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How do you feel about a bike excise tax?

Posted by on March 23rd, 2010 at 11:12 am

Cyclepath Bike Shop - NE Portland

A bike tax has more supporters
than you might think.
(Photo © J. Maus)

2010 will be a year of major discussions about how to finance America’s transportation system. As the use of bicycles is taken more seriously and more money is spent on bike-centric facilities, calls for a revenue stream taken directly from people who ride bicycles — as opposed to the gas tax — are sure to grow louder.

One idea that seems to be growing in support is a bicycle excise tax that would be charged at the point of sale of new bikes and/or bike parts.

The idea is obviously popular with people who represent highway users, but I’ve noticed a growing number of high-profile bike advocates, politicians, and organizations express their support as well.

In a story in The Oregonian this week, City of Portland bike coordinator Roger Geller said, “There’s a symbolic value to cyclists paying.” Reporter Joseph Rose added that Geller, “likes the idea of a small excise tax on new bikes, tires or innertubes.”

Back in December, the bike movement’s biggest champion on Capitol Hill, Rep. Earl Blumenauer said something very similar. Here’s an excerpt from a Streetsblog DC report of what Blumenauer told a crowd assembled for the Cities for Cycling launch:

“… he added that “investments from the bicycling community” to help pay for better road quality and more bike infrastructure might be a smart move. “In fairness,” Blumenauer said, “we’d be better off if we had a tiny fee” on some cycling equipment, such as a bike tire tax.”

Support for a bike excise tax has also been supported by Metro, our regional Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). In a case statement they submitted to Congress in 2008, under the heading of “New Funding,” they wrote:

“Potential for Bicycle Community Contribution. Pursue a contribution or registration fee for bicycles to engage cyclists and to address concern, however mistaken, that cyclists don’t carry their weight. This may be an important equity effort, rather than a key funding source.”

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) has been open to the idea of a bicycle tax twice in recent years. In 2005, former executive director Scott Bricker worked with a legislator on a bike tax proposal (it didn’t end up going anywhere) and in 2008, the BTA’s former lobbyist Karl Rohde said they support the concept.

Noted Portland bike lawyer Ray Thomas thinks the BTA and the League of American Bicyclists should make a bike tax a priority. “When bicyclists can point to tax they pay toward roads,” Thomas wrote in a comment on BikePortland in 2008, “… then we will have a real seat at the transportation table.”

A bike tax is already in use in several other countries and cities. Colorado has one. So does the U.K. In Australia, a bike tax funds their Cycling Promotion Fund.

What do you think about a bike excise tax? Is this something bike advocates should get behind? Would a tax on new bikes and bike parts raise the money and political capital needed to move bicycling forward in America?

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • K'Tesh March 23, 2010 at 11:17 am

    How do I feel?

    I’m taxed enough subsidizing the auto-centric infrastructure.

    Thank You.

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  • Schrauf March 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

    A bike tax is petty, an administrative waste of money, and we should not be taxing activities we want to encourage – but I like it.

    The amount of the tax will not be enough to discourage bike use, and as described above the symbolic value more than pays for itself.

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  • Nick V March 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I suppose it’s only fair, but I have three bikes already and won’t buy a new one for several years. Many commuters I know are in the same boat. So I guess my tubes and misc. supplies would get taxed. Would that really amount to anything over the course of two years?

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  • Ryan G. March 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

    I don’t mean to be contrarian, but I dislike this whole concept. I get the idea that it’s a show of good faith, and let’s us say, “Hey, we pay, see?” But for years I’ve been saying, “Hey, I pay, see? I have a car, I pay the same stuff you do,” and nobody listens. What’s next, an excise tax on shoe sales to help pay for sidewalks so that walkers can have a spot at the table.?

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  • Nick March 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

    I’m really torn on this one. On one hand, shouldn’t we tax cars for their destructive impact on the environment before we ever create a new tax on a cleaner and healthier mode of transportation?

    On the other hand, bikes still lack clout (though it’s getting better!) and a tax would both improve their image and support more infrastructure.

    Do we have any idea what the numbers would be? For example, how much revenue would be generated by a 1% tax on new bike sales?

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  • Jackattak March 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Two months I hated the idea. I thought it sent the wrong message and I thought it only would reinforce what car-minded advocates all ready thought: we aren’t paying our way. I also feel as though once the car-minded peeps get that from us, it will be rife for abuse later.

    Now I’m on the fence about it, but cynically so.

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  • Schrauf March 23, 2010 at 11:21 am

    And I agree with K’tesh as well, but I think the benefits of such a silly tax will outweigh the costs.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 23, 2010 at 11:25 am

      I’ve just added an update to the story… calculations based on a 12% tax on new bikes would raise about $367 million a year. that’s not chump change.

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  • Shetha March 23, 2010 at 11:24 am

    If there’s a tire tax do you get an exemption for riding through glass all the time? That one is going to be an *ahem* two edged shard.

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  • h March 23, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I paid income taxes in two states, federal taxes, gas taxes, sometimes sales taxes, car taxes, etc… Why are they thinking that cyclists do NOT pay taxes?

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  • bahueh March 23, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I”m all for it…on two conditions..its a reasonable amount..and the money raised goes directly into new, safe, and usable bicycle infrastructure…

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  • are March 23, 2010 at 11:27 am

    an excise tax imposed on the purchase of this or that quickly becomes a backdoor sales tax. if we are going to adopt a sales tax, it ought to be through the front door and with serious policy discussions about exemptions, etc. if the only “symbolic” value to an excise on bikes and/or bike parts is to assuage motorists who are misinformed about the degree to which their preferred mode is subsidized, then it is exactly the wrong thing to do. if instead the tax is a quid pro quo for some serious concessions to respecting the bicycle as transportation, we might have a conversation. what would those concessions be? repeal the mandatory sidepath law, confiscate motor vehicles from repeat offenders, local control of speed limits, more stringent reporting of collisions involving vulnerable users . . . the list goes on and on. without these, there is no point in talking.

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  • Carlton Reid March 23, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Yes, the UK has a bike levy. It’s called BikeHub, has been running for 5+ years and is a voluntary industry thing.

    It pays for Bike Week, a whole bunch of pro-cycling projects, and Bike It, a cycling-to-school programme that was so successful it now gets lots of extra funding from other sources, including Government cash. I sit on the Bike Hub committee and it’s been a great project.

    The levy is a very, very small amount on the price on a bike or bike parts.

    If there was something more formal that this levy, for instance, to pay for infrastructure I think that would raise more concerns.

    Infrastructure is a national, Government issue; something to be paid for out of general taxation, not ring-fenced funds.

    Ring-fencing carries all sorts of potential problems, which was why the UK ‘road tax’ was given a killer blow by Winston Churchill in 1926.

    With hypothecated taxes other sorts of impositions can be slipped in too, such as bicycle registration and licensing of cyclists. There are pros and cons to this; but it’s mostly cons:

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  • Dave March 23, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I don’t think a bike excise tax is likely to raise enough money to do anything really significant in terms of funding bike projects, but at least then there would be a concrete thing we say we pay towards.

    My worry is that it would then be easy for state or city legislators to regulate that only that money be spent on specific cycling infrastructure, not any of the “automobile road money”.

    I still disagree with the underlying premise that “cyclists” don’t pay for the roads, I think it’s a ridiculous statement, but in the interest of furthering acceptance of bicycle infrastructure, I would be willing to pay a small excise tax. After all, I only buy tires once every couple of years anyway 🙂

    I also think Ryan G has a point, in that I could also see it being just the start of more restrictions/fees.

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  • Nick March 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

    Jonathan, 12% is a HUGE tax. That would significantly impact bike sales.

    So a 1% tax would net about 30 million? Over the entire US? Not impressive…

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  • AaronF March 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I feel like transportation funding is complicated enough that it becomes a political shell game to demonstrate that as cyclists we already pay for our share in media sized bites.

    Almost nobody believes that bike lanes aren’t paid for by gas taxes, unfortunately. It’s disappointing, but it seems to be one of those things where it has been repeated enough times to become “true.”

    So, if a symbolic tax is what it takes to get more people on the wagon, I’ll bite. I’m sure a lot of dumb hoops have to be jumped through for any special interest to get up to the table. It doesn’t have much to do with “fair” but that’s pretty much my only objection.

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  • David M March 23, 2010 at 11:31 am

    If I paid an excise tax would I get top notch, safe bike routes and infrastructure throughout the entire metro area? I highly doubt it. Pass. I shouldn’t have to pay more tax than I already do to support glamorous bike projects in downtown pdx while I have to ride on questionable bike lanes and poor infrastructure in the outlying areas.

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  • Steve Brown March 23, 2010 at 11:32 am

    I’m for the tax. It buys a seat at the table. A small price to pay for the absolute right to see who pays their fair share.

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  • Ethan March 23, 2010 at 11:34 am

    If gas taxes went back to being what they were historically (as a percentage of the cost) then I would be for it. As it stands, general funds are being used to subsidize motor vehicles, meaning bicyclists arguably already pay their bike tax AND some for infrastructure they don’t use.

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  • Dave March 23, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I could also see this kind of tax having a negative impact on bike shops – I mean, if I had to pay 12% extra on the purchase of a bike or tires or whatever, I’d be significantly more reluctant to do so, and I’d probably either wait as long as possible (in terms of tires or other consumables), or just make do with what I have already (in terms of the bike itself).

    How about people of low economic standing? A 12% increase in price might literally make it impossible for them to purchase a bike or afford new tires, etc.

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  • Paul Tay March 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

    Boooo…hiss……ENOUGH ALREADY. I ain’t payin no doggone bike tax, no way, no how. I hereby DECLARE the Bike Tea Party REVOLT.

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  • Nick V March 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I’m with Nick #15. So with a 12% tax, a $2000 bike would jump an extra $240. That’s steep. I would agree to maybe 4% or 5% tops.

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  • ekim113 March 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I support a tax, but less than 12%.

    Anyone know the current rate on a new auto? I believe it varies from state to state.

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  • lacorota March 23, 2010 at 11:38 am

    If it translates into additional (tangible) infrastructure, I’d go yay. If, on the other hand it’s lost in some abstract black hole of politicians’ personal purse, hell no.

    Novel: perhaps improved maintenance of what we already have? I can list scores of paths that are pitiful remnants of some token offering by government. Get the dudes off their arses and on some handles for routine cleaning and repair of the existing.

    Do volunteers have to police everything? I do have a full-time job (real job) I attend to, so my personal volunteer time budget is limited.

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  • Dave March 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Paul Tay – please never link bicycles to the tea party movement.

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  • AaronF March 23, 2010 at 11:39 am

    12% on new bikes sounds outrageous to me. I hope that’s not what Earl has in mind.

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  • Peter Smith March 23, 2010 at 11:43 am

    pay a tax to be terrorized on the streets of America? sounds like a great deal to me.

    we’re already paying in particulates consumed. that one study has received scant attention — not sure why. we all read that being inside a car is worse than being outside a car, but it didn’t take into account breathing rates.

    if there was a successful bike tax in the Netherlands, i’d be open to even thinking about some type of bike tax, but pointing to incredible bike failures like the UK and Australia, i’m not going to give it a chance.

    that said, regarding bicycle facilities, places like The Netherlands and Denmark and Germany and other ‘cycling utopias’ are still horrific by any normal standard of decency — we’ve just been so abused here in the US that we think a simple cycletrack is the end-all/be-all.

    and to have ‘leading lights’ exclaiming how i’m a cheater and don’t pay my fair share, is just wonderful.

    if we had a 5-cent sales tax on bike purchases, then it would accurately address that wear and tear and construction and maintenance costs of the roads we’re allowed to ride on. and i’ll support that 5-cent sales tax when the car purchase sales tax is $500,000, which would possibly come close to accurately addressing the true costs of automobile use — the negative externalities of auto use are really too great to even comprehend, so we just need to get rid of them. this talk of a ‘bike tax’ is garbage — when cars start paying me for sucking up their carcinogens, for destroying the quality of life in my city, for maiming and killing and generally terrorizing people, then we’ll talk bike tax.

    Big ups to Singapore-like car taxes!

    Big ups to Spring!

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  • Lee March 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

    If the LAB and BTA want to support a new tax, they should be working on pushing higher gas taxes. It’ll have two benefits: high gas prices create an incentive for more people to start cycling, and some of the extra money can be used on educating people on how road systems are paid for.

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  • Anne Hawley March 23, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I have serious concerns about a 12% sales tax exclusive to bicycle-related purchases. Will it be on sales of new bikes, tires and tubes only? What about used? What about service? When will it creep to include other bicycle parts and/or service?

    When will it form the precedent for a more general sales tax?

    And how will we insure that all proceeds go directly for bicycle infrastructure? And as others have commented, how will that infrastructure be apportioned? Will it go to, say, cleaning the roadside where existing bike lanes create the expectation that I’m supposed to use them? What is an improvement to a street versus a bike-related improvement?

    How long before whining, poorly-educated motorists start claiming the fund as their own because bicycles still use “their” streets?

    I have A LOT of problems with this tax.

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  • Brad March 23, 2010 at 11:51 am

    We may be reaching a tipping point in this country on taxes. Government projects and services cost money. For years, we’ve resorted to “smoke and mirrors” accounting tricks to pay for things while promising to keep the tax burden low on the middle class. That may have to change.

    Rather than piling on new taxes that target bike riders, car owners, one legged cellists, etc., perhaps we need to seek a full scale overhaul of the tax codes at all levels of government? Flat tax rates and very limited deductions / shelters may be in order to spread the costs of ALL government subsidies fairly.

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  • Anonymous March 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Declining fuel tax revenues are not going to be (even marginally) offset by increasing taxes on cyclists, and the majority of infrastructure will continue to be funded by general income and property tax revenues.

    Any reasonable tax won’t be large enough to cover the cost of administration, a point which the noise machine will surely hammer on as soon as it’s instituted as both increasing the reach of government and not paying for itself which will in this (particular) instance be true.

    12% is ridiculous and I’d fight that tooth and claw.

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  • Paul Tay March 23, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I will NEVER EVER support any organization that supports bike tax. @Roger Geller, who’s side are ya on, son?

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  • bob March 23, 2010 at 11:53 am

    #12 are: +1
    We are talking a federal tax, right?
    It’s a bad idea just to placate the myth that people on bikes don’t pay for road infrastructure. I prefer a strong national campaign that illustrates the facts about who pays for what.

    I prefer taxing the importation of artificially cheap cycling related goods and raw materials from overseas but that would not likely be a levy which creates restricted funds usable on bike infrastructure. I’d prefer a state sales tax on all goods with a percentage that goes toward state infrastructure since we are all in this together whether we walk, pedal, bus or drive.
    By taxing cycling related items only, we drive a wedge between modes when we should look at it from a holistic view.
    Roads are for moving people and goods, not just cars.

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  • Paul Tay March 23, 2010 at 11:57 am

    “pay a tax to be terrorized on the streets of America? sounds like a great deal to me.”

    “If the LAB and BTA want to support a new tax, they should be working on pushing higher gas taxes.”

    “How long before whining, poorly-educated motorists start claiming the fund as their own because bicycles still use “their” streets?”


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  • wsbob March 23, 2010 at 11:57 am

    The very connotation of the phrase ‘bike tax’, is bad; ‘We’re going to tax you for riding your bike.’ People that ride bikes are helping to use the road more efficiently, and for thanks, they get taxed. Photographic illustration of just how efficiently bikes use the street compared to motor vehicles:

    wee bit of street space bikes use compared to cars

    Still, I’d be receptive to making a contribution to bike lane infrastructure construction and maintenance through something like a sales tax on bike tires, for the symbolic gesture. Not that such a tax is likely to do diddly to actually pay a very big portion of those costs, or quell the complaints of the ‘they don’t pay their way’ crowd that never, ever thinks through the limiting realities of actually obtaining money directly from people that own and ride bikes for general purposes.

    Incidentally, in yesterday’s Oregonian, writer Joseph Rose did a column bike registration, due to it often being suggested as a way to directly derive road infrastructure funding from people that ride bikes. (fortunately this column of his is ‘think-tank free’):

    O story, Registering Bikes, it’s No Money Maker …joe rose

    He’s got quotes from several sources suggesting that bike registration does not pay. Makes statements that simply explain:

    “… No road, bridge or highway ramp gets built in Oregon without help from federal funds. Of the $293 million budgeted for Portland road projects through 2013, for example, only 7 percent, or about $20 million, will come from state gas tax revenue, vehicle registration fees and local parking fines. Federal grants will cover 39 percent, or $114.8 million. …”

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  • Alexis March 23, 2010 at 11:59 am


    – We already pay taxes that go to fund roads and highways, and mostly for infrastructure that we make less use of and do less damage to than motorists.

    – Taxing specific activities you want to encourage sends the wrong message.

    – The amount of money from a reasonable tax rate on some reasonable item(s) (that might not discourage anyone) would be insignificant.

    – Either we have already bought a seat at the table (because we already pay), assuming you accept the “pay to play” rule, or we should not need to, because who gets input into our transportation choices should not be based on “paying to play” but on the fact that mobility is a basic economic and community service. I prefer the latter.

    I think it’s frankly alarming and dismaying that people in the bike community are allowing this to become a point of debate. It’s invalid and pointless and it should be treated as such.

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  • El Biciclero March 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I agree with the others that say 12% is an outrageous amount to tack on to a new bike purchase. An extra $120 for a $1000 bike? That’s as much as a decent rack and fenders would cost. I don’t pay that much to register my car! Because cyclists save so much (for ourselves AND others) by not using a car, should we be over-surcharged to make up the difference?

    As soon as we tax carpoolers for using HOV lanes, have coin-operated pedestrian signals, and put parking meters in residential neighborhoods–for guests AND residents–I’ll consider paying a bike excise tax. Until then, it is nothing more than “protection money” collected by bullies that isn’t going to buy any “seats” at any “table”, and isn’t likely to result in the improvement of my cycling experience one iota.

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  • bob March 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    On second thought: absolutely not.
    Can the BTA, LAB and People for Bikes and BikePortland and all these other disparate groups with similar support for cycling please come together with a national information campaign to quell this idea.
    An excise tax on bikes is bullshit.
    If BTA pursues getting such an excise tax…if they even put it on their agenda without a strong argument against it, I am pulling my membership and never volunteering for them again.

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  • Kt March 23, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    I’m not sure where this 12% came from– but if that’s what’s being proposed, then it’s a punitive tax that punishes people who ride or purchase bikes and bike parts.

    Washington’s sales tax is only, what, 8%? Something like that?

    I would be very averse to paying a sales tax on top of the income tax I already pay. And the property taxes I already pay. And the fees to license and register my car.

    Speaking of fees and whatnot, I’m guessing ODR would administer this tax and take charge of all the money– how can we make sure this tax gets applied only to bicycle projects? Because that’s about the only way I’d even think about being in favor of this idea.

    This had better be very well thought-out and vetted, publicly, before any implementation occurs. Are the powers-that-be going to make sure that the cost to implement and oversee the program does not exceed the amount of money it’s supposed to bring in?

    I can’t see this idea actually getting cycling a seat at the table, anyway, unless it’s a high chair at the kid table in the other room.

    As Joseph Rose pointed out in the O, what’s next, a tax on sneakers so those pedestrians will finally pay their way?

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  • Steve March 23, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Yeah, I understand the symbolic value of a tax, but doubt that anything will appease the real anti-bike crowd that is always calling for bikes to pay “their fair share”. So what’s next up after this if they get their way- a tax on shoes to pay for crosswalks? Clearly pedestrians don’t pay their fair share, and should have no right to get in the way of cars either.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I think it is thewrong aproach. There are a galillion used bikes out there right now that could be purchased without paying the tax. 2nd- it is going to put such a strain on bike builders and bike dealers that they will be the ones suffering, and perhaps failed business.
    Registration fees foor all adult cyclists would be more fair. Waived fees for disabled or seniors.

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  • Garth Bowden March 23, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    A tax or fee on bicycles would have three very significant positives:

    1. It represents a gesture of goodwill toward drivers who feel that bicycles are a nuisance. There are significant advantages to this over leaving such legislation to legislators who represent frustrated drivers. This would show that people who ride bikes aren’t selfish, spoiled, immature, etc. – as many drivers perceive the bicycle community to be. Unfortunately, many bike advocates seem intent on picking fights with bigger, more powerful lobbying groups.

    2. If bicycle riders pay the tax directly, they will have a greater measure of control over the way these funds are distributed. I see many bicycle improvements that have little benefit for bikes – does every suburb need bike lanes on every single low traffic street?

    3. A bicycle tax, if combined with a reporting system that tracked bike serial numbers, could help crack down on bicycle theft.

    That being said, rather than an excise tax, I’d suggest a bike sales tax in the ballpark of 5%. Folks, that’s peanuts – we’re talking $50 on a $1000 bike.

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  • ekim113 March 23, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I hear a lot of arguments re: the cost of maintenance and wear and tear of car v. bike, but not a whole lot regarding the initial cost of the roads (which the bike lanes are a part of).

    Sure, bikes do not create that much wear and tear, but the roads need to be built before we can add the bike lanes to them.

    If a 5% bike tax insured that all future roads were built with bike infrastructure, wouldn’t that be worth it?

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  • brettoo March 23, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I’m generally a fan of taxes as the price you pay for civilization. But ideally you want to tax the things you want less of (e.g. carbon) and subsidize the things you want more of. Right now, we do the opposite by heavily subsidizing cars, roads, the whole environmentally destructive petro-economy (including military expenditures to maintain access to MIddle East oil). If we impose a tax on healthy transportation like bikes, we’d be discouraging their use while still encouraging unhealthy, inefficient transportation through subsidies (hidden and otherwise) to cars.

    Also, the idea of a user paid sales tax encourages the idea that investing in bikes is something just for bikers, which makes us easy to marginalize even further in a car-centric culture. In fact, subsidizing — rather than taxing — bikes benefits lots of non bikers: people who drive (and get less gridlock because many who drive will now be biking); people who breathe (less pollution); people who pay for medical care (bikers are healthier and don’t impose costs on the health care system that are shifted to other users); people who benefit from reduced global warming (i.e. all of us), etc etc. Those beneficiaries should be reimbursing and subsidizing for the benefits they’re receiving from people who bicycle, but not paying for.

    In other words, bikes are not equal to cars when it comes to helping the economy and the environment — they’re superior, and they should be subsidized, not taxed.

    If we support a tax, we encourage the kind of thinking that people who use bikes to get around are just another special interest that should “pay our own way,” when in fact, investing in bicycling is a public good that should be publicly supported.

    Actually, the users of inefficient transportation that actually harms the environment (not just pollution, but also the costs of sprawl, the colossal costs of road maintenance etc) should be paying more taxes to compensate for the costs they’re imposing on the rest of us but not paying via gas and car taxes, t hanks to hidden subsidies. And as noted above, most of us who bike are already paying to repair the roads that cars (unlike bikes) regularly tear up, via our general taxes and (for us car owners) gas and vehicle taxes.

    Of course, this is an economic and environmental argument based on facts, whereas the pro-sales tax argument is all about spin — if we bend over and accept this tax even though it’s based on falsehoods and incorrect assumptions, we benefit politically by catering to ignorance. I understand that’s what often happens in politics (see so-called welfare “reform”), but I’d need to see more evidence t hat such a place at the table would really happen. I’d rather see us focus on getting the facts out about the costs and benefits and subsidies — correct the ignorance that leads to this misbegotten idea. Why should we stoop to the level of the talk radio ignoramuses when we have facts on our side? Every time one of them writes a letter to the paper or vents on the radio or the net, we should be refuting them with a handy, concise list of facts, rather than bowing to their ignorance by cynically buying into a bike tax.

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  • Steve March 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    KT- wasnt copying you with the image of taxing shoes- think I was typing that in at the same time. synchronicity is a funny thing….

    Anyway I thought the collective experience of bike licensing fees, which might be the best practical analogy to a tax, was that the costs of administration were greater than what was collected. A trap here is if the tax ends up as a dedicated fund for bicycle projects which gives other revenue streams and projects an excuse not to contribute to bike issues.

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  • are March 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    i absolutely do not buy the seat at the table crap. motorists who think they are paying their way are misinformed, and the proper course is to re-educated them.

    and as far as funding bike-specific infrastructure, again: bike lanes and cycletracks benefit primarily motorists by pushing cyclists to the side.

    net time i am going to hit the all caps key.

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  • David M March 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    Lots of really good points, but honestly, should I be penalized with double taxation because I choose a different form of transportation than the majority? The concept of taxing me as a gesture of goodwill is even more ridiculous. Drivers will still have a problem with me on ‘their’ roads whether I pay a tax or not. While having a pool of money for bike projects could certainly do good, it will be inexorably tied to road construction and we know that money will be lost to the already unmanageable costs of maintaining the car infrastructure. The overarching car culture (not everyone mind you) doesn’t want us there whether we pay taxes or not. We need to change minds about what it means to travel in this country, not tax a minority group.

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  • ekim113 March 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    there are probably just as many used cars out there and yet people still buy new.

    Who is this “they”? Anyone who supports the tax? As Jonathan pointed oput, this has a lot more support than just the anti-bike crowd.

    I believe the blog entry was in the spirit of options for gaining more support for cycling infrastructure, not a “us vs. them”.

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  • Tom March 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    In short, no.

    Does anyone really think that this will “get us a seat at the table?” No.

    They’re just looking for another untapped source of revenue to (ab)use to re-direct away from it’s true stated purpose.

    I already pay taxes to support roads thank you very much.

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  • bikesalot March 23, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I saw a recent reference on this regarding taxing “high end bikes”. I fear that could lead to a form of discrimination toward a class of riders, in that recumbent bikes are more expensive by their nature and more limited production volumes. Slanting a tax toward the ergonomically correct portion of the environmentally correct form of transportation strikes me as a “double whammy”.

    And I agree that 12% is an outrageous amount. Put me in the “NO” category.

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  • resopmok March 23, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    I’m going to echo the comments here already and just add a small bit: If the full amount went to fund bike-only or bike-centered infrastructure, then yes, but even then 12% is still awful steep. If you want to levy taxes on vehicles for road maintenance, do it in accordance to the degree of road wear the vehicle causes. In this case, it makes those who destroy public property responsible for paying to fix it.

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  • MIndfulCyclist March 23, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    How is this for an idea: Instead of making this a compulsory tax, why don’t all the LBS in the state agree to ask the consumer if he or she wants to pay an optional 2% (or even higher if willing) tax on bike-related purchases. It would be completely voluntary and that money could go directly to the municipalities to create bike-specific projects. If it is a mandatory tax on new bikes, why not just look for a used one and avoid it? And, if it becomes mandatory, we run the risk of having current non-cyclists from switching from car to bike.

    It is a far from a perfect solution, but it is so hard to convince people that only drive cars that cyclist pay any kind of tax. And, even though this would create a small amount of that money, it is something to show that cyclist are paying for the facilities.

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  • She March 23, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    12% tax on bikes, I worry that that we tax those who are saving the roads and increase the cost of a bicycle for someone who may not have options on other modes of transportation. If we start at 12% it is only going up from there, how often in your lifetime do you see excise/sales taxes decrease. Can we be exempt from this tax if we own a fully registered car/motorcycle?

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  • Grimm March 23, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I dont mind paying for bike infrastructure (we already do!). But if you want me to put in more of my own money you have to SHOW ME THE VALUE. Such as ‘if we put this $1 tax on tubes and $2 on tires we plan to raise XXX amount which will give us the necessary funds to complete this project YYY (say repave spring water, add cycling facilities). And you have to work on projects we actually want and care about, then you will gain support otherwise we wont care to pay a dime.

    If there was a fund to specific projects, or vote to get them doe first it would be much more participatory. People would feel like what they are paying helps fund what they really want. But no one wants to give money to a ‘general fund’ even with the best of intentions.

    My 2 cents.

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  • q'Ztal March 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I’m sick of these punative attempts to tax cyclists for being in the way. It’s just populist retribution for not being normal like they are.

    I’ll vote for a bicycle excise/use/registration tax IF:
    > there is a complete audit of all federal, state and local “road” funds showing most importantly where the current funding is coming from and where it is being used. This needs to be a fully open and public process.
    > the funding is derived primarily from analysys of maintenance requirements imposed by different modes (freight, SOV, transit, bicycles, pedestrians) causing wear and secondarily from a mode split tax attempts to address the fact that while cyclists and pedestrians cause minimal(unmeasurable?) wear we do take up a portion of the road that cannot be used by other modes.

    If it is found that freight causes 70%, SOV 15%, transit 10% and bikes and peds 5% I’ll pay my share cheerfully AFTER all road related taxes are removed from every tendril of the American tax code.

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  • She March 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I really dislike the idea of “placating” those that think cyclists do not pay their way. I would like to see a tax on all vehicles that takes into account emmissions, wear and tear on the roads, energy efficiency and necessary developments for road uses. This calculation should keep consider all the roads that are not ridden by bikes because they are unsafe (all the highways are not available to cyclist – essentially). And if we are paying our way on another vehicle perhaps I should be getting a return credit for how much I ride my bike. I drive a vehicle so rarely – yet I have one and it is registered. So I am paying!

    I vote no on this deal, I think it will fuel the fire and be an admission that bikes have not been paying their way this whole time (and we will then be seen as having a lot of paying to make up…)

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  • Ryan G. March 23, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    A few more thoughts on taxation… The anti-bike crowd says, “I should’n’t have to pay for bike infrastructure because I don’t ride a bike.” Well, guess what- sometimes we pay taxes on things we don’t use. I am not a disabled veteran, but my taxes pay to care for disabled veterans and their families; I am not on food stamps, but my taxes pay for those who are; I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you and get to the point. I don’t mind paying those taxes because veterans should be cared for and hungry people should be fed. Sometimes we pay for things because they benefit society as a whole, and therefore ourselves. And so, my argument to the anti-bike crowd: if some of your taxes pay for better cycling infrastructure, and that makes your city a safer, cleaner, better place to live, work, and play, isn’t that a worthy expense- even if you never ride a bike? Oh yeah, AND I already pay the same taxes you do.

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  • ME 2 March 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Can someone tell me how much pedestrian infrastructure (cross walks, signals, stings, etc.) cost to build and maintain? How is it funded and how does that compare with funding for bicycle infrastructure?

    I expect it costs more than what bikes have received and there are no cries for a pedestrian infrastructure tax.

    Also why do we need a designated tax to be at the transportation table?

    Why isn’t our emerging bike industry (bike galley, chris king, river city, etc.) flexing its economic muscle a bit and pressing this issue of more infrastructure to policy makers?

    Why are bike riders not considered legit when we don’t pay a dedicated tax, but it is fine for studded tire drivers who pay no tax for the damage they cause?

    When it comes down to it, there are real economic benefits plus social and environmental benefits from bike riding that need to be recognized. When you come to appreciate them, you realize that we shouldn’t be taxing riders we should be subsidizing them.

    Take a look at municipal climate action plans throughout this country. None of them are talking about taxes, but all of them are talking about how they can use tax dollars to support more bike riding.

    Why are Roger and Joseph failing to recognize this bigger context?

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  • Kyle K March 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    I thought most local roads/bikeways are funded but sales and income taxes. My bike buts a lot less wear and tear on the road then my neighbor who drives. How about a tax rebate for those who don’t use cars?

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  • q'Ztal March 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Open Government: can either party truly justify the continuing need for secrecy for everything?

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  • fool March 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    i’m typically pro-tax on things i support. but as many others have pointed out, i’m anti-tax on things i don’t support–interstate highways, military spending, auto and banking industry bailouts. i have to wonder if this is throwing good money after the bad. too bad we can’t know up front how much money the tax would actually raise (i foresee a sizable increase in the used bike market on craigslist & similar rather than a smooth predictable curve in new bike sales), and whether it would indeed influence the folks who say that people who ride bikes do not pay their way.

    my feeling is that *if* the law requiring it specified that the money would at least be spent on bike projects, i’d be willing to support it in hopes that it would have some positive effect, but i suspect that a lot of the folks who are now whining about the “free ride” that bikes get would not understand that the pittance that the tax raises really does reflect the amount of infrastructure wear and tear that bikes produce, and some would continue to complain anyway because, hey, bikes are cheaper to run than cars and thus taxes will be smaller in magnitude when looked at by a reactionary eye.


    if i could choose where to put some of that $367 million, it would be in reeducating people who drive exclusively about all the actual costs of driving versus biking. which i’m sure won’t happen.

    then again, i’m not in the market for a new bike any damn time soon, having already bought two in the past 18 months.

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  • bean March 23, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Would a strong willed politician with some fortitude and clout please come forward and instigate a 5% ACROSS THE BOARD sales tax! Cars included, bikes included…everything..just like the majority of the USA already does…
    Puuuuh leeeazzzzeee. Oregon is sick and we need money!

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  • RyNO Dan March 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Sorry I haven’t read all the comments.

    Is there another example of a tax levied primarily as a sybolic gesture ?

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  • fool March 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    also, +1 to MindfulCyclist’s idea of a voluntary contribution/tax collected at LBS’s. I’d pay a voluntary 10% at the register every damn time at my LBS, for a program like that. (sorry, local LBS’s, that’s just the money the BTA saved me, but I’d pay it even out of BTA-land!)

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  • h March 23, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    Mr. Cohen thinks that cyclists should pay 12% tax on bicycle-related purchases. Okay, would motorists be WILLING to pay 12% excise tax on vehicle-related purchases too? HA! There are alot of things I paid taxes with wont benefit me directly. Can I have a piece of PERS? NO. Can I have free tuition in any Oregon universities. NO. Can I stay in Governor’s manison for a few days. NO. Motorists gotta shut up.

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  • Kyle K March 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Gas tax pays primarily for interstate and state highways, no? Not many bikes on those. Are we talking about funding an interstate bikeway? Let’s make it a fair tax. Let’s all understand the current reality. Drivers are not currently funding bike lane/path construction with gas taxes. If you pay taxes and/or buy things at stores in the cities you ride you already are.

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  • Garth Bowden March 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Ekim – the repair of road and the new roads are really not separable costs. A road is actually 3 dimensional. Not only does it take asphalt for the length and number of lanes, but thickness based on the weight of the vehicles that will travel on it. Generally, heavy trucks require require roads to be built much thicker and in fact 2/3 of all road costs are due to this extra thickness. Only 1/3 of road costs are paid by trucking fees, meaning that drivers are subsidizing them by 50%!

    Brettoo – I’d be careful making assertions about subsidies and taxes and their effects on consumer behavior. Your theories come from the classical school of economics (specifically pigouvian incentives) that have been called into question by more recent authors (Keynes for instance). People don’t have total freedom in their purchases, there is never a continuous distribution of goods bundles, and it is actually rather easy for costs to be passed through from one group to another. You make a good point about real costs, but I would say that our society is a long way from fair right now.

    Transportation, urban planning, and most of the serious questions surrounding bikeability are not free market questions. Personally, I believe that bicycle riders get the most benefit from increased urban density. More than taxes and subsidies, we need and organized and involved activist base, good lobbyists, and willingness to compromise.

    As far as the political question of whether such a tax would be politically beneficial, you make an error that I’ve seen many great leftist thinkers fall victim to: you conflate actual benefits with the public perception of benefit. You are proposing a radical revision in the way the entire general public thinks, but not only is access to the mass media very tightly controlled, but the topics of discussion are decided in secret. I do, however, think that the public is receptive to messages that biking is good for the individual, the society, and the world. But, when it comes to comparing these benefits to the cost of roads, they won’t take that step.

    We should find a good sound byte, like:
    “Bicycle Advocates agree to 5% tax”

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Until motorists bear the burden of 100% of what it costs us to pay for motorist infrastructure, I’m dead set against any fees for cyclists.

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    @Kyle K: No, gas taxes don’t even scratch the surface of that cost. The general fund pays for almost all of that.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    there are probably just as many used cars out there and yet people still buy new”
    Most people buy used cars, they are a better value, new cars get crappy mileage. Our 2006 we bought used 1 1/2 years ago, small car w 4 cylinder gets 20 mpg on the freeway. Our other similar car 20 yrs old w 266 k on it still gets 30 mpg.
    I would spend 200$ on a nice used bike before I would spend 1200$ on a new one, especially if that price was going up 12% or more.
    I still think t would be more fair to have everyone pay an equal amt., and not burden the small business owners.

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  • Yeoh March 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    I don’t object to the tax in theory, but I am concerned that if a tax is implemented, bike foes will later try to make it the sole source of funding for bikeways. Seperate and unequal.

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  • LuckyLab March 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Negative. Most people I know can afford to pay a surcharge but shouldn’t have to for the myriad reasons already listed. I’ve only bought one bike new in the last 10 years so it’s likely not going to affect me much personally, but it is likely to hurt those who can least afford it very, very much.Think of it from a social justice point of view. Someone who is buying a $200 bike because they need a bike for transportation paying an extra $25 may translate into an opportunity cost preventing them from buying a bike. Symbolism won’t help for those who have a hard time getting on two wheels to begin with.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    #61- “5% ACROSS THE BOARD sales tax”
    Would you be willing to trade our income tax for a sales tax?

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  • jordan March 23, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I wonder if a bike excise tax were to be passed if the tax collected on sales of mountain bikes and mountain bike related parts could go towards trail construction and maintenance?

    If not on those particular purchases then a percentage of the total collected relative to the total share of mountain bikes sold.

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  • Kyle K March 23, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Paul- My point is the gas tax isn’t paying for bike lanes, bikers are paying, along with everyone else, for carways.

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  • RyNO Dan March 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Does it make sense to have a sales tax on bikes, but not on cars, shoes, etc ?

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  • Psyfalcon March 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    If our tax is higher than WA’s sales tax, a bike shop right across the bridge would be nice.

    Would it include parts bought online? How? In most states you are supposed to report that sales tax…but no one does. Since OR does not even have a sales tax, what sort of infrastructure needs to be built to handle collecting tax, and potential enforcement of out of state or online purchases? We don’t have registration, so there is no way to tell how that bike reached Oregon.

    A federal level tax? Well, there is no federal sales tax and no federal registration. What kind of system do we need to make that work?

    It will lose money, and there is no point in a tax that has no benefit. What we need is to send every registered vehicle owner and driver a pie chart that shows how little “gas tax” pays for.

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  • tp March 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Disagree with the tax:

    We can’t afford to be discouraging ridership at a time when we’re gaining steam.

    Automobiles damage the roads at a much more accelerated rate than do bicycles, should WE pay for road maintenance?
    – I really liked the idea of illegalizing studded tires in certain counties. We’d be well advised to explore this before taxing cyclists.

    Gas is a finite resource. It should be taxed.

    The source of much of this tax would come from the myriad accompaniments of a cyclist’s needs: clothes, parts, maintenance items, etc. Is there a similar tax on items purchased for motorists?
    – are there any studies into the percentage of old bike parts recycled vs. old automobile parts, and their effect on the environment?

    My tax dollar already goes to fighting obesity and heart dis ease in our country. Money is not a solution.

    I could go on, but I am already tired of trying to prove bicycling’s legitimacy.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:15 pm

    “Paul Johnson
    March 23rd, 2010 12:57
    69@Kyle K: No, gas taxes don’t even scratch the surface of that cost. The general fund pays for almost all of that.”

    The interstate highways were built with federal money for the purpose of national defense. In a case of war the interstates would revert back to the millitary. It would be off limits for civilians. That is why they are made to certain standards. Did you know that every so many miles they need to have a straight section that could be used for a runway? also thick layers of concrete to withstand heavy millitary vehicles…
    Federal tax money for bikes makes no sense, the money needs to be local and paid by the ones that are going to benifit from it. Not from my sewer bill either.

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  • Mike March 23, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Why aren’t we (especially the BTA) discussing a tax credit or discount for buying a bicycle as a way to promote a healthier lifestyle and environment? Don’t we pay enough taxes as pure citizens of our county/state/country?

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    @jim: we can have regressive tax structures like sales tax…over my cold, dead corpse!

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    I’m sure Obama would love to tax your cold dead corpse

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  • El Biciclero March 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    The only “fair” way to pay for goods or services is to pay for how much of the good or service you use up. SO, to be fair, someone needs to come up with a formula that computes a per-mile or per-region toll that is commensurate with how much of the road you are using up. “Using Up” would need to be defined as some combination of space taken up while on the road, and how much of the road you take away with you (wear and tear). I would envision something like this:

    Space used = vehicle length x vehicle width
    damage done = sum of (axle weight ^ 4), over all axles on the vehicle

    Any such formula is going to result in the average passenger vehicle being assigned a usage number roughly 30,000 times that of a bike.

    So set up toll booths and charge me every time I ride through–just charge motor vehicles at least 30,000 times more.

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    @jim: OK, it’s clear your posts have little basis in reality. The interstate airstrip thing is pure bullshit:

    And before you even start blaming Obama for not getting any return on your tax money, you should take a long, hard look at who has consistently pushed for sending more money overseas in the form of military spending than using federal tax money to take care of America.

    Go educate yourself on the issues if you don’t want to make yourself look like an ignorant bumpkin.

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  • Jeremy March 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I like the way Carlton is thinking.

    I would rather that we cyclists as an industry and group create our own US “BikeHub” than see the money get sucked into a general fund in which the gov’t reps spend it on retarded things.

    If I am going to pay an additional tax to my car, etc. then it better go for bike related things such as more bike paths and MTB trails.

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  • matt picio March 23, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    I think we can rule out even the discussion of a tax on cycling in any form until after the state bans studded tires.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    El Biciclero
    If the max riders had to cover their fair share of the cost, they would not be able to affrord to ride Max

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  • Erik Sandblom March 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    If there’s to be a bike tax for cyclists then there should be a shoe tax for pedestrians.

    I doubt there is too little money for transportation. The money should just be spent smarter.

    (Sorry for not reading all the 88 comments.)

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    matt picio
    Are you proposing they ban overweight trucks to? they do more much more damage than studs

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  • wsbob March 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    “A tax or fee on bicycles would have three very significant positives:

    1. It represents a gesture of goodwill toward drivers who feel that bicycles are a nuisance. …” Gart Bowden #42

    A ‘nuisance’? Well…that’s a laugh. While not meaning to ignore good, conscientious motor vehicle operators that somewhat understand which factors most contribute to traffic congestion, the people most likely complaining about bikes using the road are those poor things, sitting in their car, listening to the stereo, drinking coffee and who knows what else, gobbling snacks, doing crosswords at stoplights and freeway backups, yelling at the kids and pets… .

    Sure…I like to ride. But often on the road, on the bike, I’m risking my life to make room for people that have to drive around in a single occupancy vehicle. Myself and everyone else riding a bike for transportation make a direct contribution to efforts to reduce the burden of traffic on roads. And we’re to be taxed for this?

    I’d still be willing to pay some sort of nominal surcharge on bike products for symbolic purposes, but the idea of a ‘bike tax’ insults the intelligence of normally functioning human beings.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Perhaps it would be better to take money from the parks dept. than taking money from the sewer bills. The Port of Portland allways seams to have a ton of money also

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  • Psyfalcon March 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm


    Thats no better. That implies that all cycling is recreation. At least the sewer bill thing can go towards fixing the storm sewer system as they redo the roads.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    the sewer thing has p#%&ed off a lot of people and did not help the cycle image

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  • eljefe March 23, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    Bikers pay fuel tax, too. Our fuel is food, we eat more of it than motorists, we often eat it at restaurants and carts while on a ride, and it is charged sales tax in most states.

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  • Zaphod March 23, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    No. We’re battling a false argument that we cyclists don’t already pay through other taxes. My house, job and car all contribute to these funds.

    We should re-frame the argument as a solution to reduce motorist traffic through these comparatively small investments. The us-vs-them media characterization may drive readership through controversy but it’s a fiction and hurtful against the collective good.

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  • Opus the Poet March 23, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I would be in favor of a tax on bicycles right after cars and trucks start paying their entire true costs (including health care costs and the wars we fight to maintain access to oil), with rebates for bikes based on their lack of damage to the roads. I did the math and one fully-loaded to legal limits semi does the same amount of damage to the roads per mile as 160MILLION fully loaded cargo bikes. One Cadillac Escalade with only a driver on board does the same damage as 3500 cargo bikes. Even a new Honda Civic wears the roads the same as more then 100 bicycles. And that is without chains or studded tires on the motor vehicles. That only considers the amount of damage done to the road structure, not to the air or water or the wars fought to keep “our” oil.

    When cars pay their full costs then I’ll consider paying a tax on bikes and parts.

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  • Carlton Reid March 23, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Good to see Pigouvian taxes getting a small credit. The externalities of driving, and why cycling is a ‘good buy’, discussed here:

    In UK, same as US, seems like cyclists ought to be subsidized, not taxed.

    The whole ‘who pays for roads’ thing is why I created Sure, this is UK-facing but many of the issues are similar to those in the US.

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  • DT March 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    “…to address concern, however mistaken, that cyclists don’t carry their weight”

    Really? We’re discussing a tax to placate those who believe cyclists don’t pay their way, instead of trying to dispel this ADMITTED myth? Wow. Guess what – this is a slippery slope. Put a tax on bikes at point of sale, parts, or whatever you want, and the rhetoric will change to “Cyclists don’t pay as much as motorists do” instead of “Cyclists don’t pay.” Bending on the tax issue doesn’t help anything. You address the fundamental misunderstanding instead.

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  • Garth Bowden March 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Wsbob – You’ve misread my statement! I don’t feel that bikes are a nuisance. I am arguing that some drivers think of bikes as a nuisance. You can tell me that you, as a biker, feel that cars are a nuisance. You can tell me that riding a bike is an ethically superior choice… but it will not change the fact that some people BELIEVE that bikes are a nuisance. You are making the error that many left leaning people make: arguing against the assertion that some group of people BELIEVE something by pointing out the FACTS. These are not the same.

    Please, be respectful of me and my position in this debate. I am an advocate for sustainability, have never owned a car, and believe in bicycling as a mode of transportation.

    But I know that I’m part of a minority that depends on the goodwill of a majority that drive. Sometimes I wonder what good bicycle rights advocates think they are doing when they run up and smack the hornet’s nest…

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  • Brian March 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    The idea is stupid.

    Whats next excise tax on shoes for sidewalks?

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  • Memo March 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I am confused by commenters #19 and #31 that say that a large portion of the road budgets are paid for by the general fund. Where does this number come from?

    While I could not easily find Portland’s budget numbers, here is the Oregon Department of Transportation upcoming budget – – which clearly states on page 4 that $10 million, or way less than 1 percent, of their revenue comes from the general fund. Digging deeper the vast majority of it comes from gas and vehicle user fees.

    Here is Multnomah County’s upcoming transportation budget – – same thing. The vast majority of it comes from gas and vehicle user fees. Plus if you look at page 3, while $346.8 million is budgeted for roadways, $118.7 million is budgeted for bicycle facilities. So how are general funds subsidizing roadways?

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  • Memo March 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Garth #98, one of the best questions I ever heard, it was from a soc class, is:

    “if it is perceived as real, it is real in its consequences.”

    Hope that helps you clarify your points.

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  • John March 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    I think it’s perfectly fair if coupled with a gas tax.

    After all, who should pay for the exhaust going into my lungs each day?

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  • VelvetAckbar March 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    The problem with this entire conversation is that its a straw man conversation:

    The proponents of this tax are pushing this as a way to get us to pay “our fair share.” The problem is: THEY don’t pay “their fair share.”

    I am already paying for the roads: Everyone with a useable brain knows that the majority of funding for roads comes from property and income taxes. And everyone out there knows that cars are subsidized all to hell and back.

    So lets say we give in: pay the same sales tax rate as they pay when they buy a car in Oregon. Oops…thats a 0$ amount. there is no sales tax on cars in Oregon:

    So lets say we give in: pay MORE tax than car buyers pay for their vehicles in our fine state: I can guarantee you that this won’t shut the detractors up. They will find something else to push us on.

    There isn’t any winner in a straw man argument: the only option is to play or not.

    If I am expected to pay MORE for the right to ride on the same streets, then i am going to take the BEST portion of that street for myself, and the people behind me can bleep-bleep-bleep themselves if they don’t like it. I ride a steady 12mph clip in my cargo bike with kids on the back. Powell is a very wide street. The cars can have the inner lane.

    Now…we get to the “Gas Tax”: Gasoline is taxed at $0.24 per gallon. Thats actually kinda steep (and another reason to drive less.) We could tax tires and tubes at $0.24 each. i am cool with that.

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  • Al March 23, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    All cyclists already pay more than their fair share for the roadways. This is more WA State specific, but it’s relevant. To tax a group of people to placate another group is not acceptable. What’s more worrisome is the statement about the “symbolic value” of a tax – hard dollars are not symbolic and it should be very, very clear what those collected dollars would be spent on. If it’s to ‘placate’ motor vehicle drivers, then the “bike tax” collected should only be spent on improvement of bicycle infrastructure and I would expect that all road users and the legal system to treat cyclists and drivers equally in any accident situation, no matter how minor.

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  • Ante March 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Lemme think about this one …. um, no.

    I don’t figure that a new sales tax on bicycles or bicycle gear would suddenly make the huge numbers of jerks who post on every Oregonian article about some poor bicyclist getting hit by a car suddenly change their tunes about how we’re a bunch of elitist snobs who don’t pay our way, don’t follow the rules, get in their way, blah blah blah.

    So like the Founders, I say, “No taxation without internal combustion.”

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  • Jon B. March 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I would support a tax if it pays for faster improvement of bicycle infrastructure and if it doesn’t prevent the bike-curious from purchasing entry-level bikes, or if it could be shown that cyclists are a burden on society and we should therefore pay for our transportation choice.

    That said, I believe that cyclists should stop complaining that we are subsidizing drivers. The ODOT ’07-’09 budget booklet shows that road & bridge work is paid for fully by taxes, licenses, and fees; and PBOT ’08-’09 annual report shows that only 5.8% of transportation funding comes from the general fund. I’d love to see a report that genuinely shows that cyclists pay more for drivers (the mode share of bikes multiplied by the portion of that 5.8% which doesn’t go to bike improvements) rather than the other way around (the mode share of cars multiplied by the entire cost of bicycle improvements). Of course, I may be reading those reports incorrectly. If anyone knows of a solid analysis, I’d appreciate a pointer.

    [By the way, I’m an out-of-work writer; if any editor reading this would like to publish an article on the issue of where bike funding comes from, I’d be interested in writing it.]

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  • R-doodly March 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    A tax because someone ERRONEOUSLY THINKS we don’t pay our way? What’s next, taxing women because their periods attract bears?

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  • Jeff TB March 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Anyone have a response to Memo #101 or Jon B #107 regarding road funding? I’m curious. Can someone in the know interpret the nuances of funding? Please.

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    @jim: Overweight trucks are already banned. That’s why we have weigh stations.

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  • spare_wheel March 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Yes to a cycling excise tax!

    I support better infrastructure even though I personally don’t need it.

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  • Kt March 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    @Kyle K, #66:

    “Gas tax pays primarily for interstate and state highways, no? Not many bikes on those.”

    Upper Boones Ferry and Hall Blvd are both considered state highways, as is Scholls Ferry Rd. So is, obviously, 99W. There are lots of bikes on state highways.

    AS for interstates: South of Wilsonville, you can ride I-5 all the way to the border (I think). You can ride I-84 all the way out the Gorge if you want. Those are both interstates. I’ve seen people riding on the shoulders of both interstates.

    Just FYI.

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  • El Biciclero March 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I will reiterate my comparison of bike lanes (not separated bike infrastructure, although it might still be comparable) to HOV (or “carpool”) lanes and sidewalks/ped signals.

    HOV lanes are restricted pavement: only vehicles with multiple occupants may legally use them.

    Sidewalks are restricted pavement: only pedestrians or those operating at non-motorized pedestrian speeds may use sidewalks and pedestrian signals.

    Bike lanes are restricted pavement: only people on bikes (and selected few others) may legally use them, although thousands of motor vehicle operators use them as turn lanes, passing lanes, or parking lanes every day without repercussions.

    The only one of these that people complain about as being “unfairly” funded, is the bike lane.

    I think we all pretty much understand the reason for having sidewalks and ped signals, so I’ll concentrate on what I think is the more interesting comparison between HOV lanes and bike lanes.

    Why do we have HOV lanes? I think most people would agree that we have HOV lanes to reward those who choose to carry passengers. Why do we want to reward people who carry passengers? Is it because those passengers are freeloading cheaters who probably don’t even own a car, don’t pay vehicle registration or gas taxes, and therefore don’t contribute one thin dime toward the creation and maintenance of HOV lanes? Um…no, we want to reward people who carry passengers (and the passengers they carry) for going to the slight inconvenience of “carpooling” because it reduces congestion, pollution, and wear on the road–not to mention saving more gasoline for the rest of the drivers–by removing a car or two from the road.

    Why then, don’t we hear any clamoring for a special tax on “carpoolers”–especially those that are more frequently passengers than drivers–to pay for their precious HOV lanes? Why don’t the single-occupancy drivers complain that those carpool passengers aren’t paying their “fair share”? Why should my hard-earned gas taxes and registration fees go toward paying for a lane that only freeloading, non-driving passengers get to use? Most drivers would claim, “well, that’s different!”


    A bike lane serves as a reward for those who go to the not-so-slight inconvenience of riding to work (or whatever destination) under their own power, using a non-polluting vehicle that uses less space (reducing congestion) does not wear the road and uses no fuel other than edible carbohydrates (no “factory farm” repudiations, please–you know what I’m getting at). These benefits are exactly the same as those had via HOV lane use.

    What is the difference?

    We could make a similar comparison to “passing lanes”, such as those along hwy 26 to the coast: why don’t we tax slow vehicle owners to pay for those?

    As far as some bike excise tax having “symbolic” value, I don’t want to make the standard comparison to Hitler, but there is one word that comes to mind–“appeasement”.

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  • q'Ztal March 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    Zaphod 95
    +1 on reframing the argument to reality.
    Simultaneously a sleazeball poltical ad firm. Should be hired to blow the studdded tire inequity out of proportion.
    Redirect the blame.

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  • El Biciclero March 23, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Oh, I forgot to mention that there are many cyclists who do not consider a bike lane to be a “reward”, but rather a prison. So a bike lane is really a reward for motorists who want to get bikes out of their way. The reward for cyclists should be equitable treatment under the law and a reasonable expectation of safety on the road.

    Instead, many cyclists are threatened, injured or killed for their trouble. The attitude of many motorists (and police who look the other way) seems to be that if some dumb cyclist gets terrorized or hurt or killed on the road, it’s their own fault for being where they don’t belong in the first place (because they don’t pay). This is why I make the comparison to “protection money” in my way earlier comment–it is like saying, “You want me to quit holding this gun to your head? Then pay up!”

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  • jv March 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I say sure, let’s have an excise tax on just tires, as that is something that gets regular wear and would be an ongoign stream of revenue. However, let’s put a tax on ALL tires – bike, car, truck, studded, etc…based on the width of the tire or load rating of the tire, with a multiplier if it is studded. The tax rate would correspond to the real impact of the tire on the public infrastructure over its life. I think that would be the only way to make a tax valuable both symbolically and financially. The irony is that you can currently buy a new cheapo passenger car tire for about $35+ mounting at Les Schwab, which is about the same price as a decent bike tire. Either car tires are being subsidized heavily or bike tires are already overpriced, or both.

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  • wsbob March 23, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    “…Wsbob – You’ve misread my statement! I don’t feel that bikes are a nuisance. I am arguing that some drivers think of bikes as a nuisance. …” Garth Bowden #99

    Garth, I don’t think I did misread your statement, nor did I get the impression that, when you made it, you were including yourself amongst drivers you describe as finding bikes to be a nuisance. I believed you were making a general observation about the driving public. My apologies if this wasn’t clear in my earlier comment.

    I’m absolutely convinced there are drivers that consider people using the roads to get around by bike are nuisances. Also, that they’re very short sighted for thinking so in regards to people that are competent, responsible road users on bikes.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    110@jim: Overweight trucks are already banned. That’s why we have weigh stations.

    I wish that were true, the thing is that years back they lobbied for rule changes and now get away with bigger heavier loads. The trucks these days do far more damage to the roads than studded tires.

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  • jim March 23, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    Also the lack of maintenace makes the roads fail faster, and cost us more money to repair. Govt. needs to get priorities straight

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  • David Feldman March 23, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I would wholeheartedly, enthusiastically support a per-vehicle-pound road tax, as long as every bicycle is taxed PER POUND OF ITS WEIGHT, without rider, the same amount of money as every pound of automobile. Sauce for the goose and all.

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  • Simon March 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Many of you sound like the richies on the “O” message boards fighting Measures 66 and 67. “I already pay more then my fair share!!”

    Truth is if this went to a ballot measure it would pass with a great margin. That’s Oregon politics for you. Tax any group who does not have the votes to stop it.

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  • matt picio March 23, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    jim (#89) – Ban, no – tax, yes. Trucks do not pay their fair share for the roads, and we need to move production of goods closer to home anyway, as well as control growth. Trucks are necessary to deliver goods and services, and it’ll be a long time before we can take real steps to limit that form of wear. It doesn’t do any good to eliminate the biggest source of wear outright when that source is feeding and clothing all of us.

    Oh, and I wholeheartedly support lowering weight limits on trucks and banning multiple semi trailers on the same tractor. There, that should get me the evil eye from the truckers.

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  • Stripes March 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I’d be down with a bike tax on say, new bikes. Oregon doesn’t have any sales tax, so… you can hardly whine about a tax on one item in a shop!

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  • Barney March 23, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Wow! Quite a few responses when people think that “they” are the ones who may get taxed. It’s easier to support taxes when it’s someone else getting taxed.

    Just a head’s up here, if it’s 12% to start it will go up from there. Very few taxes rates decrease over time. Just ask California about their “temporary” sales tax increase to pay for earthquake damage last century. Once established a tax is usually permanent and progressive. Suckers!

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  • Kevin Wagoner March 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Exercise Tax = Bigger Guts.

    Our tax system is also a way to provide an incentive or disincentive to behaviors. For example tax breaks for retirement savings or taxes on cigarettes. Taxes bikes seems like a bad idea, how about a tax break for those that bike to work (or other errands) since that is behavior we should be encouraging.

    I am not anti tax and am happy to pay my taxes, but I think this is a bad idea.

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  • h March 23, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    it would be more fair to everyone:set up tolls based on weight of vechicle. Guess what: everybody pulls their long-forgotten bicycles from their overstuffed garages on roads to save $$$$$. Lovely idea?

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  • Mike March 23, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I can’t wait to have a say like people who drink alcohol and cigarettes do. I never took smokers seriously until they started paying so much in taxes.

    This whole argument of making people like cyclists by paying taxes seems ridiculous to me. Didn’t the the colonies stop paying taxes to start getting taken seriously(I think I saw that in School House Rocks).

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  • SE Cyclist March 23, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I will gladly support a 12 percent excise tax when it is applied to ALL forms of transportation. Bikes and bike parts, yes. Autos, auto parts, auto repair bills, and gasoline, yes! Airline tickets, yes! Train tickets, yes. UPS parcel charges, yes…..

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  • Joe R. March 23, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Bring it on. What does it cost to provide bike infrastructure? Pennies on the dollar compared to providing the same amount of auto traffic. We don’t need the same level of substructure to support our weight, we don’t need as much road width, we don’t need as much queueing length, we don’t need as much parking space, etc.. let’s analyze this and really come to terms with how little bikes cost. I’m happy to pay my $10 tax when purchasing a new bike once every 5 years.. Meanwhile, auto owners can pay $100’s every year and still be subsidized..

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  • q`Tzal March 23, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Listening to the anti-bike people, and I’ve been stuck listening to their preaching at me in many places of employment, I think that there are many parallels to hate groups and their closet supporters.

    To them we are second class citizens. Sure, some will pay lip service to “sharing the road” just not the road they are driving.
    The fact that we are riding bicycles proves that we are poor or mentally deficient and obviously don’t have the skills to safely ride on public roads.
    If you’ve had the misfortune to listen to a bigot try to justify excluding some minority from an activity or place you’ll hear the same specious arguments used against cyclists.

    No matter how much we pay it will never be enough. You can’t buy your self out of being the roadway pariah.

    No on gas tax.
    Yes on a replacement for gas tax; what happens if most cars switch to electricity or some other un-forseen energy source?
    Yes on a weight based upkeep and maintenance fee.

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  • Lisa G. March 23, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    The feudal lords of the auto-centric world want protection money from the lowly vulnerable road users and only then will they stop twisting the politicians arms. Unfortunately, I just ate dinner and this is really making me feel like vomiting. As I posted recently in another forum, bicyclists are not all homeless people, we are homeowners, renters and business owners, and the majority of us also own cars so we play plenty of taxes, just like everybody else despite causing less than 100th of the wear and tear on the roads that the big metal behemoths incur. Politicians only care about the next election so they can keep their ivory tower jobs. You can’t trust anyone; they’re proverbial wolves in sheeps clothing. No back door sales tax from the puppets and no pandering to the bullies. Paul Tay, let’s form a bipartisan tea party. Partisanship means nothing anymore, just look at the joke of a health care bill our man Obama just signed.

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  • Paul Johnson March 23, 2010 at 10:24 pm

    Yeah, I can complain about taxing just one item. Adding a sales tax for anything is a slippery slope.

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  • Cruizer March 23, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    How about a tax on studded tires, the main reason roads need to be resurfaced every few years at huge expense?

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  • alex March 23, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    while this is hyperbole on my part, i would venture to say that if there was a 12% tax on new bikes/parts/tires/tube i would be inclined to purchase them online and not support support my local bike shop. what if a lot of other people did this as well?

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  • SkidMark March 24, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Tax studded tires, they tear up the road much more than any bicycle ever could.

    Are automobiles taxed in Oregon? If they aren’t, then yet another reason to say NO to a bike tax.

    Maybe owning a car should make you exempt, just to add to the ridiculousness of this idea.

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  • BikeIntelligencer March 24, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Define small.

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  • Seth Alford March 24, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Not just no, but hell no, for all the reasons stated above. Yes, I read all the previous posts before posting.

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  • […] But there’s bigger bicycle tax talk out there on the national level, as Jonathan Maus reports at Bike Portland: […]

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  • Al from PA March 24, 2010 at 6:44 am

    A reasonable, modest tax is a great idea–perhaps nationwide–I’d like to see the money go to bike education: teaching young people how to ride (bike ed. along with drivers’ ed. in the high schools?) along with classes, perhaps following the “Effective Cycling” model, for adults who already ride. This would be money very well spent. This could also be coordinated with “safe routes to schools” programs. Really, I’ve seen enough cyclists riding against traffic!

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  • chrehn March 24, 2010 at 7:34 am

    I support a Bicycle Excise Tax because it will legitimize Bicycles on the street and highway. It will take Bicycles out of the so-called “childrens toy” category. Our taxes will probably be lost in the Shell Game like all taxes, but, we will have a “fender sticker” that says; “This Vehicle Pays Highway Taxes”.

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  • wheelsidedown March 24, 2010 at 7:42 am

    A tax is a contribution and investment in the infrastructure we desire. If you want equity, then you have to contribute. If you don’t put skin in the game, or even offer to, then you don’t count. My one worry is the administration of this tax and how it applies to specific products – is it a percentage? But all in all I think it’s a net-positive for the community we want to see.

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  • Sharp Margery March 24, 2010 at 8:17 am

    The least they can do in return for our sewer dollars. Swipe! Also, bikers, what happened to saying “On your left” or “Behind you”? No has any etiquette any more!

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  • Jeremy March 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Before I get behind an idea like this, I’d like to know whether there is a motor vehicle excise tax that pays for road infrastructure.

    Also, I know there is a special fee when you purchase new car tires, but that is for disposal. I would support something similar for bike tires, on scale of course.

    I agree with the comments that suggest the government shouldn’t charge extra fees for something they want to encourage – making communities safer and cleaner, and the population healthier, reducing other long-term costs on the whole. But, we do benefit from new facilities, so I would in principal support an excise fee. One thing to keep in mind is that once the bike-specific facilities are in place, upkeep due to bikes impact on roads is negligible compared to the havoc cars and trucks wreak on roadways.

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  • Mike March 24, 2010 at 8:39 am

    A tax isn’t going to legitimize anything because we’re already legit.

    If there were a tax people who like bikes would still like them, but people against investing in infrastructure would say it’s not enough.

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  • Barney March 24, 2010 at 8:56 am

    wheelsidedown #141

    “A tax is a contribution”

    A tax is a confiscation of your money! You will have no say in where it goes or how it is spent. Those decisions will be made by your “representatives” in state or local government. Listening to the arguments here, most people are not happy with how their money has been spent already. I don’t see how giving them more is the answer. Especially by taking it from those people who can least afford it.

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  • Garth Bowden March 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

    A tax is neither a confiscation of your money or a contribution. I understand that when we are talking about schools, services for the disabled, welfare programs, and many other symbols of a decent society, the taxes that pay for these services usually come from individuals other than the end user. However, when it comes to building and planning infrastructure, the individual making purchases on a market cannot feasibly take on this task – it must fall to government. That is why some have argued that it is prudent to create a bicycle tax of some type.

    It would probably be a good idea to place the proceeds of this tax in a fund that is dedicated to bicycle-related goals rather than the general fund or the transportation fund. In this case, the law will force the money to be spent in a way beneficial to the bicycle community. It is unclear from the article whether this is the intent of the proposal, but that type of thing is very typical of these kind of taxes.

    I think a distinction that has been overlooked in the discussion on this topic thus far is that this substantial money that would be raised by the tax would go toward bicycles. It isn’t just a wealth transfer away from bicycle riders toward automobiles, so the arguments dealing with taxation and subsidy, encouraging behavior or discouraging it, fair shares and the like miss the point: A tax is a way to raise funds for important infrastructure developments that none of us could purchase individually. This is why, as I’ve said before, the pigouvian tax/subsidy debate doesn’t capture the real question and is misleading. Unfortunately it seems too many of us have been brainwashed by theoclassical economics…

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  • […] Stadium. Evidently, I’m the new poster child for blocked bike lanes. Maybe what we need is a bike excise tax; I’m in if all the funds go toward bicycling (yeah, that’ll happen). It’s spring, when […]

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  • nuovorecord March 24, 2010 at 11:15 am

    I’d support this concept, if it were a part of a new method of paying for transportation. Posts #44 and #120 pretty much sum it up for me. The level of taxation should directly relate to the impact that each mode has on society. Bicycling has a relatively small impact, so the tax should be far lower than that of cars and trucks.

    The gas tax is a failed strategy for paying for transportation. We need to blow it up and replace it with a more equitable method.

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  • are March 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

    even assuming the (regressive) tax could be set high enough to offset the costs of administration, and then assuming the net proceeds would be applied to “bike infrastructure,” would this be in the form of sidepaths to which i would then be relegated? again, no thanks.

    why don’t we find a broad based progressive tax to fund general revenue and do almost everything from that fund, and then apply selected excise taxes against (a) things we want to discourage and (b) things only the very wealthy will want to have.

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  • jason March 24, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I am a mountain biker, first and foremost. I already pay to drive my car and bike to the trails, which in Portland are a substantial distance away. I have to pay another tax?

    Aren’t we trying to make alternative transportation MORE appealing? As a motorist, I am glad to see less people on the road. WTF.

    What part of “One less car” do people not understand?

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  • 007 March 24, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I agree with #1 Ktesh.

    A bike tax is RIDICULOUS! Give me a break. I personally do not care what others say about us not paying our way. I know we do, so f them. It is time automobile-centric transportation users actually paid THEIR FULL share. See how they like that!

    We should PAY to be killed, maimed, sickened from breathing dirt, dust, exhaust fumes and eventually getting lung cancer from diesel fumes, including so-called bio (15% bio) diesel?

    This incenses me. Bike parts cost enough already. Biking for transportation costs enough already. I can afford a fee, but how many cyclists out there don’t have spare money?


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  • Argentius March 24, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    I’m happy to pay an excise tax on my bicycle purchase to support bicycling infrastructure.

    Contingent, of course, on getting a rebate on the portion of my property and income taxes that go towards road and highway improvements and maintenance for damage that automobiles cause.

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  • 007 March 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    …and another thing! Rep. Blumenauer passed a bill more than a year ago that is supposed to reimburse bike commuters $20 a month for maintenance. So, how many of you are receiving your $20/mo vouchers? None, right?
    Few, literally, one or two federal agencies participate in the program, though probably every federal agency offers transit vouchers to their employees, and many offer free and/or reimbursable parking.

    Rep. Blumenauer: How about getting your legislation instituted or was it just lip service?

    I will not renew my BTA membership if they support a tax of any kind let alone 12 freaking %. I don’t and mostly never have trusted PDOT on bike issues.

    I don’t need to pay a tax to prove myself or earn anyone’s respect. I do not care if motorists don’t respect me as long as they don’t kill me.

    Like others above have said, anti-cyclists are not going change their tune even if we pay a tax.

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  • stevenbevenbobeven March 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Might as well. What the hell, EVERYTHING else is taxed, why not bikes?

    Just kidding. Anyone stupid enough to even THINK about it should not be allowed to live in this country. (Not kidding there.)

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  • Garth Bowden March 24, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    The question is how to EXPAND funding for bicycle infrastructure, not as a replacement for current funding. Thus the arguments of like 70% of the angry people responding and telling me to get out of the country are refuted.

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  • Dennis March 24, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    no. Quite simply no.

    It’s easy to forget, pedestrians and cyclists have rights by default. Motorists have rights by decree. When they sign their driver’s license, they are agreeing to take on the responsibilities of those rights.

    Now, that being said:

    creating a separate funding source undermines the legitimacy of non-motorized transportation. Opponents of bicycle infrastructure will see to it that that fund is never adequate, but it’s very presence will prevent any use of standard funds for upgrades/additions to the transportation system for non-motorized transport.

    Note: Bicycle infrastructure, is more for motorists, than for bicycles. It’s designed to keep us relegated to the sides of the road, with the detritus. Ask the car-minded, if they would prefer that we “Take the lane”.

    Think of bicycle infrastructure as “automobile mitigation”. Automobile users have to pay for it, to offset the harm they cause by running us over. Having cyclists pay for it, is like paying someone, to clean up their own toxic waste.

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  • Opus the Poet March 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    I know this is BikePortland but some of you are not reading the whole story. This is not a PDX tax or even an OR tax, this is a suggested Federal tax. In other words I pay it in Garland TX while you pay it in Portland OR, and Paul Tay pays it in OKC OK or Tulsa or wherever the heck he lives, and then the money goes into a big pot in DC where the same people that took over a year to pass health care “reform” decide how it gets spent.

    Personally I think this is about as good an idea as letting my retarded cousin handle my finances. He’s a nice guy, but he still does 2+2 and gets 7 sometimes. Of course if they were to use the same formula to tax motor vehicles based on empty weight, then the tax on your base Escalade would be in the range of $120,000, or about 3 times the cost of the vehicle in the form of tax. I could live with that. They still have that $300 Billion auto industry bailout to pay back after all.

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  • Rob March 24, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    That is a really nice blazer.

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  • Ron Kopald March 24, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I’ll be glad to pony up an “excise tax” for bikes, If we can get dedicated separate bike lanes all over the city and into the greater metro area, but that aint gonna happen. This is almost as bad as an idea as the licensing bike riders idea. I thought we were trying to get people to get ON their bikes and out of cars.

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  • BURR March 24, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    A 12% tax on bicycle sales would be higher than most state or local sales taxes in the US (which you would also pay if you lived somewhere that had a sales tax); seems more like a penalty than a benefit to me, especially since it’s basically purely symbolic.

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  • BURR March 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Not to mention that it would probably reduce rather than encourage bicycle use, in the same what that mandatory helmet laws do.

    No thanks!

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  • antny March 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    I agree with 125, I’m not anti-tax, But taxing bicycles seems incredibly silly. We should not be taxing good behavior. I’ll also add, my fellow cyclist whom do not obey the law, shame shame shame, and if someone cuts you of or scares the crap out of ya, take the high road you now your already on, turn the other cheek, wave, smile, and don’t encourage further aggression.
    that never looks good. win’em with kindness.

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  • matt picio March 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    (#157) “I know this is BikePortland but some of you are not reading the whole story.”

    Then we’re doing better than usual. 😉

    Seriously, though – that’s an excellent point, they’re talking about this at the national level, and that’s ridiculous. The program would never pay for itself, it would serve as a disincentive to bike (and to sell bikes), and work directly against a number of programs we’re currently spending government money to promote – where’s the sense in that?

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  • antny March 24, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Second note, if there is a 12% tax on new goods then I want at least 11% of the transportation budget for bicycles and pedestrians, and a tax credit for not owning a vehicle with a combustion engine. and yes I got one of those too.

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  • Red Five March 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Is this so I can continue to ride through glass and gravel on N.E. 102nd ? No thanks.

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  • BURR March 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    so where is the huge new tax on motor vehicles that would end their subsidies and help pay for all the damage that they do?

    Bicycle ‘advocates’ supporting a tax on bicycles is almost as dumb as ‘environmentalists’ supporting nuclear power.

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  • stevenbevenbobeven March 24, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    NO BIKE TAX! IT will just give the cops a reason to kill you: “Obviously he was breaking the law, he had no bike license. He had a bike tire iron in his hand and I FEARED FOR MY LIFE so I cut him in half with my Glock.”

    (Don’t get me wrong, generally I am a supporter of cops and I DO support any law abiding citizens right to carry a gun for self defense (with or without a carry permit), BUT this would give the cops another stick to beat us with and they have plenty already).

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  • stevenbevenbobeven March 24, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    I’m going to venture a guess that 98% of all cyclists also own and operate a motor vehicle. So, using funds derived from motor vehicles should bother noone.

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  • stevenbevenbobeven March 24, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I’m dropping my membership in the BTA for supporting a bike tax. What a bunch of dummies.

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  • stevenbevenbobeven March 24, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    previous post:

    March 23rd, 2010 11:38 23I support a tax, but less than 12%.

    Anyone know the current rate on a new auto? I believe it varies from state to state.

    Answer: Currently in Oregon: zero tax on a car.
    12%? Who is the moron that came up with that! That is HUGE! (Probably the bufoon in the white house!)

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  • are March 24, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    apples and oranges note:

    the cycling promotion fund in sydney is a voluntary fund into which bike retailers contribute, sorta like bikes belong. not a tax.

    also, it is colorado springs, not boulder.

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  • jim March 25, 2010 at 1:38 am

    just curious- how much money do some of you spend in a year on bike stuff?$200. ?? more?? $200 would only be $24 a year tax. That I would say is nothing to squable about. $2,000. a year? Not a huge amount of people spending that much. I think this is a lot of worry over a reasonable request.

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  • Red Five March 25, 2010 at 6:16 am

    Jim: I love how some people use the word “only” when talking about other people’s money. We’re ONLY being nickel and dimed to death. And yeah many of us are home owners and motor vehicle owners already. Leave my bike alone! And please..can we remove the damn studded tires already?

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  • David Feldman March 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Maybe it’s time for a new T-shirt/jersey slogan “Your kid isn’t fighting in Iraq to keep my bike fueled.”

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  • Huh? March 25, 2010 at 9:02 am

    The Cycling Promotion Fund is a national advocacy group based in Melbourne, it’s members and supporters make voluntary contributions, read it for yourself

    Where on earth did Jonathan Maus get the idea that voluntary contributions from the Australian bicycle industry = bike tax?

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  • Rodney Rudinger March 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I would point out that many bicycle users are using bikes because of economic reasons, that is, they can’t afford a car. Add to that that bikes do not do nearly the amount of damage to pavement as cars do, that they do not add to pollution as much as cars do, and that cyclists on the average are more fit than the general population, and that bicycles and parts are already taxed through a sales tax and that many cyclists own cars and already pay excise taxes for operating their cars, and I think that you can make a case for no excise tax or a very minimal tax on bicycles.

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  •! the other one March 25, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    NO TAX FOR BICYCLISTS! how about a subsity, based on vehicular weight, or speed. Excess weight, or speed=higher tax. Low weight, speed= subsity.
    Better yet, carbon offsets for bicycling, and or reduced registration fees for bicyclists on their cars.

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  • jim March 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    last year in our big storm it was mandatory chains. THAT beat the road to pcs. They were giving out tickets for no chains, even if you were on pavement

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  • Paul Johnson March 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Right. Because driving on chains for a day or two is worse for the roads than driving on chains you can’t remove for an entire season, which is essentially what you’re doing with studded tires.

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  • Daniel Miles March 25, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Wow, you caught the attention of, a British bike-rar blog about funding sources.

    They did a pretty good response from a British point of view and while their numbers aren’t directly applicable, it’s a good bet we have similar figures here if we could only find them.

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  • Carlton Reid March 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Thanks for noticing, Daniel!

    I’d say the truck damage stats would be very similar, UK and US.

    “Damage to roads is proportional to the fourth power of the axle weight. So a rough figure suggests that a car, which weighs about ten times as much as a cyclist (say 1000kg versus 100kg) should pay 10×10×10×10, or 10,000 times as much in ‘road tax’.” is the latest posting but there are also similar arguments on the ‘Licensed to cycle & other taxing issues’ article:

    And the ‘Subsidies for cyclists’ has arguments that would be same for a US audience:

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  • Alan March 25, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    (#163) and (#157) “I know this is BikePortland but some of you are not reading the whole story.”

    I’ve re-read Jonathon’s piece several times. It references federal, state and local voices but doesn’t cite any one particular tax proposal. My take on it, and the subsequent comments, is that it’s about the entire notion of taxing bicycles, bicyclists, and funding non-automotive transport in general, not about any specific proposal or jurisdiction, and that Jonathon is sounding out his readership for their take on the issues. That sounds like an open discussion, so here are a few random thoughts…

    At the federal level, no way. That’s way too much bureaucracy, overhead and physical distance to address what are nearly all local issues, when it comes to bicycle transportation. Bicycles are a local transportation solution, and support and integration of bike solutions get the best fit and efficiency when they come from the local community. The relatively few cross-state bike route issues can be dealt with either between states or under a special case for national routes, maybe Dept. Interior/Parks.

    Instead, as part of an overall federal tax and financing overhaul, how about offering taxpayers some choice in how their money is spent? For example, how about each and every tax payer being allowed to earmark some fraction (10%?) of their taxes towards their favorite project(s)? If you want more F-35s and wiretaps, earmark yours for the military and DHS. Or choose bikes, parks, schools or urban enhancement if you prefer those.

    At the local level (neighborhood/city/metro/county and maybe state, but with decreasing enthusiasm the higher up it goes) I see more reason for some sort of rider-supported funding. When a particular group is incurring expenses for its benefit, they should pay for them. Whether or not biking has other benefits, bikers should pay for the resources they use. Powered vehicle users have the same obligation, and in proportion to the expenses they incur. Were that accounting to come about, I have no doubt at all that the auto-owning part of me would get stuck with a much larger bill than my biking bits. From that point would flow long-term decisions about urban design, not to mention squeals of anguish from anti-biker gassies who’ve been subsidized for so long. But the route to that sort of parity isn’t by sacrificing bikes and bicyclists as some display of nobility, it has to come about as a joint agreement among all the parties involved to pay their shares, justly and proportionately.

    I don’t appreciate the “seat at the table” argument. I prefer democracy to plutocracy. In transportation, all of us share the same cities and public right-of-ways, and decisions should not be based on those who have the most money (or any money). Perhaps a broader point of the public servants mentioned in the article is that an organized coalition *does* have a more powerful role in making public policy decisions. While the unfortunate reality does include money buying influence, it’s also true that constituency counts, so don’t just shout down an organization which doesn’t share your views, but also build an organization that does.

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  • El Biciclero March 26, 2010 at 8:46 am

    OK, so let’s say a bike excise tax would be a federal tax. Where is the logic here: Tax credit for purchasing a hybrid or other fuel-efficient CAR, and an added excise tax for purchasing a non-fuel-using vehicle.

    I think yet another (add it to the many) flawed assumption that most folks make when considering a “bike tax” is that it is somehow akin to a luxury tax because, after all, it’s just a hobby, right? Bikes are toys, right? If I have to pay a reg fee for my canoe because I like to drift down the river, why can’t the “bike people” pay a fee to tool around the countryside on weekends?

    I’ve already ridden (is that a word?) over 500 miles this year, and I haven’t yet been on a “recreational” ride. We need to get over the idea that cars are a necessity and bikes are toys.

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  • El Biciclero March 26, 2010 at 9:02 am

    Also, heard the news story several times this week–“Don’t forget to take your studded tires off before April 1st, or you might get fined. The state says that studded tires cause at least $11 million in damage to roads each year.” Kudos to the news media for actually saying out loud, finally. Eleven MILLL-lion dollars.

    Yet we don’t hear repeated cries (except from a few) for a studded tire tax. Instead, we have people wanting to tax BIKE TIRES. My head is going to explode.

    Let’s see, 11 x 20… that’s $220M. So over 20 years (assuming no inflation), the money saved by banning studded tires could build more than a third of the proposed 2030 bike plan improvements. But I’m talking crazy.

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  • Peter Smith March 26, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    to increase funding of walk/bike infrastructure, shift transport funding from 99% motorized infrastructure spending to 99% non-motorized infrastructure spending. simple. no need to raise more money.

    the ‘bikers are freeloading hippies’ line of ad hominem attacks will not stop. ever. no matter what we do. so get used to it.

    don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. everything is going our way. winning is good.

    if we wanted to institute a sales tax (that _everyone_ pays into) of 1 cent or so, i’d get behind that. It would be a regressive tax (directed against the working class and poor), but we would receive the most benefit from it, too. since everyone is paying in, it could raise a huge amount of money.

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  • Paul Johnson March 26, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    If you want a sales tax, please do all of us a favor: Move out of Oregon. The “lets have a sales tax” attitude just doesn’t fly here or in New Hampshire.

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  • Peter Smith March 26, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    However you want to do the tax increase — sales, payroll, property — who cares? all that matters is that some huge amount of people — ideally, everyone — has to pay in. that’s the best way to ‘spread the pain’, raise a ton of cash, and keep the tax low — which would presumably make it more politically feasible.

    otherwise, go to option 1) and shift existing funding from motorized to non-motorized.

    option 0) would be best — make cars/drivers/manufacturers start paying for the real negative externalities of cars/driving by raising taxes on car-specific products and activities. if we get a significant deterrent effect out of these new car-related taxes, even better!

    it’s not enough for us bike nerds to talk about “but we don’t pollute!” — i.e. we have to stop playing defense exclusively. we have to ‘drive up the negatives on driving’ — speaking in political parlance. cars have nearly destroyed Portland and nearly every other city and town in America — we need to start articulating exactly how this happened, and how we can stop it, and reverse it.

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  • stevenbevenbobeven March 27, 2010 at 1:22 pm


    I think the 9% state income tax here in Oregon is enough. And I think the 20% or whatever it is federal income tax is enough. And I think the $200+ per month I pay in property tax on my modest home here in Washington county is way too much. And I think the $200 HOA dues I’m paying is way too much. And the $30 per year Northwest Forest Pass is plenty. And the $3 fee to go to a state park to use the toilet is plenty. And the $5 fee to go to Sauvie Island is plenty. And the fees to park on the street in Porkland is plenty. And the fees I pay to license and pass an emissions test for my car are plenty. And the tens of thousands of dollars of debt that each of us have via the federal debt is plenty.



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  • jim March 28, 2010 at 12:35 am

    They are going to tax you any way they can. Now they are going to fine you if you don’t have the health ins. that is up to their standard. Never before in this country have we ever been forced to buy something. Definately a one term administration.
    Is bike tax going to be deductable from the tax return April 15th?

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  • Peter Smith March 28, 2010 at 12:40 am

    Never before in this country have we ever been forced to buy something.

    dude — you’ve been forced to buy lots of things, like ‘national offense/defense’, social security, etc. etc.

    let’s try to stick to the topic, m’kay?

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  • Paul Johnson March 28, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Wait, jim, social security, unemployment insurance (and if you own a car) automobile insurance are optional? When did this start.

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  • jim March 28, 2010 at 1:23 am

    Nobody is forced to work, that means you aren’t forced to pay soc. security, unemployement ins., nobody is forced to own a car, We will be FORCED to buy health ins., that is not a choice for anyone.

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  • jim March 28, 2010 at 1:26 am

    Oh- and for the record= its fine with me if they ban studded tires from everyone except emergency vehicles.

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  • robert March 28, 2010 at 10:01 am

    We should have sales taxes in Oregon.

    This would be a good way to start.

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  • jim March 28, 2010 at 11:26 am

    only sales tax when there is no more income tax

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  • BURR March 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Most states have some combination of sales and income tax. I’m all for an Oregon sales tax as long as it is not applied to basic necessities like (real) food and medicine, and the state income tax is lowered proportionally at the same time a sales tax is instituted.

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  • Paul Johnson March 28, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    Note that sales tax is unconstitutional in Oregon. Good luck getting that changed. It would certainly be easier to move someplace where that mindset flies, if you want to pay a regressive tax.

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