Bike tax seen as neccessary to address “political reality”

Posted by on November 19th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

“We’re not going to put our blinders on and say ‘no, we refuse to talk about it’.”
–BTA lobbyist Karl Rohde

One of the many interesting conversations that we’ll follow in the upcoming legislative session is the concept of a bike tax.

We shared news of the tax last week and reported that the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) is discussing the idea with lawmakers in Salem and a committee formed by Metro is supportive of the concept. The idea is to charge an excise tax (in the realm of $5-20) at the point-of-sale on new bicycles.

Initial conversations have been modeled after a previous effort to pass a bike tax that came up in 2005. During that session, the BTA’s then-lobbyist and now executive director Scott Bricker worked with legislator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro) on the idea. Their effort had momentum and support from other lawmakers, but was eventually killed (once word got out) by big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Target, who sell the vast majority of new bikes in Oregon.

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In 2005, Starr and Bricker estimated the tax would bring in $2 million a year and would cost $500,000 to administer.

So far, response to the bike tax idea from the community has been mixed; but a majority of commenters have not been supportive of it and many have expressed vehement opposition to the idea (even threatening to not renew their BTA membership if they continue to support it).

To learn more about why the BTA would support a bike tax, I talked with their head lobbyist who will be representing them in Salem this year — Karl Rohde.

Rohde emphasized that the idea is only in the “conversation stage” at this point and that, “there are a lot of unanswered questions” about it. But, in talking with Rohde and others, it’s clear to me that if the right kind of bike tax proposal is hammered out, the BTA would not hesitate to support it.

“We are willing to be constructive members of a committee that discusses a bike tax,” Rohde told me, “we’re not going to put our blinders on and say ‘no, we refuse to talk about it’. I think it’s naive that you just demand that we not even talk about it.”

Rohde feels that anyone who says they should reject the concept outright just “don’t understand the political reality” of Salem lobbying. “If you go in with a ‘no!’ attitude you get bulldozed…it’s just not constructive for all the other things we’re trying to accomplish.”

The point Rohde makes is that if the BTA doesn’t at least play ball with the bike tax discussion, other major players in Salem (the trucking lobby, the highway lobby, etc…) will make it much more difficult for them to pursue their other funding goals — like increasing the state’s mandatory bike spending fund (the Bicycle Bill) by .5% and going for $20 million for “non-motorized corridors”.

Besides the political points the BTA hopes to score, Rohde also reminded me that if $1.5 million could be raised for a designated pot that would fund Safe Routes to Schools (which is one of the ideas on the table), it would mean they could teach bike safety to an additional 50,000 children a year. (The BTA currently teaches 5,000 kids a year with a $150,000 budget).

I asked Rohde if supporting a bike tax is essentially giving up on the false argument that bikes don’t pay their way. “I don’t think it’s giving up,” he said, and then added, “it allows us to continue to have that conversation. He also said he’ll continue to make the argument that bikes do in fact pay their fair share.

Noted bike lawyer and member of the BTA’s Legislative Committee Ray Thomas also shared his support for a bike tax in a comment on a story last week about a bike excise tax in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Thomas wrote that he feels the bike tax would give advocates respect (emphasis mine):

“What keeps us from sitting as full participants at the transportation table? Size? Numbers? Yes. But the two main criticisms I hear are that bicyclists don’t pay road taxes and fail to stop at stop signs. If we could remove these two gripes from the public mind it would push us closer to a real seat at the table.

We can argue all we want but until we pay tax dollars as bicyclists for roads we just can’t provide an argument that satisfies most complainers and a bike tax would shut the whole subject down.”

Thomas also wrote that he feels the League of American Bicyclists (a national bike advocacy group) should take on the bike tax as a priority. Until we pay a tax, Thomas wrote, “we are under served by the system and viewed as a sort of transportation novelty by many motorists.”

Early this morning, BTA leader Scott Bricker published a story on their blog about the issue.

Bricker wrote that the BTA will be, “at the forefront of the fight to ensure that any measure that raises transportation fees or directly taxes cycling are cost-effective, fair and efficient.”

In the end, Rohde says this is about having the community be “willing to accept a nominal charge” in order to “engender enough goodwill that it results in a whole host of other successes.” He likened their support of the bike tax idea as being “willing to put a little more skin in the game” in order to accomplish their goals.

Is taxing bikes a devil’s bargain? Or is this a move that will finally turn the tables and open up new possibilities for advocates? Either way, it will be interesting to see how this (and other legislative ideas) play out in the coming months.

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jrep
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jrep

And raising the gas tax by one-tenth of a cent per gallon would raise $2.9 million per year with no increase in administrative costs.

Velo Vanguard
Guest
Velo Vanguard

Respectfully, Rohde and the BTA are mischaracterizing the attitudes and statements of those of us who are opposed, and want BTA to oppose, this proposed tax. I don’t think anyone is saying, “Don’t talk about it. Go to Salem, stamp your foot, and act like a jerk.”

Sure, you engage constructively in the political process, but you *oppose* the tax. Acting like people don’t understand the “political reality” just because they’re against the tax, or that BTA can’t simultaneously be engaged and oppose the tax, is disingenuous.

There are many good reasons for opposing the tax, the most obvious of which is that when goods are taxed, their sales go down to the extent demand for the goods is elastic. That’s the case with bikes.

BTA should be listening to the will of their members, instead of seizing an opportunity to tax bike sales in order to perpetuate their own organizational programs.

Is there really any doubt that the majority of BTA members oppose this tax?

Incidentally, if I thought BTA had any meaningful quid pro quo in mind — something that would really help bicyclists — in exchange for accepting this tax, I might be swayed. But I don’t. And I haven’t heard Rohde say anything like that above or elsewhere. Sure, the Safe Routes to School program is great, but have they thought about how reaching more kids will be offset by parents buying fewer bikes?

gabriel amadeus
Guest

Bicycling should receive an equal share of subsidies, not be disproportionately taxed.

velo
Guest
velo

I’m wondering why the BTA believes a tax like this will create goodwill? It might, but I’d like to see data? Have they done research or polling? Share it! We need information if we are going to support this idea, otherwise it is just making a token financial effort when bikes are already a great deal in terms of impact on roads.

BTA – please give use more information with specific information that supports your assertions. Public and elite opinion is not logical so give us reasons to believe this will work!

Randy
Guest
Randy

New taxes should have health, green, and equity criteria. Air pollution remains one of Portland’s biggest health risks. Taxing low carbon/zero pollution vehicles such as bikes appears to be a step in the wrong direction. Cars and trucks damage roads much more than bicycles. How about a tax on the polluters: 2-cycle engines, idling paper recycling trucks, and vehicles with large engines. Check out zerocarbonista.com for more about the car bicycle debate.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

“It might, but I’d like to see data? Have they done research or polling?”

velo,

remember, this thing is in its formative stages. the BTA and others will be doing all the analysis in the coming months.

Ash..Housewares
Guest
Ash..Housewares

I would be willing to pay 5% on all purchases from a bike shop if:

The funding went to bike related projects only.

Language stating that the funding could not be redirected under any circumstances. No loopholes ect.

Yes, I’m one of those wacky folks that thinks taxes are good. All be it, widely misused and sold under false pretences. If some of my income goes towards filling in some pot holes, marking more bike lanes and education then I’m in!

Duncan Watson
Guest

I am fine with a bike tax. It declaws many of the arguments used by bike foes.

GLV
Guest
GLV

“when goods are taxed, their sales go down to the extent demand for the goods is elastic.”

While that is a true statement, I highly doubt a $5 per bike tax will be a deal breaker for very many consumers. “Well, I have $299, but $304…that’s insane!” I just don’t see that happening.

John Peterson
Guest
John Peterson

I’d say from reading comments that we readers are at least 4 to 1 against a bike tax, not just “mixed” or “majority” against.

I’d also like to hear the pro tax folks address the whole double taxation issue.
I mean the vast majority of bicyclists already pay taxes to support transportation. Why should we pay twice?

How about a PR campaign that emphasizes the transportation taxes that bikers already pay and the benefits that biking brings to society as a whole?

How about instead of a tax we talk about a donation funded foundation like NPR or any number of charities?

And if we are going to start taxing bikes, how about a progressive tax that starts low (1%) on say new bikes over $500 and goes up from there? And make sure that low cost and used bikes are not taxed at all.

In addition, if we are going to accept a new tax on bikes, we should at the same time see new taxes on motor vehicles and gas.

Lennon
Guest

The suggestion that bike taxes be applied to alternative-transportation projects is, I think, a fair one. Mandate that a large portion (up to 100%) of bike excise taxes go towards Safer Routes to School, Get Lit, and facility improvements, and you’ll make a supported out of me (and I suspect, a decent number of other bike commuters and advocates).

Also, I think that you’ll probably see a much stronger correlation between gas prices and bike sales than you will with a modest excise tax. Bikes are for many people an alternative to driving, not recreational equipment, so their demand is driven by many factors entirely outside the bike market.

I.e., the tenth-cent gas tax increase suggested by @jrep would probably increase bike sales as much as a $5 excise tax decreased them. Of course, the former could prove fatal to a legislator’s career in a state with such a tax-hating electorate as ours.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

First, accepting a tax on bikes is like confessing to something you did not do just to get a lighter sentence…but you’re still innocent and going to jail.

Second, if the complaint is that “cyclists don’t pay for roads”, I would be curious to know which “roads” a bike tax would help pay for? If new money starts coming in from cyclists, will motorists suddenly acknowledge that bikes belong on the same roadways used by autos? Or will a perception develop that causes motorists to ask why cyclists are still getting in their way on the road if we now have all this money for “bike paths”.

Taxing bikes, or rather using bike tax revenue solely for “bike infrastructure”, adds a new facet to the “us vs. them” mentality: “ours vs. theirs”. Motorists would easily form the notion that “the streets I paid for are mine, the bike paths you paid for are yours. I’ll stay off yours, you stay off mine.” Cyclists’ legal right to use the streets would fall even farther out of favor than it already is, perhaps leading to “separate but equal”, less safe and less efficient facilities that cyclists are mandated to use.

A bike tax may raise a “nominal” amount of revenue, but I don’t think it will quell anyone’s anti-bikes-on-the-street attitude.

JDL
Guest
JDL

Why should the proposed excise tax apply only to bicycles? To be fair, it should apply to cars and motorcycles too. “in the realm of $5-20” sounds like about 1% of the purchase price. A fair transportation excise tax could charge 1% of the purchase price of all new vehicles that use public roads, no matter whether they use human, fossil fuel, or electric power. That way, all road users would contribute their fair share when they purchase a new vehicle of their choice.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

Duncan: The bike tax doesn’t do much to nullify the arguments used by anti-bike folks. In the last 20 years the city of Portland has paid 55 million (in 2008 dollars) for bike facilities (this is according to an article Jonathan posted a few weeks back), and the bike tax would raise 1.5 million a year, which means that according to the anti-bike folks, we’re still not paying our way. Don’t forget, that 1.5 mil per year is the number for the entire state, it wouldn’t (and it shouldn’t) all get spent in Portland.

The premise that bicyclists don’t pay their way is false, setting up a tax that has cyclists contribute a trivial amount of money doesn’t really address that argument, and opponents of bike funding will be smart enough to point that out immediately after the tax passes. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to support a tax, but it’s not realistic to expect the people to oppose us to give up their opposition once this tax passes.

E
Guest
E

Hey if Walmart is against it, then I’m for it.
😉

Everything intelligent I might have said, has been said already. Thank you.

canuck
Guest
canuck

I’m mainly against it when the same piece of legislation was going to give a tax break to those purchasing electric vehicles.

How can you stand up for alternative transprotation, by giving a break to one form or transportation, which still pollutes when used, and taxing another form of transportation that doesn’t pollute when used?

It’s easy to slap a tax on cyclists because they represent a minority of society and the majority feels we aren’t taxed enough for use of the road even though we proportionally pay more than we should as it is.

This is the same thing they are doing with smokers. Politicians feel they can tax them because the majority of people don’t smoke and they are considered a class of citizen that can be put upon without a major backlash.

Allow this to happen and we become the next easy target for tax schemes.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

Hey everyone,

Remember, risking your life riding in streets with 2 ton metal machines to provide cleaner air, less congestion and a healthier body DOESNT MEAN A THING!! Give us more money!

Signed,

BTA / Metro

(in all honesty, we are tired of being laughed at down in Salem and want to have equal footing with good ‘ol big boys!)

Argentius
Guest

Are non-Interstate roads funded mostly by gas taxes, or are they general fund projects, or some combination?

Bikes ought to pay a lot less for roads than cars do, since they take up less space and cause less damage, but I’m okay contributing in some equitable fashion.

I had the general sense that my income taxes and property taxes, (should I become a homeowner) pay for roads…

A-dub
Guest
A-dub

I have a car. It is registered, titled and my wife drives it to work so I pay the gas tax. I’m fine with that. I’m also fine with paying a sales tax (yep, I said that word in Oregon) on bikes and bike accessories.

I agree with Ash..Housewares @7 and Duncan @8 100%. I want to see this go be budget augmenting not budget relieving for bike projects (lanes, paths, education, etc.). Is this double taxation? Sure. Consider it a donation just like you would to the Portland Public Schools Foundation. Do we pay are share…yes. Are there political realities we deal with…yes. Would this help promote biking…yes.

As for nullifying the “no free rides” folks. Find another way to pay for infrastructure rather than gas tax while your at it.

Eric
Guest
Eric

I think that a big part of the perception problem is not just the (false) idea that bikes don’t pay their way, but (also false) idea that cars *do* pay their way. Yes, cars pay license fees and gas tax, but that does not begin to cover all the costs associated with automobile use (the license tabs in Washington state probably don’t even cover the cost of “free” street parking). These costs come from general fund revenues (income, property, sales, whatever the particular local tax structure consists of). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the persistant notion among many drivers that they pay their way with a (way too low) gasoline tax needs to be exposed for the falsehood it is. Then we can have a reasonable discussion of how (not whether–since we clearly already do) to subsidise societey’s transportation infrastructure.

Pete
Guest

Duncan (#8): “I am fine with a bike tax. It declaws many of the arguments used by bike foes.”

So does the reality of spending for bike infrastructure. Bike foes already have weak arguments that “bikers don’t pay their way” that are debunked with facts and figures. Taxing new bicycles won’t change their opinions, which are often driven by bias and emotion.

IIRC, wasn’t Bruce Starr the legislator who said “$30M would go a long way in Washington County” when discussing the cost of bike and ped infrastructure on the controversial bridge? And he’s the guy the BTA is “working with” regarding the tax?

Pathetic. Wake up and raise the gas tax $.02 instead, at the very least, and ban studded tires, and stop deficit spending in the highway budgets. Money doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from employed people.

Correction: Bruce said “(the $30 million allocated for bike and ped facilities) buys me a new interchange in Washington County that allows me to move people safely.”

I suspect he meant move people *in cars* safely. Get your hands off my bike, Bruce.

hanmade
Guest
hanmade

I agree with the no tax arguments above, but I can understand in this imperfect world the reason for the tax: It will give us more leverage in Salem for our cause. Since I have never bought a new bike (or car for that matter), I probably won’t be affected. If the tax money goes directly towards Safer Streets and such, then that is a good thing, even though it snot.

Dave
Guest

I’m all for the tax if the proceeds go towards bike-related programs and infrastructure. I think again in this whole discussion of bikes becoming an accepted means of transportation, we can’t just expect people to “get with it” and realize that we’re the superior ones here, and should make all concessions to accommodate us. In order to become an accepted demographic of society, we’re going to have to give in a bit, at least until cycling becomes a more universally accepted form of transportation around the city as a whole. That might mean you have to pay $5 more for your bike (are you really bent out of shape about that?), but it may also mean that you get the infrastructure and education that gets more people out riding, and convinces more people of the value of cycling. I agree that in general, cyclists more than pay for their use of the roads, but is it worth hanging onto your “rights” so tightly that you alienate everyone else? I agree with the BTA that it’s worth talking about this, and as long as a solution which feeds money back into the biking programs comes up, go for it.

G.A.R.
Guest
G.A.R.

Sounds idiotic and very dangerous to the progress of cycling in Oregon.

Taking #12 further I anticipate pressure to stop funding bike amenities from the usual sources and instead rely solely on the bike tax for all bike-related road features, etc. And I think $5-20 for each sale of a new bike will go virtually NOWHERE toward what our system needs in the way of cycling infrastructure. let me say I’m in favor of safe routes to school. However, if funding safe routes to school has gotten so difficult that the BTA has to resort to compulsory payment, then I guess I think safe routes to school needs to be the loser here, not the entire bike infrastructure network.

Lynne
Guest

If the tax was only on adult bikes (although those Bike Fridays with their tiny wheels, hmm)…

Really, I have no problem plunking down a seriously small amount of change ONCE when I buy a new bike. Not that I cause even $5 of wear on a roadway for the life of that bike.

And yes, I understand that all those OTHER taxes I pay (property, income) subsidize the roads.

Mike Bratty
Guest
Mike Bratty

$500,000 to administer? Doesn’t seem worth it to me. I’m not opposed to paying the tax, but the cost to keep it operating is a bit ridiculous.

Critter's Keeper
Guest
Critter's Keeper

I am really disheartened that I live in a society where this is true—
“In 2005, Starr and Bricker estimated the tax would bring in $2 million a year and would cost $500,000 to administer.”
-Moral Bankruptcy is such an unpleasant reflection

D. :Jason Penney
Guest

Hmmm…my first reaction was, it really kinda depends on the magnitude of the tax. $50 per new bicyclewould be a deal breaker. $5 per? Not such a big problem.

Looking at the objections above, I see an interesting thread asking why we’re being asked to pay more when we’re part of the *solution*.

I can understand that. So, how about this, Scott Bricker? Let’s make this proposal an insidious means by which we can revisit the way that *all* vehicle users contribute to regional transportation priorities.

For instance, how about a $50/year smog tax for vehicles inside of the DEQ air quality boundary? Or a ten cents per gallon smog surcharge for fuel purchases in the Metro area? How about a $250/year congestion charge for vehicles that take up more pavement than a motorcycle?

You see where I’m going here? Since bicycles are part of the *solution*, let’s make sure that the people who are part of the *problem* also pay their part.

D. Jason Penney
Chairman, Washington County BTC
http://www.washcobtc.org

Ash..Housewares
Guest
Ash..Housewares

Thanx for the echo A-Dub! Too many folks complain about it not being fair about this or that. Mamma said life isn’t fair..and it’s not. Life is about standing up and saying “I may not have created some of the problems but, I going to do something about them anyway”. Take the high road so to speak. If the cycling community does something that winds up helping the driving community as well, then so what. It only makes us look better.

Shoemaker
Guest
Shoemaker

Jonathon,

Maybe the complementary story to this is the detailed story on transportation spending and funding source by project type.

Are bike projects allocated a percentage of transportation spending in the state budget or not?

I know this is bikeportland, not pedportland, but are pedestrian projects allocated a percentage of the state budget?

With no hard facts to present, I personally suspect that the federal DOT will be changing its tune quickly with regards to modeshare priorities. (see energy, emissions, green house gasses, etc.) This means actual money, and/or authority to redirect existing money. Departments at the state and local level will start jumping when this happens.

Is there also a complementary story about BTA and Metro’s plans to gear up to create or prepare for big changes in transportation funding priorities?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Are bike projects allocated a percentage of transportation spending in the state budget or not?”

yes they are. The 1971 Bicycle Bill states that bikes must get 1% of funds for all major road re-construction and new construction projects.

“are pedestrian projects allocated a percentage of the state budget?”

no, not specifically… but I’m sure the bike bill has included things that are good for peds too.

“Is there also a complementary story about BTA and Metro’s plans to gear up to create or prepare for big changes in transportation funding priorities?”

I’m not aware of any specific “gearing up” campaign but I know both groups are gearing up internally.

personally, I think both Metro and the BTA should be being much more aggressive at this point and take nothing for granted because I feel like bikes run a serious risk of being left at the side of the road once the decisions get to nitty-gritty time.

Tupe
Guest
Tupe

It’s refreshing to see that the BTA will never stop reminding me why I quit being a member.

the "other" steph
Guest
the "other" steph

i don’t think i’m the only known with the sentiment, “boy, if i heard a nickel for every ‘don’t pay for the road, no right to be on it’ line, i’d have a lot of nickels.” a new hobby of mine is to shoot back, “well then give me 1/4 of the gas in your tank, because i paid for that.”

sure, talk about a bike tax to show we’re for free speech, but let’s not seriously give credence to the notion while the national government is bailing out auto-makers, and all levels of government are providing subsidies and incentives for SUV purchases and below-market gas consumption. we certainly wouldn’t want to put politicians in the embarrassing spot of seeming short-sighted (and perhaps a wee naive themselves).

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

Scott Bricker on the freeloader myth and then some:
“At the BTA, we know that’s not true. But we also know that investments in cycling lag behind investments in autos and other forms of transportation. We’re fighting to change that.”

Scott’s a funny guy when it comes to compromise. Put him in front of any sort of official body, he’ll be civil and engaging. Put him in front of the cycling community and he’ll proceed to tell anyone who’s even marginally critical of his or BTA’s actions that they’re ungrateful punks who had better learn to play ball, regardless of the tone or thrust of the criticism. That makes it really difficult to be critical: you wind up feeling like a jerk, and some folks around you walk away believing it. After all, the BTA’s done awesome work and gets into places where, otherwise, citizens would just be writing legislators and hoping they’d get taken seriously.

You know what? I don’t care anymore. The BTA is running risk of two things here: a) advocating a tax with ridiculous administrative costs compared to what can be achieved with said tax’s revenue (hoo-boy, that’s scary), a b) perpetuating a myth which jeopardizes funding for cycling infrastructure and programs. The latter’s not just me being some high-minded curmudgeon waving the ethics stick, it’s a serious problem. One of the key ideas behind this tax, whether you call it “pitching in” or “putting skin in the game” or whatever other bad analogous device you might care to employ, is that it will quiet the “user pays!” who frequently say cyclists don’t pay their way.

We’re talking faulty reasoning in the extreme here, folks. If there’s suddenly a bike tax and it’s held up as “a-ha! we’re contributing!”, the reaction of these critics is going to be “A-ha! You admit you weren’t before, and now you are. We need to pull out bicycle funding from everywhere else now. You people are responsible for yourselves.” And to lazy, uninformed people who like to repeat the sharpest talking points rather than check the facts, this is going to carry weight.

If this issue doesn’t get addressed appropriately, Scott Bricker, Ray Thomas, and numerous other folks at the BTA can be labeled traitors to the people for whom they’re supposed to be advocating. We’ve pointed this out again and again. Either it’s falling on deaf ears or they’re rejecting it out of hand simply because it isn’t flowing from their own particular pool of infinite wisdom. Letting this slide just because their determined strategy suggests otherwise is foolhardy in the extreme.

brettoo
Guest
brettoo

I understand wanting to be at the table in Salem, but participating in a bike tax scheme of any kind will do Oregonians more harm than good because it completely undermines the major argument in favor of investing in bike infrastructure: the fact that it’s a money-(and planet-) saving public good. I’ve made some of these arguments on the other thread and on the BTA’s site, but as long we’re starting a new thread that specifically addresses the “political reality” argument, please forgive the repetition.

1. Once such a tax was in place, 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 increasing the disincentive for bike purchases) or insufficiently funding bike infrastructure. But bike infrastructure is a public good whose benefits transcend 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. A bike tax fund would make that politically difficult.

2. It legitimizes the false argument that bikes don’t pay their way. In reality, every time a bike trip replaces a car trip, the public saves money.

3. A bike tax creates a disincentive to cycling and therefore to sustainable transportation. We should be taxing the things we don’t want (carbon) and subsidizing the things we do want (alternatives to carbon). If anything, bike purchases should be subsidized, not taxed.

4. Like any sales tax, a bike tax is regressive and disproportionately affects poorer people — a major reason why Oregonians have repeatedly rejected sales taxes for decades.

I want the BTA to devote our resources toward making the case cogently that not only do bike riders pay more than their fair share, but also that the return on investment in bike spending (in dollars, reduced climate change, quality of life, reduced auto gridlock, etc etc) far outweighs the initial investment. Include statistics to back it up. Make the argument so clear and concise that it’ll fit in a letter to the editor of any local newspaper. Run it on the front page of the BTA website.

I’m not reflexively anti tax and would willingly, even eagerly pay more taxes for national health care, sustainable energy intiatives, poverty reduction and more. But this tax is bad economics, bad politics, and bad environmentalism.

If BTA signs on to any bike tax agreement, fails to vigorously oppose all of them, or fails to effectively make the case for bicycling as a money-saving public benefit, I will not be renewing my membership.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Anyone who thinks bike opponents will be satisfied by a one-time-per-user / per-bike fee of five measley dollars is living in a fantasy world. They’ll counter with arguments about the high gas tax, automobile tax, registration, etc.

The dollar amount will never be high enough to silence the critics, who’ll keep squawking as long as their bitterness persists. Hopefully the transportation landscape will have changed drastically in 20 or 30 years and bikes can no longer be attacked with such empty, baseless arguments.

The BTA will never see a penny from me if it continues to push this policy of idiotic surrender.

Angela
Guest
Angela

Excuse my ignorance, but aren’t we already paying road and transportation taxes? If we hold a driver’s license, which I imagine most of us bikers do, don’t we already pay fees?

On the surface, and without more information, I definitely would have a hard time supporting this, even if I’m not in the market for a bike.

JohnO
Guest

Eric (#20) makes the point that the majority of funding for roads and cars doesn’t come from gas taxes — it comes from other taxes. He’s right.

Streetsblog teases out the numbers. A nationwide study noted that “current tax and fee payments to the government by motor-vehicle users fall short of government expenditures related to motor-vehicle use by approximately 20-70 cents per gallon of all motor fuel.”

http://tinyurl.com/4tqvh5

In other words, drivers are feeding at the public trough just as much as cyclists.

I’m not very happy about a tax that slaps a $5 surcharge on a kid’s first bike just the same as the bike I ride to work.

Plus, the tax builds in a 25% inefficiency ($2 million less $500K to administer) just to accomplish its goals.

I have to think there’s a better way: how about a “vehicle tax,” which reflects the true costs that that each vehicle incurs?

Cars and trucks would have to account for all the pollution and traffic they contribute, plus road degradation, etc.

Ah, nevermind. Bottom line, I’d pay $5 to promote cycling, bike education and bike infrastructure. It’s much better spent than blowing it on 2 gallons of gas.

Ron
Guest
Ron

My kid came home the other day and said “Dad, I checked out that book I wanted from the library instead of buying it, and I volunteered at the Humane Society instead of going out with my friends — I feel good about my choices and how they work toward the sustainability of our community”.

So I took her allowance away from her and told her she has no right to the library because she doesn’t pay taxes, and asked why those animals get her time when they don’t pay taxes either.

I think she learned her lesson and won’t be doing those things again.

Mitch Conner
Guest
Mitch Conner

I’d rather see a license requirement and fee. I don’t see a sales tax making a bit of difference.

Scott
Guest
Scott

I am not a proponent of biking, but there are possitive sides to both arguments. We need to meet in the middle and compromise, instead of the die hard bikers in the community always expecting to get their own way. True, biking reduces carbon, but that is a mute issue as there are still arguments for and against global warming. If, for example, there is massive global warming, why has the earths average mean temperature COOLED in the last decade? These are facts, not just a agenda. Ok, yes, bike riders who own drivers licenses do pay fees that supposedly go towards road repair. However, this is a small part of the road maintenance pie. The taxes collected off of each gallon of gasoline sold account for much more state and federal income. Now, since most of you do not drive much, how are you contributing your fair share? I, for one, am sick and tired of paying taxes for road maintenance just so some bike rider can come along behind me and demand (not ask) that improvements be made to fit their lifestyle. Who the hell do you think you are? I do not own the road, but neither do the bike riders. In most cases, we who drive cars subsidize your bike lane improvements. How fair is that to us? When are you guys going to start paying a tax to offset a portion of our fuel costs? Thats not fair? Well, now you know how we drivers feel.

N.I.K.
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N.I.K.

Ron: yeah, but you *do* get income tax breaks on account of having her as a dependent, you get glorified babysitting (“school”) when she’s 5-18 (so that’s return on all the money diverted there before you had a kid), and maybe your job even gives you some manner of childcare benefits. And if you’re raising her in a traditional marriage home, cha-ching, tax breaks further still. So don’t think of her as a liability just because she doesn’t pay directly through the usual or most obvious channels. She’s your daughter. She’s an asset. No, not that kind, the *good* kind.

**doubles over in laughter**

Really, though thanks for the splendid teardown of fake-ass libertarianism. Wonderful way to encapsulate the bunkness of the argument into plain and stupid terms.

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

When are you guys going to start paying a tax to offset a portion of our fuel costs?

Federal and state taxes drawn from many sources already do this by way of subsidies. The same rings true for numerous other things related to automobiles. As someone pushing 30 who has *never* gotten a driver’s license and doesn’t plan on it, I’ve contributed a hell of a lot of money over the years through income tax, property tax (collected as a portion of rent), sales tax (in places I’ve lived which have it), and so on. I don’t see nearly as direct a return as someone who drives everywhere, but you know, I don’t mind, because I figure that those people driving might be responsible for goods and services that ultimately benefit me.

But when folks like you come around with all this garbage about how all *your* money is getting pissed away on stuff you don’t use? Oh brother, am I ever tempted to ring your doorbell and ask for my effing money back.

Dave
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Dave

Isn’t Oregon proud of the fact they don’t have a sales tax? So if we call it an excise tax, is it somehow different?

Bring on the tax.
I’ll buy my bikes over the internet or go across the river and pay Washington sales tax. …On principle alone!

Velo Vanguard
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Velo Vanguard

BTA has become entirely too comfortable with itself as the only bike advocacy group in town … so comfortable that it’s now putting its own budget ahead of its members’ interests.

If BTA continues to push this idea, I’ll file the papers to start the new nonprofit “Oregon Bicyclists’ Union.”

The OBU will provide *real* advocacy for Oregon’s bicyclists, and then we’ll see where the donations go.

Paul Tay
Guest

Political “reality,” Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!

Bicyclists ALREADY pay sales tax, property tax, and income tax, which SUBSIDIZE auto driving.

If they keep talking bike tax, BTA is in danger of going down the same slippery slope as LAW, irrelevancy.

Why settle for teaching bike driving to only 150,000 kids? Both the State Legislatures of Oregon and Oklahoma could simply mandate bike driving instruction to EVERY 16 year-old who wants a driver license. Get busted for DUI? It’s bike driving skool for you, buddy.

And, $2 million per year in bike tax revenue statewide? CHUMP change. Why bother?

Jeff TB
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Jeff TB

“why has the earths average mean temperature COOLED in the last decade?”

Sorry Scott but, What?

http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/science/recenttc_triad.html

Pete
Guest

Scott (#40): “If, for example, there is massive global warming, why has the earth’s average mean temperature COOLED in the last decade?”

Off-topic, scientists point to this cooling as evidence the polar ice caps are melting due to thinning of the ozone layer (allowing more radiant energy in the ultra-violet spectrum through). As ice melts it cools the surrounding ocean water and associated air masses. Thermodynamics 101.

On topic, the fact remains that gas taxes DO NOT cover their share of highway costs, the federal highway budget has spent at an increasing deficit since 2001. It is primarily funded by bonds which are sold to investors at a return which is ultimately paid for by (my) federal income taxes. Mary Peters has announced deficit figures in the billions.

Don’t assume that because I argue for a gas tax increase I’m some car-less, job-less freeloader. I’ll gladly compare what I pay in income and auto taxes and fees, and I’ll argue that I DESERVE the right to a better future for the children that I’ve paid dearly to put through schools – even though I have none of my own.

I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll pay a bicycle tax based on the actual costs of improving pedestrian / cyclist safety in the Portland area, and you pay auto taxes based on the costs of maintaining the bridges and roads you drive on. Sound fair? I’ll even throw in a hefty wager betting in this scenario I come out way ahead.

Oh, and you get to pay an education tax based on the actual costs of sending your own children, if you have any, to public schools.

Coyote
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Coyote

Ok let’s blow-up the Safe Routes to Schools thing. It is insane that there are not safe routes for self-propelled travel to all schools. The engineers and Districts that designed or approved such designs should be strung-up by their thumbs. Safe routes to schools should not be some special interest funding scheme. It is just common sense that every school should have a safe way to a get there. Duh! Having to levy a special tax to ensure our kids are not mowed down on the way to school makes us look like a bunch of animals!

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

scott:

“True, biking reduces carbon…”

…and carbon monoxide, and asbestos, and MTBE, and particulates, and ozone, and road wear, and traffic congestion, and oil consumption, and health care costs, and… none of which have one whit to do with “global warming”

“bike riders who own drivers licenses do pay fees that supposedly go towards road repair.”

Bike riders who own driver’s licenses usually also own cars, on which they pay registration fees. When using a car, the owner/driver is burning gas on which they paid gas taxes. The driver of a car is also doing orders of magnitude more damage to the road than a cyclist. You believe you pay gas taxes to fix potholes? Do you also believe a cyclist riding a 200-lb vehicle on the road caused those potholes? You believe you pay gas taxes so additional lanes can be added to freeways? Do you believe excessive bike use of the freeway created the demand for more lanes? You are also apparently forgetting that income and property taxes are used for road maintenance as well, and everybody pays those.

“bike rider[s] can come along behind me and demand (not ask) that improvements be made to fit their lifestyle.”

Most “improvements” that are made to roads, such as bike lanes, are for the convenience of motorists who want bikes out of their way. If not for those improvements, drivers would spend a lot more time stuck behind cyclists who have no choice but to use an entire traffic lane to get where they are going.

“I do not own the road, but neither do the bike riders.”

This should say, “I own the road, and so do the bike riders”. Roads are public space, owned by everybody.

“In most cases, we who drive cars subsidize your bike lane improvements.”

This is backwards. All taxpayers subsidize car use.

I can’t even deal with the rest of your post.