking is not like driving; it is more like walking. The comparison to taxing shoes is great.

    If we were to pay a bike tax, could we kick runners, walkers, and standers off our bike paths? I’d say yes, unless shoes are taxed too. Tax parity!

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  • PdxMark November 12, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    I’m fine with a reasonable tax/fee, but a small-scale sales tax on a tiny tax base with a resulting tiny amount of revenue seems pointless. Maybe a voluntary(?) per-person user fee – not licensing – that provides some benefit… maybe statewide registration of the owner’s one or more bikes (up to 5?) in case of theft or some other benefit like a bumper sticker for our cars or something…. New bikes is just too small a taxing base.

    (Please delete the duplicate posting in the wet riding thread.)

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  • John Peterson November 12, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    As a biker who already pays property taxes, income taxes, and vehicle related taxes, I think a new bike tax is a bad idea. The taxes I already pay that are directed towards transportation should be funding bike infrastructure.

    No bike tax
    No bike license
    No mandatory helmet law

    All of these proposals (which for some reason keep coming from many in the bike advocacy establishment) will discourage people from biking.

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  • ValkRaider November 12, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Any tax on new bicycles needs to be less than sales tax in neighboring states, otherwise our local retailers will see a decline in business.

    I oppose the tax, for all of the good reasons people have mentioned.

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  • joe November 12, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    how stupid.

    I cannot imagine two worse reasons for supporting an idea. Glad to know that we have such bright bulbs arguing for our side.

    Our recent experience with higher gasoline prices proved that
    1. you can make a small dent in driving demand by raising prices and
    2. people are willing to pay alot more than $2 for gas.

    If we need more money for local infrastructure projects, this would be a much more efficient way of raising it than a myriad of small rev. generating fees.

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  • lothar November 12, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    #20 mman

    You took the words right out of my mouth. To create a tax just to change a “perception” is ridiculous . Other than gas, I can’t think of any other point of sale tax in this state and they want to start with bikes ?

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  • Tony Fuentes November 12, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    At this point in the game I don’t see how this excise tax as currently envisioned effectively meets the goals being outlined.

    “Silencing the Critics”

    1) The excise tax will collect $1.5 million per year STATEWIDE.

    2) This $1.5 million per year is part of a $1 BILLION transportation funding package.

    I can’t imagine folks who currently and incorrectly believe that bikers are free-riders will “pipe down” because of this paltry tax.

    Additionally, this tax will have public administrative costs that cut into the level of realized funding – especially since it is a new tax entity. Not to mention that retailers are envisioned as the tax collectors in this case, which means additional administrative costs will be assumed by these private parties.

    “Reliable Funding Source for Bike Infrastructure”

    This has some merit but there is a rather ambiguous view on the part of public authorities on what bike infrastructure actually is.

    Given the role local funding matches and the like has in terms of leveraging transportation funds, this $1.5 million is as likely to supplant existing funding used for “bike infrastructure” as complement it.

    Ultimately, $1.5 million statewide is not much to rely on and not much to leverage.

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  • Werner November 12, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Forget a $20 tax/fee on each bike sold retail. How much revenue will that raise, what will it cost to administer, how much pavement will be laid for bikes to ride on and peds to walk on? No one has told me the answers to these simple questions.

    Tax me more so I can have a say? I already earned a say when I got triple-tapped by the income tax, property tax, and auto-related fees/taxes I pay.

    Tax the hell out of gas. .25-.50 per gallon.

    Tax the *hell* out of studded tires.

    Graduated tax increases on large vehicles, SUVs, pickups, etc., the heavier you are, the more your registration fees are.

    Increase the tax on cigs even more.

    (I would suggest taxing booze more, but that is when I start to feel the hurt…please do not tax my booze more. 🙂

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  • bahueh November 12, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I think if anyone really stopped to do the math on this, it would be a fairly irrelevant amount of income….
    a few million bucks at most, which when put to the pavement, really wouldn’t go that far to maintain or build new biking infrastructure…

    lets call it “No Bike Left Behind”…underfunded, undersupported, and destined to fail…

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  • a.O November 12, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    I am outraged that BTA would consider supporting this. My membership and future contributions are on the line, and I don’t say that lightly. BTA and everyone who supports a sustainable transportation system should oppose this ludicrous idea. Tax the users who cause the problems, not the ones who solve them!

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  • PdxMark November 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    As a True Blue Tax and Spend Portland Liberal, I don’t understand the absolute opposition to cyclists paying something toward the transportation infrastructure. A recent article here points out that Portland has spent about $55 million on cycling infrastructure over about the past 30 years. A recent grant request sought $24 million to dramatically extend the bike road network in Portland.

    If there are, I dunno, 50,000 cyclists in Portland, we could raise $1 million every one or two two years with an annual or bi-annual $20 registration fee (per person rather than per bike). That amount could greatly help cover the rate of extending bike infrastructure in Portland at a time that road maintenance is falling further & further behind. What’s bad about that? It seems like a minimal fee, quite reasonably proportional to the potentially new car registration fee, and it offsets the issue that riding rather than driving generates no gas tax revenue.

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  • red hippie November 12, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    In #27, Burr raised an interesting point.

    “just one more reason the BTA is becoming increasingly irrelevant”

    This happened to the Sierra Club. An organization that was originally orientated at preserving wild lands and promoting their recreation. Now they are far from this original mission to the point of sequestering wild lands and minimizing recreation.

    Case in point is the proposed Mt. Hood Wilderness and exclusion of all vehicles, including mountain bikes. All this does is lock up the land to preserve non-anthropogenic uses and prevent recreation.

    Is BTA getting away from their core mission. Is it time to lend support to other organizations, such as No Po Greenway that is promoting the development of tangible bike infrastructure, and not just vanity projects such as the 405/Sauvies Island Bridge.


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  • Ron November 12, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Yeah, I have to say, even leaving aside that I own a registered car and so already pay various taxes and fees related to that, this idea is completely misplaced.

    I commute to work every day on my bike. When I do so, I:

    – Remove one car from the road, reducing congestion
    – Remove one car from the road, reducing pollution
    – Remove one car from the road, reducing dependence on non-renewable, foreign sources of energy
    – Remove one car from the road, significantly reducing wear and tear on the infrastructure
    – Leave one additional parking space downtown for people who really do need to drive
    – Increase my overall fitness and health, reducing the load on our health care system now and in 20 years when I am really an old fart

    In fact, if you put monetary values to all of the above, regular cyclists (I won’t define regular here) should receive at least a tax deduction (wait, where have I heard that before?), if not an outright cash rebate every year.

    I work hard, when on my bike, to share the road and be respectful and compromising with the drivers around me — but I could not care less about people who think I have no right to the road just because I am on my bike, and supposedly am not paying my way. Could not care less. This silly tax will not change their minds.

    Come on BTA. We are already part of the solution, do not encourage monetary punishment for doing The Right Thing.

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  • Dan November 12, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    This is silly. It’s cars not bikes that don’t pay their “fair share”:

    Greenhouse gases
    Public health
    National security
    Nox, co, unburned hc

    The amount of taxes are small, and won’t effect my pocketbook much. However I strongly protest any policy that makes it any more difficult to ride a bike. That is the wrong direction.

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  • Jordan November 12, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    If passed shouldn’t the tax on adult mountain bikes go to efforts to improve off-road trails? The tax if inacted should go to the proper uses of the bikes.

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  • maxadders November 12, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Smells like a slippery slope towards rider licensing, mandatory bike registration, etc. In short, all those programs the uninformed bicycle opponents seem to think will fix everything. Yeah, unenforcable regulation. Fixing stuff. Great plan.

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  • Refunk November 12, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    I say we all dress up as eighteenth century Cayuse or Multnomah Indians or as euro-honky North American rebels and steal into BTA offices and Bike Gallery showrooms and dump their bicycles out the windows into the Willamette in protest!*

    *1. Colonists at the Boston Tea Party “disguised” themselves as American Indians when they boarded ship to dump tea over the side in protest of Brit tax policy, and 2. I have no idea where BTA offices are and how far the pitch to the river might be from their windows, and I know bikes would have to be bike-trailered to the Esplanade or McCall Park to chuck them from any BG.

    How about some examples of an actual “legitimizing” effect from any bicycle taxation in recent history? It could only ever be a token funding source, maybe not even enough to support a change in auto driver and bicyclist education programs (yes, I have no numbers for that statement).

    And what happens to that symbolic funding when huge numbers of Stumptowners move across the river Columbia to the abandoned fur trading outpost and become long-distance commuters in protest of the new bike tax?

    Oh, right, like that’s ever gonna happen. Sorry, we’ve already had a cold day in Hell: a man of intelligence & grace, who happens to be black, will soon sit in the presidential palace! SO, Portland, just keep doing what you’ve been doing and continue to lead the nation in bike use. Even if Salem imposes some kinda bike tax, registration fee, licensing, etc., it’s the culture [note, I did not write: “bike culture”] here that grows bike use; a $10-20 fee is how many beers/lattes? In Portland, at least, it will just be a speed bump en route to bike equity in the transportation system, and where Portland goes, the rest of the country may follow.

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  • maxadders November 12, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    @Jordan #42, great point. Why should a $2000 mountain bike be taxed as if it would be used on county roads? Should we tax “commuter” style bikes higher, since they’ll be using infastructure more than weekend comfort bikes? What about a fixie tax to make the posengers pay for upkeep of a velodrome they’ve never heard of?

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  • CJ Eder November 12, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Mandatory funding of symbolic gestures isn’t taxation its tithing.

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  • n8m November 12, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Im all for paying a tax if it will build us an actual infrastructure.

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  • Sherwood November 12, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Ron (40) sums it up nicely. This is silly and the BTA support seems to be a futile attempt to placate various whiners at the Portland Tribune and other sites. It will not work. Basic economics tells you that you do not tax things that you want to encourage.

    My BTA renewal is sitting on my desk. If they don’t think this through the money goes to the Oregon Food Bank.

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  • K'Tesh November 12, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I liked the suggestion “c” made in #28

    Make a checkbox on your tax forms an optional feature, and I’m sure you’d have the funding you needed by all the grateful cyclists.

    Don’t push this tax on us, then expect us to be happy with the incentives you are offering to hybrid cars.

    They should be paying US for all the damage that we are NOT creating by driving.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) November 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    please note: I have edited the story to clarify that the bike tax is not part of the governor’s plan at this time. it is simply an idea/concept that is supported by metro and the bta.

    whether or not the bike tax is ultimately included in the bill remains to be seen.

    i regret any confusion.

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  • Refunk November 12, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Awww… for all my customary verbose use of bandwidth, I think any tax scheme for bikes is terribly lame. The net benefits to society from choosing a bike over a car whenever practical must be irrefutable. Bicyclists should be created and supported by gov’t. as a very responsible use of public resources.

    Educate and tax the bloated automotive users who clog and grind the roads down, make errors more expensive (traffic, licensure, insurance violations, etc.). Grow bike use by state support and promotion because it’s the smart, forward-thinking thing to do, with excellent pay-back for the public transportation dollar, let alone health and so forth.

    Tax? Nuts.

    How about a radio frequency tag on bikes and a monitor system that logs miles and generates a thank-you check from the state DOT at the end of the year? The same system attached to cars would produce a bill for road maintenance.

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  • Coyote November 12, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    The country was founded a popular slogan was “no taxation without representation”. The BTA is twisting this around to say “no representation without taxation”. Nice double-speak.

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  • Old Timer November 12, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    They arent going to tax bike sales on craigslist are they? I would be so screwed.
    I think that roads will always be dangerous, and I like it that way. When you are riding in traffic you have to have your head on a swivel, and be fully 100% attentive. I enjoy the thrill of riding in traffic, its like a race and obstacle course mixed, your prize? you get to live another day. I have been hit twice, the second time I didnt even fall off my bike, got bumped about 2 feet to the side and just kept riding, didnt look back. Just another obstacle in the course. I have also hit cars before, layed across the back of someones trunk when they stopped suddenly about ayear ago, I got back on my bike and rode off. Lets keep our commutes exciting, it helps remind us that we are alive. whaddy say gang?

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  • benschon November 12, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    It’s a symbolic tax! It won’t raise much revenue, it’s bound to have high administrative costs, and it won’t actually get bike opponents off our backs. And it generates opposition among the constituency it is purported to help.

    Whoa. That’s a policy loser if ever there was one.

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  • Gabriel November 12, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    So, should we tax toddlers for riding tricycles? How about a shoe tax? Maybe tax me for breathing while I walk to work? Let’s make it tough as possible for the working man to do just that…..WORK!

    I can’t wait ’til the day when my grandchildren can be born into slave labor, so CEO’s will never have to pay for anything again! And we can work and toil tirelessly for absolutely nothing!

    Tax bikes! Tax walking! Tax air! Tax thoughts and speech! Save the rich by trampling the working class!!

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  • JP November 12, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Those of us who commute via bike/walk are saving the country money every day in the long run by minimalizing our carbon output. The less polution now, the less money we’ll have to spend down the road in clean-up efforts. So, to tax me regardless is appalling. Those who are in favor of this tax are simply not willing to go against what we all know is the cause of bad roads, bad air and bad culture: motorists who are unwilling to contribute the demise of these things.

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  • Brad November 12, 2008 at 4:33 pm

    So let’s say that times get really tight and roads are getting really bad. Then someone in Salem asks in a backroom, “Who here really gets hurt at the ballot box if we get rid of that 1% for bikes thing? After all, we would get more votes if we could use that money to add some traffic signals or fixed some potholes to our districts. There are far more car owners than devoted bike riders. Those guys don’t want to pay for anything and and the drivers would love us for not socking them with more gas taxes.”

    If you don’t like the tax, fine. But going to the “Cars are Evil and Must Pay!!!” card is only going to perpetuate the cars vs. bikes mindset and that will eventually backfire in a huge way (probably saddling us with rider licensing, mandatory helmets, insurance requirements, and registration fees) as the MAJORITY of drivers gets sick and tired of our perceived whining and hate.

    As for the economic disincentive, really? Someone who is seriously thinking about ditching their $600-800 (car payment, insurance, gas, parking, maintainence)monthly driving habit for the virtually no cost joy of bike commuting is going to consider a one time $20 excise tax a deal breaker?

    Can someone from the BTA better explain what they hope to accomplish with this tax or the benefit to riders?

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  • November 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I’m concerned that access to bicycles would be reduced by imposing this tax.

    Since this would in effect be a sales tax on a specific item we should take into consideration how this might affect the over the counter sales process, the associated administration and accounting by the retailer and the administrative overhead by the Oregon Department of Revenue.

    It might be cheaper for some retailers to stop selling bicycles instead of bearing the administrative headache of first implementing the process to accommodate this tax system and then to it’s ongoing operation. Invariably the cost will be borne by the consumer in higher costs not only for the tax but the administrative overhead.

    Also I’m curious what the estimate of the cost of administering the tax and auditing for it’s compliance would be for the Department of Revenue. How much revenue would really get to infrastructure?

    #ofBikesSold x TaxRate – DORadminExpense == ??

    And I share the slippery slope concern of implementing a sales tax of any nature.

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  • red hippie November 12, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Brad, if the recent PDOT nubmers are correct, then 30% of the hawthorne bridge traffic goes back to vehicles (cars or busses) with an increase in congestion and costs. That 1% is low hanging fruit for resolving the greater problem of capacity and maintenance.

    On those terms alone, bicycling penciles out as a cost savings, offsetting current spending.

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  • Evan November 12, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    A $5 tax on a $50 Wal-mart bike would be like adding a 10% tax to all car purchases. Wait a minute, some countries already do that.

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  • E November 12, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    I may be ignorant, but I’m afraid this is just wrong.

    Bicycles REDUCE road wear, traffic, and pollution costs. Driving cars damages livability, community, and the environment – not to mention the roads themselves! They should be PAYING us to ride, not charging us! I read the explanations but I still don’t see why the BTA thinks this is a good idea!!


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  • CS November 12, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    This is completely ridiculous. And not because I or any other self respecting cyclist wouldn’t happily pay $5/$10/or more towards bike infrastructure, if we thought we were actually going to get bike infrastructure. I already pay more than that every year in contributions to the BTA, expecting them to help us get more infrastructure!

    The fact is that this is a symbolic gesture that only legitamizes the FALSE claim that cyclists don’t pay their fair share. I think that has already been outlined in many comments above.

    I go by the mantra that you tax the things you don’t want and subsidize the things that you do. For a livable city we want fewer cars and more bikes.

    Institute congestion pricing. Up the gas tax. Up parking fees. Don’t tax bikes. We want people to engage in healthy activity, reduce congestion, not pollute and not kill people, thank you! Subsidize bikes! Give bikers $5 off every purchase to thank them for making the world a better place.

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  • Shoemaker November 12, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Do cyclists need to be engaged in the the critique of bicyclists not paying their way? Is this a productive use of anyone’s time?

    If “cap and trade” is considered a viable solution to pollution and carbon emissions, we should be seeing nothing but credits, incentives and the red carpet treatment for non-motorized transportation.

    Let’s not get caught in the nickel and dime model of funding infrastructure. Sure, we know this model well from our health care system, but there are plenty of other public service funding models that work to choose from.

    Transportation infrastructure is one of those big government projects. It has to take the big picture and consider all modes. We have plenty of official structure for that, all we need now is to work to get that structure to reflect the priorities of efficient, clean and safe modes of transportation over dangerous polluting modes.

    I’m all for paying for infrastructure, but let’s be systematic. Metro and BTA, let’s take a broader view on this!

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  • TS November 12, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Dennis (#1) and Coyote (#52) — well put, both! I agree, and I don’t mind paying a little for dedicated infrastructure in my local area. I don’t want to pay money into some state-wide fund then find it spent on far-away projects I’ll never use.

    The idea that a tax could be “an important political tool to counter arguments that bikes don’t pay their share” is false. Bicycles already pay their fair share, and it hasn’t done much to dull this oft-heard complaint. I can already hear the next argument, “Well, there’s a puny little tax that most bicyclists don’t even pay because they buy bikes out-of-state. And even if they did all pay it, that pittance doesn’t come anywhere close to covering the cost of their lanes and roads and special-pork projects like MUPs.”

    If anything, the continual reminder of increased bike-specific projects will fuel the “bikes get all this stuff they don’t pay for” fire and make it even more intense. More special projects will mean more people seeing their money wasted on those freeloading cyclists’ pet projects.

    A worse side effect is that separate “us” taxes versus “them” taxes increases the perceived divide between “we” the motorists and “them” the cyclists, which foments the attitude that bicycles aren’t “real” transportation that legitimately share transportation infrastructure.

    Ultimately, the only way to convince people (who aren’t already convinced) that spending on bikes/pedestrians is worthwhile is to make them realize those are viable, useful, and even preferred ways of meeting daily transportation needs. People need to realize that using a bicycle or public transit or walking isn’t “giving something up.” It’s getting something back (be it better health through bicycling, time spent reading a book on a bus instead of getting pissed off at other drivers cutting you off, or state funding spent on more useful purposes).

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  • Lodel November 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Well, what’s $20 on a new bike anyway? We don’t even have sales tax. I don’t see a problem with it, but if it’s going to cost more money than it’s worth then screw it.

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  • » Blog Archive » news news news November 12, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    […] Wood War Bike Metro, BTA support bike tax concept […]

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  • Adam November 12, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    The people that think cyclists don’t pay their way are closed minded enough that this tax won’t open their eyes. I think this would discourage someone not already a bike owner and thinking about getting into it.

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  • eileen November 12, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    I tend to agree with the comments saying this would give bicyclists more leverage. From a political standpoint, I think it would help to be taken more seriously and sort of a way of taking the high road. Sure it’s silly to think cyclists don’t pay their own way. I’m the first to say that anyone who chooses to ride their bike over driving should be getting paid. But, you have to pick your battles, AND, it’s sort of a way of extending an olive branch.

    As a teacher, I am a member of a union. Sometimes things come up that we think are unfair or not right, but often our union warns and encourages us to NOT complain and to do it with a smile. That way, when we are negotiating the things we really think are important, we can say, remember when you asked us to do this, and we cooperated? See what great employees we are? If you are thinking of the bigger picture, how much will this bike tax help? How much would paying it hurt? Potentially it could help a lot in terms of PR and it’s not going to hurt that much.

    Another option would be for Oregon to go to sales tax. Now, if you are a bicycle riding renter, you don’t worry about property tax, but if we had a sales tax, all your bike parts would be taxed.

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  • Steve Brown November 12, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I have already discussed the possibility of introducing a bill in the next legislature to allocate 1% of lottery funding be used for bicycles with State Senator Jason Atkinson. Uses will be for transportation, industry growth and recreation. He likes the idea. We will see what support there is when co-sponsors names are added.

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  • BicycleMike November 12, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    I’m astonished that the BTA is into this. Tax bikes??? Ummm wrong, tax BREAK for bikes. It is the job of the government to create “safe routs” to school. Why is it all of a sudden the job of the bicyclist to pay for the safe routs when the act of governing includes providing a safe city for people? My dog does not look both ways before crossing the street, I think we need to tax us dog owners so we can build a dog bridge so to speak over the street. Slippery slope folks. Government sees that your actually advocating FOR a tax on yourself, what’s is to stop them from wanting more later?

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  • Dennis November 12, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Look, I am not, will not, ever “register my bike”, get a bicycle license, or pay a surcharge. Absolutely not.

    A bicycle offers anonymous transportation. It’s a principal of it all.

    Considering the taxes that we pay, they should be refunding to cyclists, for saving the roads from wear and tear

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  • organic brian November 12, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    I have been trying to find a study about cyclist/motorist funding of transportation for the US or even Oregon that is as articulate as this from Canada:

    They give an example of a typical motorist and typical cyclist, breaking down their funding and use of infrastructure. It turns out, Frances Footpower overpays $252 per year and Mike Motorist underpays $236 per year.

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  • Drewid November 12, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    This reminds me of the recent street parking spots for bikes downtown, where many bikes can be parked in the same space as one car. Closed minded people would complain about prime parking spots lost to freeloading bike riders.

    Meanwhile, cars line the streets for FREE just outside of downtown and beyond. The public right-of-way is obstructed for FREE for the storage of hulking masses of metal (did I mention that it is FREE). All those cars, FREEloading the public right of way, inhibit the flow of bikes/walkers. And sometimes doors are thrown open into the right of way, sending people to the hospital.

    When I bike to Safeway, the cost of the FREE car parking is included in everything I buy. I try to lock my bike up to a pathetic chunk of plumbing they call a bikerack, which is already full of bikes because there is only space for a few.

    Bicycle supporters who fold on this lose the battle AND the war. The BTA is misguided. Driving is the most heavily subsidized thing this country has to offer. I know this as a driver and bicyclist. Lets concentrate efforts to put that message on the front page. It would have a greater effect than “I paid a $20 road tax on my bike”.

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  • N.I.K. November 12, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    @ eileen: There’s taking the high road, and then there’s letting jackasses get away with slanderous and baseless accusations *which in turn* are serving as a partial basis for proposal of the tax! This isn’t a “pick your battles” scenario, it’s a flat cop-out. What’s next, BTA shirts that read “Why Yes, I Am a Scofflaw Freeloader!”?

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  • eileen November 12, 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I had a little epiphany a bit ago about the situation with the portland bike scene. You are lovely and cynical idealists. Is cynical idealist an oxymoron? I don’t know, but it’s the only way I can describe it. You are dismayed with the way things are because they aren’t the way you wish them to be and unwilling to compromise your ideals in any way to get there. You hopefully think that if we could just educate drivers, and if drivers would just be more careful, we might eliminate human error. Whereas, realistically, we know that human error is always a factor (Damn that Eve!) and the ONLY way to avoid car/bicycle collisions is to not put them together. And you all think that you are going to open the minds of the closed-minded people who think cyclists have a sense of entitlement (where in hell did anyone get THAT idea???), by telling them that they are closed-minded and getting uppity about a little tax. It’s cute, that idealism. I’m sure it will work like a charm. Good luck.

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  • Matthew Denton November 13, 2008 at 12:01 am

    So it isn’t that I object to paying money to get what I want, and $20 on a new bicycle works out to about $5/year for me, and if you go with a used bicycle, you don’t have to pay it at all, so this isn’t really a big deal…

    When you look at the billions of dollars a year that this state spend fighting obesity, or air pollution, or traffic congestion, or etc, and you compare how that money could be spent in other ways, to get the same results, building bicycle infrastructure is one of the cheapest solutions out there. And yet, instead of suggestion that that money gets spent on bicycle infrastructure, the BTA is suggesting that we pony up the money instead? I don’t think the BTA is very clear on this whole “lobbying” concept.

    If the BTA needs some ideas, they should look at how Rails-to-Trails does lobbying: If we could double the bike/pedestrian mode share for trips of one mile or less (from the current 31% to 70%) we would not only save 50 BILLION miles driven each year, we’d have a much healthier population.

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  • eileen November 13, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Hold on, one more epiphany just came to me. I”m giving you an analogy but I have to go to bed so I don’t have time to explain it.

    If they guy sitting next to you makes more money than you and he turns and says, “I’m richer than you”, it doesn’t matter if it’s true, you still want to slap his face.

    Replace any true statement for “makes more money” and “I’m richer than you” and it still works.

    Your sitting next to Brad Pitt and he turns to say “I’m sexier than you”, you’re going to tell all your friends what an ass he is.

    Basically all the arguments on here are saying why cyclists are better than everyone else and that’s why they shouldn’t pay any taxes. Whether it’s true or not, you’re pissing people off when you say it. Okay, I guess I did explain it. Anyway, there is your food for thought for the day. No charge.

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  • wsbob November 13, 2008 at 12:36 am

    There may be a time for a bike tax, but it’s not now or for the foreseeable future. It’s to the BTA’s advantage to express a willingness to discuss the subject from the standpoint of fostering good relations between it, bikes as transportation critics, and government, but beyond that, I don’t see this concept going very far.

    Something that’s never very far from my mind is that bikes as transportation are in no small part, the remedy arrived upon to help resolve the problem…congestion… created by too much reliance on personal motor vehicles for transportation. Many people either do not know this or once did and have forgotten. Being aware of this, it’s not very intelligent to take any step that would discourage even one single person from getting on a bike rather than getting in a car for their commute.

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  • TS November 13, 2008 at 1:16 am

    Eileen (#77),

    That cuts both ways. When A says to B that C clubs baby seals for breakfast, it doesn’t matter that both B and C (and maybe even A) know it’s false; B will feel bitter toward A for the unwarranted accusation.

    We just got done with the political season. Most people I talked to were tired of the negative ads. It didn’t matter if the ads were true, they just wanted them to stop.

    When motorists accuse cyclists of not paying their way, and demand that bicycles “get off the road,” we know they’re wrong, and maybe they even know there wrong, but the bitter feelings persist. And I think those bitter feelings are partially what drive the statements and reaction about which you commented above.

    And that’s exactly why the proposed tax is not an olive branch, it’s a poke in the eye. It’s more of the damaging “us” vs “them.” And that’s why it’s a bad idea. If it really were a case of pay a few bucks and gain leverage, or legitimacy, or respect, or brownie points, or even good favor, I’d consider it. At least we’d give something up and gain something else. But this proposal has no winners and no gain. Only losers and one side and losers on the other. Give something up and get a headache in return.

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  • Erik Sandblom November 13, 2008 at 2:38 am

    The problem with bike infrastructure isn’t the money, it’s the street space.

    Politicians generally find the money for bike paths etc. These installations are comparatively cheap. Where they fail is finding the space on city streets to put bike paths. They don’t want to encroach on car traffic or car parking. That’s where the bottleneck is.

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  • N.I.K. November 13, 2008 at 6:55 am

    Basically all the arguments on here are saying why cyclists are better than everyone else and that’s why they shouldn’t pay any taxes.

    *All?* Nope. Polish up those comprehension skills, go back, and read it again. You’ll find there are quite a lot of folks who are saying “a bicycle advocacy organization proposing a tax which has a basis in patent falsehoods propagated by a vehemently anti-bike minority is a bad idea because a) it makes that lie appear true and b) it’s rooted in a lie”.

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  • Dave November 13, 2008 at 7:29 am

    Does a bicycle-specific tax exist anywhere in the world? How is it used?
    Can any proponents of this tax cite precedents and/or results?

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  • Maculsay November 13, 2008 at 9:29 am

    I wasn’t planning on renewing my BTA membership anyway. This helps alleviate any nagging guilt. There are much more important causes to fund. I thank them for everything positive that they’ve done.

    The most relevant thing I can do and continue to do is ride, ride, ride, and stay car-free. I’ll become irrelevant over time too.

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  • Kt November 13, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I already pay for the roads.

    I’m a driver as well as a cyclist.

    Why should I have to pay twice for the same stretch of road?

    No, thank you.

    And, N.I.K. and others ahve the right of it… this idea is a sop thrown to the anti-bike masses to appease them. It’s based on a lie, it perpetuates the lie, and it’s just a wrong-headed idea.

    Now, the person who had the idea about the check-box on the tax return about giving money to bike infrastructure…. I could totally get behind that, especially if we could specify what dollar amount we wanted to give.

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  • PdxMark November 13, 2008 at 10:11 am

    OK. Maybe a small tax/registration fee isn’t such a good idea, but I think there’s benefit to talking it through. The comments in this thread and other discussions make me realize that the best retort to such a proposal is a detailed listing of the extent to which general funding sources support roads and transportation, together with some good explanation or numbers about how biking improves road capacity and longevity. I think good hard numbers are more persuasive than “that’s nuts.”

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  • Mr. Money November 13, 2008 at 10:18 am

    What’s next? Taxing shoes to pay for sidewalks.

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  • velo November 13, 2008 at 10:36 am

    On principle I am not opposed to paying some sort of fee tied to cycling. However, I have some serious reservations about the administration and consequences of such a plan.

    1) How much would be raised vs. how much would this program cost to administer? How would it be ensured that this money is direct towards bikes? Can it be ensured that it won’t be used to replace other general monies?

    2) Would a bicycle fee set the precedent that cyclists must pay for all bike facilities with directed fees? I fear this could lead to an ultimate reduction in resources devoted to cycling access. We already have a lower impact then cars and in Portland the percentage of bike trips exceeds the percentage of devoted transportation budget.

    3) Cyclists already do pay into road budgets. Many of us drive some and pay gas taxes. Also, we all pay into the states general fund through property and/or income taxes. Given the low impact on roads by bicycles this should be accounted for in any fee model.

    4) Would this sort of fee encourage the type of behavior that we as a society want to promote? We sin tax a variety of things in this country such as tabacco and booze due to their social costs. Cars as well. It makes sense to subsidize pro-social things like mass transit and cycling.

    5) I would be more invested in this sort of fee if there was an added tax of heavy vehicles and ones that have poor fuel economy. A Hummer/SUV/Truck is much harder on a road then 150lbs me on 700×28 tires.

    Lets investigate the issues further before jumping to conclusions, but we need more specifics and information.

    I would like to see a detailed proposal with budget projections, detailed timelines and specific implementation plans. It concerns me that the BTA is jumping onto this idea without have a little more detail in place. Early investment in an idea can guide later action on proposals that might not be sound policy. Maybe a bicycle lobby day to Salem will be in order.

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  • brettoo November 13, 2008 at 10:45 am

    CS #62 and so many others have it right. I never mind paying taxes for public goods, including every school tax even though I don’t have kids. But this is a pernicious idea, because it legitimizes the false argument that bikes don’t pay their way. BTA and the Gov and others need to be persuading the public that every time a bike trip replaces a car trip, the public saves money, for all the reasons noted in the many posts above. We should be taxing the things we don’t want (carbon) and subsidizing the things we do want (alternatives to carbon). A bike tax, even one admittedly as relatively trivial as this one, completely inverts that philosophy and undermines our long standing true arguments that promoting bicycling is a public good. A tax is way more dangerous in this respect than the amount likely to be charged. I understand your political strategy, but please rethink BTA’s position, Karl. This will do bike riders and the public more harm than good.

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  • El Biciclero November 13, 2008 at 11:03 am

    My theory still holds: being responsible will get you punished. Virtue is its own reward because it’s the only reward you will get…

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  • djkenny November 13, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Let’s see:

    Cars pollute the air, the brake dust and oil flows into the sewer lines and river, create noise pollution, increase global warming C02 levels, exasperate asthma, crowd up out lives and take up our living space, create isolation from others in our communities over mass transit and cycling as well as draw people further away from communities into sprawl, suburbia, and subdivisions…which in turn just continue the cycle of poor living conditions due to auto dependance for many generations (until these faraway homes become the new ghetto).

    Everyone subsidizes cars, even if we do not drive, or wish to live in a society so destroyed by our dependance on the automobile.

    I drive about 2500 miles per year/sometimes less… and pay insurance, gas (which I think needs to be taxed “heavily” not the small sum it is now), registration, emission, and other related fees to owning a car. Common theme of many cyclists.

    When I do not drive I am benefitting everyone in my community. Why make it less attractive to people that wish to take the high road and not drive, whenever possible, by tacking on fees when we are doing the greater good? It makes absolutely no sense.

    If by doing something like adding a tax to ride bikes meant a bike route from N. to S. Portland just as good or better than E. to W., bike parking guaranteed at every business opened in Portland, potholes on every shoulder of Portland filled where bikes may ride, AND everything we are moving on in the Master Plan through other channels of money…then great…let’s do it. I have my $20 ready to throw in the pot for my better biking conditions planned to be completed in 2 years.

    However, I fear that this will just go the way of the lottery when less money ended up being spent on our public schools. All the money in fees intended to benefit cycling infrastructure will simply mean money being redirected to automotive needs “because” the cyclists are paying so much of those funds that were originally intended for improving conditions for cyclists in our community.

    If anything cyclists should receive a tax break. We are not harming the roads, air, streets, require so few resources to provide means of getting around compared to automobiles. Every time we buy something at a store we pay for the parking lots being built and maintained…even if we are not driving a car.

    This is a no win. The return will be so little and it creates a poor precedence for biking over auto use.

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  • JP November 13, 2008 at 11:13 am

    To those who think this tax is justifiable because we don’t pay sales tax, have you forgotten about the 33% or more income tax we pay all up in here?

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  • velo November 13, 2008 at 11:29 am

    #91 – 33% income tax? How much are you making per year? What is that calculation based on? Oregon’s income tax rate is far lower then that.

    The top federal tax bracket is 35% and kicks in at $357,000/year! 33% bracket is for $165-357k/year. Also, this is a last dollar calculation so you are actually paying less then that.

    Oregon has a top rate of 9% and you can deduct the first $5,000 of your federal income tax. 33% appears just plain wrong. JP – can you site your sources?

    Taxation is how we build or society and progressive taxation is an idea that goes back to Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations) and even before. We buy public goods with the revenue raised, it is our duty as citizens to ensure that we get results and that we are involved in the process. They things people like that government provides are expensive, but my guess is that you’d rather not build all your own roads, schools and sewers.

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  • brettoo November 13, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Agreed –the borrow and spend Republicans have for a generation made taxation seem communist or unAmerican when in fact taxes are what pay for the public goods like education, defense, bridges etc we all value. I’m all in favor of most taxes (and the goods they pay for) and would pay more taxes for national health care, sustainable energy intiatives, poverty reduction and more. But that doesn’t make this particular tax a good idea.
    Another worry: once such a tax was in place, it might be much harder to tap general revenues and gas taxes for bike infrastructure. That is, there’d be political pressure to limit bike spending to the amount paid for by the tax, as a user fee, which would mean either raising the tax (and creating a disincentive for bike purchases) or insufficiently funding bike infrastructure. But as so many here have pointed out, spending on bike infrastructure is a public good that transcends the bike users. Everyone, including drivers and anyone who enjoys cleaner air, fewer climate changed induced disasters, less car gridlock, etc. benefits from bike spending, and therefore it should be paid for by everyone, out of general revenues. I’m afraid a bike tax fund would make that politcally difficult.

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  • Andrew H November 13, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Politics… and life for that matter… involves more than reason, logic or facts.

    Even though bicycles provide a net benefit to the community… a small tax that’s easy to administer would help quiet some uninformed opposition.

    And even though cyclists already contribute through other taxes to road infrastructure, paying an explicit tax would be a symbol that we are willing to contribute to the common good… and aren’t just a bunch of selfish @$$es.

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  • El Biciclero November 13, 2008 at 1:53 pm

    Best idea yet (from ‘c’):

    __ I would like $_______.__ of my tax refund to go toward the bicycle infrastructure fund.

    We could probably get more than $5 from more people than just those that bought new bikes during the year.

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  • Coyote November 13, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    I would be much more supportive of a Metro tax disc, much like the British road tax disk. Just don’t connect it to the use of the public right-of-way. Connect it to the use of publicly owned bicycle specific facilities.

    Want to lock your bike to a public parking structure, then you need a tax disk. Want to take your bike on the Max or a bus, then you need a tax disc.

    That way you are not taxing poor Billy in Bly who is saving his pennies for a mountain bike that will never see a paved road. You are now taxing the people in the Metro area that are apparently ready, willing, and able to pay for more of these kinds of services in the Metro area.

    That being said, I will never, ever willingly pay to use a public right-of-way using self-propelled means. It is just not right.

    Of course this line of reasoning presupposes an aversion to sales taxes. For me it is among the worst forms of taxation.

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  • Pete November 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    El Biciclero (#95): I love that idea!

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  • Donna November 13, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    I can’t wait ’til the day when my grandchildren can be born into slave labor, so CEO’s will never have to pay for anything again! And we can work and toil tirelessly for absolutely nothing!

    There no need to wait for your grandchildren to become slaves, Gabriel. If we’re bailing out the banking industry, the mortgage industry, the credit card industry, the student loan industry, and even the Big 3, we’re all going to become debt slaves a heck of a lot sooner than when your grandchildren appear on the scene.

    Here’s what’s going to happen: Say they get their way with this bike tax. Meantime, our federal government becomes officially insolvent. That’ll be a minimum 50% cut to the federal budget and we all know they’re going to let the states and their infrastructure needs twist in the wind. Some bright bulb down in Salem will come up with the idea that part of the transportation budget shortfall can be made up with the confiscation of the revenue generated from this bike tax – and it’s sure not going to go to bikes at that point.

    It will be a cold day in Hell when you find me supporting the taxation of bikes sales when there are people in government who think we can somehow afford to bail out GM, Chrysler, and Ford. Unbelievable. This country has gone nuts.

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  • N.I.K. November 13, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    Even though bicycles provide a net benefit to the community… a small tax that’s easy to administer would help quiet some uninformed opposition.

    Oh it *would not*. The “uninformed opposition” is both more informed than you think (which is why they’re so vocal a minority: they want to get those who genuinely don’t know better in their camp) *and* bent on seeing their agenda through. That agenda is to axe funding for bicycle-specific infrastructure that is paid for by anyone *save* bicyclists. If you throw them this bone, you’re giving them ammunition, not shutting them down. The inevitable cry to follow would be, “Okay, now they’re paying, but they’re not paying enough -and we’re paying too much!” (with furtive glances over their shoulder at various state and federal subsidies diverted back to the automobile industry that they hope nobody is smart enough to mention).

    The folks behind this tax have made it clear that a key leg in it is to appease people spreading lies. For that reason alone, this tax should not be given any serious consideration save for that which opposes it. When BTA et. al. propose a tax with the thrust of benefiting bicyclists instead of appeasing a contingent of lying hypocrites, *then* it’s time to put it up for serious consideration.

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  • DayTripper 69 November 14, 2008 at 6:22 am

    Tax automobiles, not bikes!

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  • dartflight November 14, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Don’t we still pay tariffs on imported bicycle parts and bicycles? If so, we already pay taxes when we buy a new bike unless it is entirely built from US made components. It would be interesting to find out the difference in rates are between autos and bicycles.

    see for more information.

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  • Bent Bloke November 14, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I, too, like the idea of the check box for bike funding on the State Income Tax form. That’s a voluntary way of contributing. The only downside I see to that is how to equitably allocate the funds where they are needed most, since the funds would be collected statewide, while the need is regional. But I guess that is no different than gas taxes.

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  • joe November 14, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    I love this blog because of the great ideas that come up during comment/discussion. The BTA could learn something about formulating ideas and approaches to funding by talking to their constituency more than they do from talking to Transportation “Vision” people.

    I second the idea of a checkbox on our tax forms.

    I also would like to order a box of N.I.K’s “Why Yes, I Am a Scofflaw Freeloader!” t-shirts.

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  • gregg portland November 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    Car drivers pay for 50-65% of the roads (Gas tax and licensing.) The rest come from the general pool of monies from property tax, income tax, sales tax (where appropriate.) It is the auto drivers who are the free loaders.

    90% of adult cyclists in Portland also own cars- and pay for all of the fees that come with being a auto owner.

    I own a car and would love to see the highest tax on gas possible along with the highest fees for parking in city owned lots/ meters.

    We do need funding immediately for education programing including Safe Routes to Schools funding- but monies should come from the polluters who put the wear and tear on the roads, not from the folks who bring us the solution.

    We should not have obstacles on cycling (licensing, permits, extra taxes, etc.) The obstacles should be put on drivers.

    Lets take steps towards a car free Portland. I wish the BTA and Metro (Yes you too Rex) were strongly opposed to increased lanes on a Columbia River Crossing, and I’m very surprised that they are not. I am just as surprised that the Bicycle Transportation Alliance would be working toward taxation of cyclists and not working toward increased taxation on freeloading drivers.

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  • Eileen November 14, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    To N.I.K. #81:

    You wrote:
    “Basically all the arguments on here are saying why cyclists are better than everyone else and that’s why they shouldn’t pay any taxes.

    *All?* Nope. Polish up those comprehension skills, go back, and read it again. You’ll find there are quite a lot of folks who are saying “a bicycle advocacy organization proposing a tax which has a basis in patent falsehoods propagated by a vehemently anti-bike minority is a bad idea because a) it makes that lie appear true and b) it’s rooted in a lie”.”

    Right, I think I understood that honey-bunch. Here is the translation, “Bicyclists shouldn’t have to pay any taxes because we already pay taxes in other ways, and anyway, what we are doing is so much better than what everyone else is doing. The BTA is trying to correct an error that doesn’t exist.”

    Right, my point is, turn the other cheek, take one for the team, who cares about this tax which surely will be small? There is more to be gained by doing it with a smile. If we want to mend fences and garner support, I think this is one to grit your teeth on.

    Of COURSE, I understand that bicyclists shouldn’t HAVE to pay this tax, and that is not the point I’m arguing. I just think that to hope that you are going to be able to gain respect and get what you want by being self-righteous, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Like the guy who walks out on a job because his boss is a jerk. It’s that same attitude. Sure, he might have been right, but now he doesn’t have a job.

    Hopefully it will be proportional to car registrations in terms of say, vehicle weight and be added on to the cost of a new bike, not be a yearly thing that has to be renewed.. Maybe they could tax bicycle wheels or inner tubes or something.

    One more thing people, in case you hadn’t heard, LIFE ISN”T FAIR!

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  • Donna November 14, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    How much will it cost to establish and maintain an infrastructure for the collection of such a tax? Since we don’t have a sales tax in this state, it looks like we’d be creating a whole new government system just to tax bicycles. After all is said, done, and collected, it would be interesting to see how much money would actually be available for the funding of any sort of program.

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  • JJ Ark November 15, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Something that keeps getting overlooked:

    A bicycle frame can have a lifespan in the 20-30 year range. Some old steel frames are still on the roads after 50+ years. My daily rider has been through 3 previous riders. I haven’t bought a *new* bike since In 20 years.

    I would have successfully avoided the tax until this year when my lovely wife asked for, and received, a Townie.

    Also, I can tell you that admin costs would easily eat up any 5$ contribution a year. I doubt that 20$ a year would make the administrative costs worthwhile.

    Now, if you were to tax components, that would be just BOFFO! heh…just kidding!

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  • ?Vincent?Fieldman March 8, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    License Plates. Yay! I like getting pulled over on my bike. 9/11 Never Happened.

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  • stansquash March 10, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    When I have to pay a fee/tax for getting my car off the road, I’m gonna drive my car.

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  • Chris Coppin March 10, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I have no problem with the act of paying something like this.

    Second: Never do something to silence a critic! They will only change what their problem with you is. It helps in no way. As soon as this happens, they will complain that we don’t pay enough compared to how much is “spent on bikes.”

    My problem is that in 2 years it will have quadrupled. Yet nothing more will be spent on bicycle related things. Give them an inch… Just like nobody is foolish enough to think that a sales tax would not skyrocket once it gets started.

    Some people here are saying that your bike should be registered like a car. You know why the government can license your car? Because the government CO-OWNS the car with you. You don’t completely own your car. They can do this because driving is a privilege, not a right. Now we’re being told that riding a bicycle is not a right. That were have been granted the ability to ride a bike, if they see fit.

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  • brob March 11, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Seems there are two big things left out of this discussion:

    1. it is likely a bike tax will dissuade some people from relying on a bike for transportation, and thus be counterproductive environmentally and in terms of city planning and congestion.

    2. The idea that bikers don’t pay their way is farcical. They might skip out on gasoline tax when they are not driving, but most still pay their city state and federal taxes. That alone is a stupid reason to enact a bike tax.

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  • Conor March 23, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    brob, I think a third thing is being left out of the discussion:

    Bikes don’t need automobile infrastructure.

    Why would bikes be charged for infrastructure they don’t need? You can make a path for a bike with a bunch of gravel and sand. You don’t need roads that can support several tonnes going at high-speed. Yes, we all benefit from the commercial activity that uses roads, so we should all pay for that infrastructure equally. Bikes don’t need roads, and shouldn’t be charged to use them.

    Additionally, if you taxed all of the people in Portland with bikes something like $20, it still wouldn’t cover the bill for fixing the damage done to roads that all of these idiots who are still driving around with ice tires have done. Why don’t they tax ice tires?

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  • stephen September 29, 2009 at 9:49 am

    so $5-$20 on all bike sales? so when i go buy my DH/Freeride mtn bike that will never see a road, i am going to be taxed to help roads? thats not right in my mind, instead why dont we think about a 1%-5% tax on the tires that are made to hit the road? what does the average road tire cost, say $20-$60 and for the average commuter how many tires do you get in a year somewhere around 2 0r 3. this would bring allot more revenue.
    but where does all this money go, in helping kids get home safe? i am all about making sure todays youth are safe but i am not about to pay for it. shouldnt that fall on the shoulders of the people that had the kids? what i am for is making sure ALL cyclists are safe not just the kids. lets start improving the bike paths with this new money that the cyclists are using with their money. as a cyclists of 8 years i do not drive or own a car and i get around town on a bike, and i would not mind one bit paying $5-$10 more for a bike tire to help make sure i am safe and have new bike paths. but i would be upset to pay this much money just to find out that it was going to help the roads that i will not be using or the sidewalks that i will get a ticket for riding on. i think there need to be some clearification on what the BTA and city is thinking before this goes any farther.

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