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Columbian: Clark County commisioners want to look into bike license fee

Posted by on July 15th, 2009 at 4:05 pm

The Columbian newspaper is reporting that Clark County Commissioners want staff to look into a plan to create a bicycle licensing fee.

L to R: Clark County Commissioners Steve Stuart, Tom Mielke, and Marc Boldt.


Here’s a snip from reporter Michael Andersen’s story:

Saying they’re short on cash for new bike lanes and trails, Clark County’s commissioners said Wednesday that they’re willing to consider charging to license bicycles outside city limits.

“As a bicyclist, I would pay a licensing fee if I had better trail access,” Commissioner Steve Stuart said in a work session on bicycle and pedestrian routes in the county. “We license our dogs. You license your car. Why wouldn’t you license your bikes?

Commissioners Marc Boldt and Tom Mielke agreed, asking to set up a new work session on the issue.

“It’s a good funding source,” Boldt said.

After Andersen called me for comment on the story, I immediately inquired with Clark County to learn more about the context of how the idea came up.

I spoke with Laurie Nicholson, the project manager of the Clark County Bike and Pedestrian Plan. She confirmed for me that the comments reported by Andersen came up during a work session for that plan. Nicholson said it is only an idea at this point and stressed that there is no proposal on the table at this time (given this, I was surprised The Columbian would do a story on it already).

“During our discussion, Commissioner Stuart inquired about whether or not we’d looked into raising money through some sort of bike license. I said we’d look into it and report back.” Nicholson plans to take the idea to the Bicycle Advisory Committee when they meet next Tuesday (meeting details below).

This will be interesting to follow. The idea to license bicycles to raise funds came up in Salem this session and was met with vehement (some said a tad too vehement) opposition. The BTA formally opposed the idea, and ultimately legislators did not deem it a high enough priority to spend time on.

Read the Columbian article (they’re expected to publish a more thorough version of their story by tomorrow).

If you live/ride/work in Clark County and want to keep tabs on how/if this idea progresses, consider showing up to next week’s Bike Advisory Committee meeting:

    Clark County Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting
    7/21, at 6:00 p.m.
    Conference Room 433 (Fourth Floor) at the Public Service Center (1300 Franklin Street, Vancouver, WA).

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Paulo
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Paulo

You’ll raise a total of about 8 cents. Hmm, not worth it. Try tolling automobiles, raising fuel taxes (federally), matching Washington or California’s auto license fees, a state sales tax……

Serviceburo
Guest

Ok, let’s look at it this way. If we all decide to nut up and license at least one bike each we create a new source of political power for the cycling community. We gain the ability to post documented numbers of how significant we are both in population and economic impact on the local transportation grid.

From this we gain new bargaining power in policy making as other factions can no longer dismiss us as a fringe group. If we as cyclists really want to be enfranchised in the political process, then we have to be willing to pay the membership fees.

We know that we are legion, but the other groups cna easily turn a blind eye. It’s time to start using their system against them and take our rightful place at the policy table.

mykle
Guest

We license cats, we license shoes … why shouldn’t we license bikes?

Paul
Guest
Paul

So would Portland (or other Oregon) residents be required to have a license to ride in Clark County? I’m sure that would have a positive effect on the economy there.

Blair
Guest
Blair

By the time the program is paid for, there will be next to nothing left for real improvements on the streets. Just look at all the abandoned bike license programs from the ’70s all over the country.

BURR
Guest
BURR

licensing is generally reserved for things and activities that are in one way or another potentially harmful to your health and/or an extreme burden on public resources, hence the licensing of motor vehicles, domestic pets, doctors, engineers, barbers and tattoo artists.

We’ve already established that cyclists pay more than their fair share through either general tax revenues that are used for transportation infrastructure, or other licensing and registration fees (e.g. for that motor vehicle most of us still own).

This is just another case of a cash-strapped government body trying to squeeze a minority constituency for all the extra can get.

http://carpefactum.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/02/12/back_off.jpg

Quentin
Guest
Quentin

I wonder why it would only be applied outside of city limits? If the funding issue also applies to “pedestrian routes” then why not also require a pedestrian license? You license your dog, so it only makes sense that you would need a pedestrian license to walk your dog! Duh!

Kanga
Guest
Kanga

Snarky comments that immediately came to mind…

I’m a cyclist who would prefer not to pay a licensing fee and if I don’t get platinum-level trail access because of it, so be it. But (if this proposal goes through) I don’t get that choice, do I?

We’re short on cash, why not just tax everything (e.g. a sales or value-added tax)? It’s a good funding source.

Oh, too many people don’t like that idea? Let’s just tax a minority class of users, like tobacco or alcohol or rich people or bicyclists. They might complain, but they can always stop smoking/drinking/being rich/riding a bike.

We license cars and dogs, why not strollers, kayaks, skateboards, and shoes? Oh, and don’t forget bicycles, hang gliders, and broomsticks.

fredlf
Guest
fredlf

This has nothing to do with raising revenue. This is only for raising political capital from their “bikes should pay their way”, fact-free constituents.

buzz
Guest
buzz

hhhmm, any chance they are going to license the pedestrians that walk that path as well??

KJ
Guest
KJ

I don’t live in CC but here is my opinion on the issue:

If I had to licence my bike I would, but I am not going to go out and support it. It seems like the idea has crashed and burned wherever it’s been brought up across the nation.

From what I understand such a program would cost more than it generates.
It seems like there is no way that the program could actually raise revenue past, maybe, paying for itself. In addition to the mess it would create trying to make everyone licence thier bike etc.

But we all know the real reason is so people who cycle can be as easily identified via “licence plate” as a car, to be held accountable for thier riding. (understandable but not the only solution to the problem) and to make things ‘fair'( what I feel is the bigger issue.)

I would like to think thier idea is solely to generate revenue for bikes, but… well.

For the record, I grew up in a town with bike cops, who pulled over bikes. (That would be Davis, CA), enforcement doesn’t have to mean licensure. But where is the money going to come from for enforcement? Education?

I’d much rather see something like a bicycle sales tax, a one time fee for each new bike purchase (not used/resale), with that money earmarked for adding to bike infrastructure and improvements. It seems like that would have less bureaucracy and more profit for bike infrastructure that way. Bike sales are booming and are going to continue to do so.

However I would be afraid it would also cause pulling of funding that is usually spent on bikes in other budgets away.

buzz
Guest
buzz

It would make more sense for Clark County to try to make some sort of benefit ride (like the Bridgepedal, Worst Day Ride, etc.) than to make people license a bike for a “privilege” to ride on trails or in unincorporated areas. Why would people even bother riding their bike outside of the city limits if suddenly they had to pay?

Dave
Guest
Dave

I live in Vancouver. Sounds like a great idea–as long as my bike is charged, per pound, at the same rate that my car would be under a road impact tax. This is long-term fallout from Tim Slime-Man’s Initiative #645 that destroyed our car tab funding stream a few years ago–local governments have to patch and fill any way they can.

are
Guest
are

the wedge here is bicycle specific infrastructure, and the implicit argument is that this stuff benefits cyclists. in actual fact, a striped bike lane — even if “well designed” — literally never benefits a cyclist, because (a) obviously the space is already there, (b) ORS 814.420 relegates you to using only that space, and (c) ORS 811.065, the safe passing distance law, expressly does not apply to a motorist passing a cyclist who it in a striped bike lane. the infrastructure benefits only motorists, by pushing cyclists to the side. there is absolutely no reason on earth I should pay for this through a licensing fee.

Dominic
Guest

historically licensing bikes is NOT a revenue source. If they are looking for funding to make bike lanes and trails, write some grants!

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

“It is a good funding source” – Boldt

Actually it has been shown empirically time and time again that it is now a good funding source. Look at the example of Washington DC where they repealed their licensing program about a year ago due to the high cost of running the problem. Bike licensing tends to lose money not make it.

m jackson
Guest
m jackson

It is a stupid idea for one reason… you the government, will have to enforce the law. Just one more office full of people making a living off of the taxpayer’s back.

Hart
Guest
Hart

You can license my bike when I can license your gun.

HW
Guest
HW

“We license our dogs. You license your car. Why wouldn’t you license your bikes?”

So let me get this straight. Residents are supposed to VOLUNTARILY go down and pay to put a sticker or something on their bike, which then the police would only be able to enforce by stopping every cyclist and checking for said identification?

“Sorry little Sally, I can’t take you riding on the community trails this year, because I don’t have the money to register your little Barbie bicycle!”

Where will it end? Mandatory helmet taxes? Yearly safety & emissions for cyclists to ensure that your panniers are up to code and you’re not dripping tri-flo, therefore negatively effecting the rivers and streams?

Hands down, waste of money and time, and will most certainly blow up in their face.

ben
Guest
ben

Let’s create some real cash. Legalize pot, gambling, and sex. Spineless wimps is all these people are.

Andy
Guest
Andy

This license fee would really help out the homeless too.

Joe
Guest
Joe

3 ass hats! hat trick..lol

Hart
Guest
Hart

Legalize pot, gambling, and sex.

Sex is illegal? Where do you live, Utah?

Schrauf
Guest

Par for the course. Vancouver also has a helmet law, thanks mostly to the Vancouver Bicycle Club. I bet they support a steep license fee as well.

Bikes are dangerous! We need helmet laws. Licensing. Requirements to check in with the police each time we ride our bike. A night riding ban. Wet weather ban. Hell – get on the sidewalk. Soon, nobody will ride anymore, and we can go back to our fat SUV’s!

Burn baby, burn.

Oh Word?
Guest
Oh Word?

If cyclists have to pay a fee, the county could no longer use that bike lane as the road’s dust pan…

Also, I have a car and I pay registration. Since my bike does less damage to the roads than my car does, shouldn’t I get a partial refund for driving less??!!

Joe Adamski
Guest
Joe Adamski

For the pleasure of watching idiots stew in their own juices, sit back and let the commissioners take the next step. Currently,they are just exploring the idea of licensing. Should they move past exploration into implementation, then is the time to rise up and make a public spectacle of them. There is a far cry between having an idea and acting on it.I ezpect there is a anti government,anti tax constuancy that would suprisingly find themselves in concert with the bike people.

So,go for a ride.Call your mom.Clean out your closet. Plenty of time to see where this goes..

KWW
Guest
KWW

“We license our dogs. You license your car. Why wouldn’t you license your bikes?”

Gee why stop there? Let’s tax the air everyone breathes….

Bret
Guest
Bret

Our genius city planners have created a city where it is impossible to conduct many functions without an automobile. I do much by bike but there is much that still requires use of an automobile. When I am on my bike my licensed vehicle is sitting in the driveway. I have paid my transportation duties.

Furthermore the bike lanes of Clark County and Portland are littered with rocks and debris that is rarely cleaned up. How long would the Commissioners tolerate this if their windshield was cracked everyday on their way to work. I have paid my dues and respectfully request the city to sweep the bike lanes weekly.

I agree with earlier posting that we need to return to original weight based fee system. This was one of the best taxes that was stupidly beat back by the Eyeman idiots that dictate policy through referendum.

Joe
Guest
Joe

#24 love it… i feel the same!

YOUR-INN.COM
Guest

The freedom associated with riding is what draws many people too, once you start regulating everything that bikes are doing. Most of that freedom is gone as well as the fun in riding

Hart
Guest
Hart

Glad we’re licensing dangerous things like bikes and house cats instead of infringing upon our God given right to own license-free fire arms.

BURR
Guest
BURR
efglez
Guest
efglez

Sounds like a good way to get people scared not into going out for a Sunday stroll in the park with their bikes…
My taxes pay for road work and I use a bike all the time now. I do not see why I should be penalized for using something that makes no pollution, potholes or noise!

She
Guest
She

So go ahead, institute a “tax” on bikes for those who have no other form of transportation, what about those that REALLY can ONLY afford a bike to get to work – now you are going to force them to license or ticket them and potentially stop them from getting to work by bike. Gee, in a down economy that is really smart, what about the payroll taxes lost or the general overall contribution to the economy lost by someone restricted from commuting by bike, duh, that makes a lot of sense!

She
Guest
She

We need someone/some people to put into eloquent organized words the explanation of why biking is good for EVERYONE, cyclists and non-cyclists alike! As it stands it is not clear to those “non-believers” that we have a clear benefit to the entire society.

Where do our transportaion $ really come from? Are cyclists all contributing already to the road construction, maintenance and planning research for development of bikeways?

In my heart I believe we are more than contributing but we need to come up with some clear, concise, factual evidence that this is so.

Please do not flame me – I am trying to help organize our argument so that it is clear to those that are believing that maybe, maybe this is a good idea and even those that believe it really is a good idea (without the maybes).

We need a good solid response to this movement now and we need to get that out there.

One of my fears is that what drivers feels is bikes breaking the law is really their misunderstanding of the legal rights that bikes have to the roadways (this can play out in many ways). So we can all sit back and say “I do not break laws” but it is not always about breaking laws it is often about PERCEPTION. The only change I see to that is some HUGE educational campaigns about bikes and cars sharing the road.

This is a call to all bike advocates to step up to the plate!

Thanks for getting this far!

She
Guest
She

Oh yeah another question – are cyclists that do not own any cars or other vehicles paying into the costs for bike infrastructure at all???

Corey
Guest
Corey

@She – yes, if they pay property or income taxes.

Since dog licensing was brought up, I know many pet owners that don’t license their pets. I once even had a vet scoff at the idea when I brought my dog in to get all the necessary shots for his license. I suspect most bike riders won’t license either and the program will be a drain on local coffers.

Drew
Guest
Drew

She:
Cyclists that don’t drive SUBSIDIZE car use for everyone else.
If you think your gas taxes pay for road driving costs, you need to do some research on this. Not only do they fall far short of that, but health costs/environmental costs/and military expenses for securing oil supplies should be included too.
Drivers are heavily subsidized by everybodys taxes, and future expenses that our children will bear.

Atlanta rider
Guest
Atlanta rider

I remember the last round of these “let’s discourage cycling” taxes when I was a boy in Florida. They work to get everyone back in the car but are extremely expensive to taxpayers. It would be more honest to just outlaw bicycles. That’s the main goal, right?

Ptld
Guest
Ptld

Wait you need a licence to drive???

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

They should tax stupidity. That income stream could fund platinum paved paths.

neversummer
Guest
neversummer

Admittedly, I don’t know the details of the situation, or conversation that led to this, but it seems that cycling infrastructure is not taken into consideration with the money that was originally allocated to transportation (Clark County is not unique in this respect). Then when it came time to consider bike lanes and paths it appears all the money is gone (or allocated elsewhere).

My interpretation is that the commissioners do not see the proposed/suggested/requested cycle infrastructure as necessary or important enough for the dollars they do have so they need to find a new finding source. How about a new tax?

One could argue the same root cause is what led to the decision in Tigard that allows them to ignore the requirements set out by the Bike Bill.

It seems our challenge over the next decade is to legitimize cycling such that infrastructure planning and subsequent funding is the norm, not an after thought.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here.

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

The economics of a licensing program does not make sense unless there is substantial enough return to justify the administrative overhead. Unless, people are pays $30 or more, it just won’t pencil out. Additionally, cyclist use existing infrastructure but in a way that does not really affect capacity or maintenance, and aleve capacity issues for the remaining drivers. This delays the need to increase the capacity of roads and/or decreases the travel time of the remaining drivers.

I think what is driving this is two things. 1. Cyclists are essentially tax free. just as Oregon is trying out these GPS based taxations to address more fuel efficient cars, people on bicycles represent a loss of tax revenue to the governments. This is a big deal in suburban communities that carry a high density of roads per capita.

2. The anti-cyclist thing is a backlash. People are using it (lars larson) to create division and garner votes or attention. Unfortunately the cyclist community help to foster this with the constant “us vs them” tone of the rhetoric.

I wouldn’t stress this too much, even if it did pass it would fall apart under it’s own stupidity. Move on.

tk.
Guest

“We license our dogs. You license your car. Why wouldn’t you license your bikes?”

Yeah, that’s a logically sound argument. Now here’s mine:

We don’t license rollerskates. We don’t license skateboards. Why would we license bikes?

Donna
Guest
Donna

How much money is Clark County spending on the “exploration” of this? I tend to be fairly liberal, but a licensing program that would cost the government more money to institute, administer, and enforce that what is taken in is over the top for me.

I always had the perception that Clark County was more “conservative” than Multnomah County. It seems I was mistaken. The helmet law made me reluctant to cross the river to spend money. This settles it for me.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

It’s interesting that the proposal is for bikes “outside the city limits”. What kind of bike-specific, nay, bike-only “trail access” is being referenced here? Are we talking about trails that are available for hiking/walking/running as well? Then why not charge a usage fee at the trail entrance that everyone would pay? What kinds of “bike lanes” would be built outside city limits?

We license dogs because they can wander off on their own and need to be identified, plus, (it’s rare, but) they can attack and kill people–again, on their own, with no owner present.

We license cars because they cost enough to make their theft be considered “grand”. We license cars because they do extreme amounts of damage to the environment and existing roadways. Plus, they can kill people.

As has been mentioned in earlier posts, it is interesting that (as far as I know) I can head down to the “sporting goods” store and buy a rifle with no license required. That sounds like a “good revenue stream” if you ask me (I know, “guns don’t kill people, bullets do”).

I think earlier commenters have hit on the real issue. It is not about raising funds, it is about a warped sense of “fairness” on the part of non-cyclists. What folks (and the politicians who have to suck up to them) really want is for “cyclists” to feel some of the pain of driving. Proposals like this are only punitive. Paying a license fee won’t grant anyone better enforcement, better “trails” or a seat at any table. It would only serve to build smaller seats so more could be crammed in at the back of the bus.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

“Nicholson said it is only an idea at this point and stressed that there is no proposal on the table at this time.”

I think this is the real point, they’ve suggested to their staff that they look into the idea. (No doubt popular among their non-cycling constituents for the myriad reasons above).

Given the facts about net revenue of any license program for bicycles they will obviously (?) come to the conclusion that it’s unworkable. Which leads us to the following quote.

“(given this, I was surprised The Columbian would do a story on it already).”

There has been a shortage of ‘bike rage’ incidents over there recently for them to use to sell papers.

Anon.
Guest
Anon.

Boldt: SHOW US THE MATH!

Matt Picio
Guest

El Biciclero (#46) – it’s “outside the city limits” because that’s the county’s jurisdiction. Inside Vancouver city limits is handled by the city of Vancouver.

Similarly, Multnomah County does not pay for infrastructure in Portland, Gresham, or Maywood Park (but does in Troutdale, Wood Village, and Fairview). Washington County does not pay for Beaverton or Hillsboro, and Clackamas County does not pay for Milwaukie, Lake Oswego, or Oregon City.

This usually extends to emergency services as well, except for jails, which are always run by the county.

patrickz
Guest
patrickz

Maybe Wetbends (or whatever) could use this as their next issue to adorn MAX trains, since the bike tax question is no longer up.