BikePortland.org

A conversation with Rep. Krieger about his bike registration bill


“This is an opportunity for the bicyclists to start contributing to our roads… everybody needs to contribute to what’s there… if there were not bicycles we wouldn’t need bicycle lanes.”
— Rep. Wayne Krieger

Representative Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach) wants everyone who owns a bicycle in the state of Oregon to pay a mandatory, $54 registration fee (and then renew it for another $54 every two years).

He is the chief architect of House Bill 3008, a proposal that was met with a lot of negative responses on this site when I reported on it today.

I spoke to Krieger via telephone from his Salem office on Friday morning to learn more about his reasons for proposing this bill.

Krieger’s main motivation seems to be one of equity. When I asked for his main impetus behind the proposal, he brought up the Vulnerable Roadway Users law that passed last session. That bill created a new class of road user, and stiffened penalties for anyone involved in a crash that seriously injured a vulnerable roadway user (includes people on foot, on bikes, on animals, skateboards, etc…).

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When that bill came to his committee, Krieger opposed it on the grounds that it put an unfair burden on motor vehicle operators. Krieger thinks that with all the laws to protect people on bikes and an ever-increasing amount being spent on bike-specific infrastructure, that it’s time bike riders paid their fair share.

“If a small fee discourages something, I would suggest they probably aren’t very ardent to the cause to start with. I think there are very few people who would stop biking because of the fee.”

“This is an opportunity for the bicyclists to start contributing to our roads,” he said. “If you want to have something that everybody is going to use, than everybody needs to contribute to what’s there… if there were not bicycles we wouldn’t need bicycle lanes.”

Krieger also sees this as a way to improve bikeway conditions (and therefore bike safety) in Oregon. Like he has done in committee testimony, on the phone Friday he brought up people riding on the coast near his home in Gold Beach. “They are riding on the edge of the fogline,” he said, “with their butt and elbow into the traffic lane even when they have a bike lane to ride in. They do that because the bike lane isn’t swept. If there was a bit more money in the pot, maybe ODOT could sweep it more often.”

Krieger said bikes are long overdue in having to help pay for the infrastructure they use:

“Talk about a time when you need some revenue for transportation…bikes have used the roads in this state forever and have never contributed a penny. The only people that pay into the system are those people who buy motor vehicle licenses and registration fees.”

When I brought up the fact that bikes cause little to no damage to our transportation system relative to motor vehicles, he disagreed, saying, “I don’t think it’s a legitimate argument simply because the majority of the bike lanes are adjacent to the highways so if we made our highways wider, with more engineering, that drove up the cost for bikes.” His point was that the engineering and planning costs to include bikeways into highways was considerable enough that it needs to be recouped somehow.

“We’ve put millions and million into bike lanes,” he said. And then, repeating his opinion that it’s a matter of equity, he added, “The people that get that service provided for them, they need to contribute…these people are sort of sitting on the sidelines.”

I shared with Rep. Krieger that some people are concerned that his bill might discourage someone from biking. He dismissed that notion:

“If a small fee discourages something, I would suggest they probably aren’t very ardent to the cause to start with. I think there are very few people who would stop biking because of the fee.”

Krieger — a 28-year veteran of the State Police — said he’s “not into it myself” when I asked if he rides, but he did say that it’s “a good alternative way of transportation.” Throughout our conversation, any talk of riding would quickly turn to how people on bikes are the ones contributing to unsafe conditions on Oregon’s roadways. “They create quite a hazard sometimes,” he said at one point when he mentioned recreational riders.

Earlier in our conversation, Krieger made a generalization about people who ride, and found yet another way to flip the usual car/bike victim dichotomy:

“If a person is operating a bike and they are the one that causes an accident, do they have insurance to cover your costs and medical expenses? Not all of those people have any type of insurance at all.”

It’s not clear to me what a bill about a mandatory bike registration fee has to do with having insurance, but it is clear that Krieger sees this bill as a way to keep better tabs on Oregonians who run afoul of traffic laws:

“If you see somebody operating a bike and you see a license on it and they break a law, now you have something to write down. Here in Salem a lot of people are tired of how folks blatantly break laws on their bikes… and I’m not talking about kids, I’m talking about adults. If they have a sticker than you know who it is and you have some way to track them down.”

What about the bill’s fiscal impact to the state? Aren’t you concerned that it will cost more to administer than it would actually bring in?

“Whenever you have a program that’s a start-up program, your first few years are break-even years and then later on the registration fee will be more than enough to cover the program.”

How do you think bike advocacy group will respond to this?

“I had a meeting recently with the guy that’s does the lobbying for the BTA [Karl Rohde]. We had a pretty good talk. He did not seem to think it was totally unreasonable. He wanted to know more about it.” [The BTA has not taken a position on this yet, but Karl Rohde has said that “historically they’ve opposed measures like this,” and that, “we are opposed to anything that discourages cycling.”]

Do you think you’ll find enough support from colleagues to pass this?

“Many people have expressed interest in this bill but they are reluctant to support it because they don’t want to look like the bad guy. It’s a new concept, people resist change, but many people I’m talking to about it — even guys that ride and say they’d be happy to contribute — nod their head and say ‘yes, that sounds like a good idea’.”

But, he conceded, “Maybe a time of economic crisis isn’t the best time to pass this. Maybe we’ll bring it back [to try again next session].”

— You can read the full text of HB 3008 here.

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