Metro president candidate Tom Hughes wants a bike registration fee

Posted by on November 1st, 2010 at 9:00 pm

“… I would like to see, even if it’s just a token registration fee, or some mechanism to go to the bicycle community, and say OK, you need to pay a share of the cost of providing those facilities
— Tom Hughes, candidate for Metro President

BikePortland reader and citizen activist Spencer Boomhower just brought to our attention that Metro president candidate Tom Hughes says he’d like to see a registration fee for bicycles in our region.

Hughes’ comment came during the Q & A session of a candidate forum at the Rose City Park Neighborhood Association on October 30th. Hughes was asked a question by Terry Parker (a somewhat infamous and prolific citizen activist known for his ‘bicyclists are freeloaders’ diatribes) who asked about tolls on the Columbia River Crossing project. Parker said the tolls were “being placed on the back of the motorists and it seems like the tolls ought to be spread out among all the users.” He then asked Hughes what he thought of tolling on the CRC project.

After Hughes explained why he’s “in favor of moving forward with the project as proposed,” he addressed Parker’s concern about the tolls and offered his desire for a bike registration fee:

“I’m like you a little bit though, I think one of the frustrations that a lot of us have about the expansion of the bicycle system in the city of Portland and around the region, is that it appears that the bicycle folks don’t contribute. So I would like to see, even if it’s just a token registration fee, or some mechanism to go to the bicycle community, and say OK, you need to pay a share of the cost of providing those facilities.”

The comment comes at about the 9:10 mark of the video below…

The problem with Hughes’ perspective on this policy, is that while the perception is that bicycle operators don’t pay their fair share, the reality is that people who use a bicycle for the majority of their transportation needs actually subsidize motor vehicle operators. For more on how that works, read this excellent Grist column that debunks the “bicyclists don’t pay their fair share” myth.

Hughes is running against Bob Stacey and the race is expected to be very close. Hat tip to Bob Richardson of Portland Transport, who lives in Rose City Park and who shot and published the video above (as well as video of Stacey from the same event).

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GJB
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GJB

As an active cyclist, and someone who lives in inner-SE Portland, I’m all for a fee, especially if it would mean fewer stupid cyclists stunts (no lights, all black, frequent disregard for traffic laws, reckless cycling, etc…).

But, there’s two major issues:
1) Research done a few years ago established that a fee, in order to overcome the costs of administering it, would need to be in excess of something around $20 or $30/year.

2) After covering the administrative overheads of such a system, what’s left, and were would that money really go?

Dan
Guest
Dan

All I can say is a hearty “fuck that.”

Adam
Guest
Adam

Instead of taxing us or forcing a registration fee why don’t they offer a tax incentive. Other then the one given to employers who support their employees to pedal. Maybe if they did that then more people would ride and transportation costs would go down. Less cost of maintenance and less traffic congestion.

KevinR
Guest
KevinR

Thanks for positing this. Hughes is just silly. Of course, cyclists pay taxes in many ways. And by choosing to bike, cyclists actually save society money by saving the cost to society of driving cars, whether in road construction and maintenance, oil dependence, air pollution and public health. I’m glad I voted for Stacey and I encourage others to do the same.

Chris Smith
Guest

It was actually my Portland Transport colleague Bob Richardson who lives in Rose City Park and is our videographer (I can’t figure out how not to hold the camera upside-down).

I would note that during the primary all three candidates were given a transportation questionnaire by Portland Transport and only Hughes did not respond.

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

GJB,

I think you’re forgetting one other major issue… people who don’t own cars and/or make the majority of their trips with bicycles are not only paying their fair share, they’re actually paying the share of motorized vehicle users. Yes, because the “expansion of the bicycle system” as Hughes puts it, is paid for by general taxes and not through the gas tax (which funds highways only – where bicycles are prohibited).

why would we tax a user group that is already subsidizing another? We wouldn’t because it’s ridiculous and it’s been shot down every time it’s come up.

If we created an entirely new funding system that was more equitable than I’d absolutely accept having bicycle operators pay into it. But simply throwing it out the way Hughes does is reckless, irresponsible, and shows a basic lack of understanding about a key issue in our region.

April
Guest
April

Ugh. I want the bike registration idea to die in a fire.

How many times and in how many ways does it have to be explained? We pay our way. We put less wear and tear on the roads. Our facilities are cheap. AND: every city that’s tried registration/licensing of cyclists has quit after a while. It doesn’t do anything productive.

Charlie B
Guest
Charlie B

Hell, I don’t even want to ride on roads. Give me a nice ribbon of dirt to get from point A to B and that’s all I need.

Paul
Guest
Paul

Sure, I’ll pay a bike registration fee when 65% of our open space isn’t littered with cars and their pollution so folks can live 30 miles from where they work. We’re all paying for your crappy roads out in suburbville so you can drive long distances each and every day. So, give me a reason why I should pay for and support that hugely expensive suburban infrastructure, ugly architecture and miserable commutes. So you can have a patch of lawn to water, fertilize and cut? Explain why I should keep paying for that and I’d be willing to spend a few bucks to register some bikes. As long as I can safely ride on 95% of roads within the metro area, including busy streets where the shops an restaurants are, not any of this side street crap.

Evan
Guest
Evan

Tolls proposed for the new CRC are intended to alleviate congestion caused by automobiles. If and when enough bikes are crossing to create congestion, I will gladly entertain his proposal for bike fees.

Rip Tatermen
Guest
Rip Tatermen

Oh, the perils of vote-by-mail. Now I wish I’d voted for the other guy.

Spencer Boomhower
Guest

Jonathan, thanks for posting this!

Charlie #8

“Hell, I don’t even want to ride on roads. Give me a nice ribbon of dirt to get from point A to B and that’s all I need.”

I hear ya. I think cycletracks are great, but their greatness lies in their putting a nice wide buffer between a vulnerable rider and some very dangerous machinery. Minus that danger, a 30-pound machine with a 1.5-inch tire profile doesn’t need much.

JAT in Seattle
Guest
JAT in Seattle

In fairness to GJB, I think he or she is advocating this somewhat as a straw man: build him up then knock the stuffing out of him.

There is bad behavior out there and it’s part of why so many motorists hate us. Now I don’t believe in the cycling community; I hear it in exaggerated quotation marks in my head when I type it, but to the extent there is such a thing, it would be great if we could get a handle on the poor roadmanship of our cadre.

Not because we should politely ride in the back of the figurative bus, but because it’s the only real ammo the anti-cyclists have.

They cannot hear you when you say you’re actually subsidizing them, because all they see is scofflaws running lights and rationalizing insipidly about flow and how it actually makes then safer.

Obviously (per GJB) $30/yr, the administrative costs break-even point, is a preposterous amount to register a vehicle which has so little impact; Adam is right, they should be paying us,…

But that’s not going to happen.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Tom Hughes says things like that bit about a bike registration fee, because it probably plays well with voters he’s depending upon to possibly be elected. At the Beaverton Candidates Forum, I heard him drop this little sound bite. Has he got any details in terms of actually implementing a bike registration fee…how it would work out or pencil out? I’d be very surprised if he does.

“… I’m all for a fee, especially if it would mean fewer stupid cyclists stunts (no lights, all black, frequent disregard for traffic laws, reckless cycling, etc…).” GJB #1

GJB…do you see any possible way a bike registration fee would accomplish any of what you mention, pay for itself, and still include enough cash left over to fund bike infrastructure?

Esther
Guest
Esther

Jonathan – by highways do you mean freeways/interstates? And, bicycles are prohibited on neither in general–just on the freeway in those specific places like Portland city limits, etc. But regardless, whether or not they’re allowed, very, very few cyclists use the interstates (or want to..the scariest biking I’ve ever experienced was on I-84!)

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
Guest

Esther,

by “highways” I mean freeways/interstates. And I am speaking in a general sense.. I realize that bikes are allowed in some sections of Metro area fwys.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Like the cops have time to enforce that little rule? On my one city block out front of my house are probbly four unregistered/expired automobiles taking up city (“our”) property.

‘N besides, my bike would not put a pothole in any PDX street if it took a hundred years!
Actually, imagine how much we’d save if most streets were more like the infamous Springwater, no need for truck strength pavement. We could throw some pavement money towards, oh, I don’t know, the schools, or something.

Anyway, I had already cast my vote for metro prez when I had read this gem and of course it wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, hint hint.

mello yello
Guest
mello yello

Riding the interstates ain’t so bad. At least when you’re hit, there’s likely to be more witnesses who could summon help. On a desolate road, left for dead after a witness-less hit-and-run is the norm. Getting hit at anything above 50 is good as dead.

Politics is politics. Say what will get you popular among voters. Don’t mean he’s gonna deliver. Ask Fish.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Many municipalities that have traditionally had bike registration including our nations capital have recently removed these programs because they do not work. It is naive to think that if there is such a fee opponents of active transportation will pack up and go home, that did not happen in DC and it won’t happen here.

Bob R.
Guest
Bob R.

Thanks for the attention brought to this appearance at our RCPNA candidates fair. To see all 12 presentations from Tuesday (for information or in case you haven’t cast your ballot just yet), visit:

http://www.rcpna.org/apm/article.php?id=333

Donna
Guest
Donna

And what’s his plan for funding said proposed “token” registration? If it’s a “token”, he’s going to have to find public money from somewhere to pay for the the registration system, as it won’t even be self-supporting.

It’s sad when political candidates don’t have critical thinking skills.

Bob R.
Guest
Bob R.

PS…

As the videographer I endeavored to stay neutral and not interject, but my urge was to ask the question, “Do bicyclists pay property taxes?” and see where he went with that…

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

A bike fee would do one positive thing. Drivers could no longer say that cyclists do not pay for roads.

Seager
Guest

I think they would still say that. They already ignored that we pay more for the roads than they do (relative to damage), they’ll just ignore this as well. They’ll say it isn’t enough.

rev
Guest

pft! people will believe what they want.

Know those signs that say “This section of road maintained by…” whatever charitable org is willing to pick up trash? I can imagine some other useful, informative signs we could install.

Thanks Spencer!

Voting from Seattle via BikePolo Mail Service,

ambrown
Guest

While I had had no intention of voting for Mr. Hughes and find his proposal both short-sighted and politically motivated, I do have to ask the question: does it really matter?

Sure, I mean, Metro has an incredibly important role influencing how Portland and its surrounding municipalities plan for transportation, open space and trails, and speaking as a currently resident of the ‘burbs, many of the bike projects outside of the city of Portland are projects of Metro rather than local municipalities. This statement doesn’t bode well for Hughes’ commitment towards promoting a bicycle-friendly metropolitan region. I am curious, however, as to how Hughes could ever flex any sort of legislative power to make this proposal happen. Metro as an entity has absolutely no legislative power to enact such a law, and I think that even the not-so-bike-friendly parts of the Portland region would be hesitant to propose these types of policies out of fear of angering libertarian types, regardless of the inefficiency such a policy promotes.

If you want to spend tomorrow phonebanking for Stacey (and as someone who has been canvassing for a democratic candidate for the past week and knocking on hundreds of doors, I can tell you that the one race that progressives have had any mixed opinions about is the Metro race), be my guest; I appreciate your effort to elect Stacey. I’m just pointing out that what he thinks about bike licensing fees don’t explicitly matter too much because he is incapable of making this into reality. It would be like getting angry at Chris Dudley about an opinion he might have about the war in Iraq; while it may represent poor judgement, it’s ultimately not very relevant to the election at hand.

but please, bikeportland, vote vote vote! and if someone comes to your door or phones you asking you to vote, please be nice to them; they are working long hours as the foot soldiers for democracy.

Jack
Guest
Jack

“Parker said the tolls were ‘being placed on the back of the motorists and it seems like the tolls ought to be spread out among all the users.’ ”

Am I wrong, or do motorists make up 99.9+% of the users of the I5 bridge?

Isn’t the idea of a toll accomplishing exactly what Parker wants; spreading the costs to the people who use the bridge?

@Donna #21: I’d contend that most politicians do have critical thinking skills. The real problem is that they use theirs to take advantage of the fact that most voters lack those skills.

Peter
Guest
Peter

Here’s a solution for the CRC.

Don’t let any single-occupancy vehicles over the bridges (ever).

Look, no congestion problems! And no need to charge me a registration fee or raise my taxes.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I wrote him to ask about his statement, here is the reply I received:

“Tom has no plans to do this- Metro doesnt even have taxing authority.

Stacey”

I don’t know which is worse, thinking the bike fee is a good idea, or the kind of pandering that his statement apparently represented…

drew
Guest

If Mr Hughes wants some financial equity here, he would suggest raising gas taxes and start charging for street parking on the public right of way.

Maybe he does understand that motorists are heavily subsidized, but will suggest bike liscensure because it will get some votes. The great majority of drivers are under some kind of illusion that they “paid for the roads”.

Why are “bicycle scofflaws” even an issue? People will do what they do no matter the mode of conveyance. Last time I was on the freeway driving the limit EVERYBODY was passing me; some like I was standing still. When was the last time you saw a driver come to a complete stop at a stop sign when not required to yield right of way? As drivers lay waste to the laws they are supposed to adhere to, they don’t seem too worried that driving will acquire the same negative connotations that bicycling has.

Gregg Woodlawn
Guest

Bob Stacey will be a great representative for Metro President!

Does anyone know where I can find an update on current results in this very close race?

wally
Guest
wally

I think Joseph Rose did an article in the Oregonian a couple of months ago debunking the myth that bike registration fees are net money raisers. A fee would be about the optics of “making bicyclists pay,” and as others have pointed out, we already do, many times over.

Joe
Guest
Joe

ONE LESS CAR here, drivers should be happy 🙂 nah they are caged and confused.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Brilliant politics!

Car drivers outnumber cyclists by a huge margin as do those that still believe the “bikers don’t pay!” myth. Need a few thousand votes in a tight race? Pander to the car crowd at the last minute with a bike registration fee and you’re suddenly not one of those “liberal wackos like Sam Adams who hates cars and let’s bikers run amok!”. Rightys and Centrists will eat that up.

Once elected, Hughes won’t pursue this as it will be proved as non-revenue neutral and a waste of taxpayer money. Bottom line – you will never see a Metro administered bike registration fee.

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

‘Why are “bicycle scofflaws” even an issue?’

Because Terry Parker wants what is convenient *for him*, all others be damned. Typical phony Libertarian garbage – everybody is a leeching villain except him when his house is burning/he’s been robbed/he’s getting a price break on a car because of industry subsidies etc. Confront anyone like this and they’ll refuse to talk about it.

Lenny Anderson
Guest
Lenny Anderson

Bicyclists should be PAID, not pay! They are part of the solution, not the problem whether its imported oil, air and water pollution, health/obesity or global warming. So register you bike and get $100 every year from the gas tax. Works for me.

Kt
Guest
Kt

Dear Mr Hughes:

I already pay my “fair share”, my “way”. As a homeowner, duly employed, and a car owner, I pay.

Thanks for perpetuating a harmful myth.

Sincerely–

Someone who didn’t vote for you

Dabby
Guest
Dabby

Lucky for all of us, this will never happen.

And if it does happen, it will not work and it will go away. As has been proven here and in other cities.

Bicycle registration has already been done at least once(in modern times) in Portland. I think it must have been the early 90’s.

It was used by the city as an attempt to more easily identify bicycle messengers.

Sounds simple. No more than 50 messengers, reign them in, sign them up. I mean, the company bosses were behind it, police, the city, how could it not work?

And of course it failed miserably. And quickly.
This of course before the explosion in bicycle population.

As it appeared to the city, and many back then, we were the bicycle population.
So bicycle related issues were generally immediately identified as messenger issues.

One more thing,

A candidate for Metro does not understand that cyclists already pay, and actually pay more, for their mode than anyone else?

What a bufffooooooon…….

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Put bike registration on the Oregon state tax return as part of claiming purchase and maintenance expenses.
You get a login code to a secure server to print out a barcode sticker at your own printer. You would have to register unless you want to use your cycling expenses as a deduction.
Furthermore, any fee should go to increased auto driver education, more rigorous testing and MUCH more strict and FINAL punishment of repeat offenders.
Educating and enforcing said auto motive laws would be the most cost effective bicycling safety measure.
If I thought the registration fee was actually making a difference i’d like a line on the tax form to opt to pay in MORE for driver education and punishment; it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Sorry WOULD NOT have to register unless you want to claim it as a tax write off.

Dan
Guest
Dan

I love these guys. How come they never suggest that people who use wheelchairs need to pay a registration fee to cover all those curb cuts? Or pay into a general fund to pay for area businesses constructing all that handicapped parking?

What about a special tax on blind people to pay for Braille signage?

I know, maybe people who live in isolated rural areas should have to bear the costs of paving their own roads. After all, they’re the only ones who benefit from them, right?

Or if fairness is really the issue, why doesn’t everyone pay a registration fee for their vehicle based on annual miles driven and weight? Now that would be a fee I could get behind! Funny that you never see one of these “They’re not paying their fair share” guys advocating for that kind of solution, isn’t it.

noah
Guest
noah

Or if fairness is really the issue, why doesn’t everyone pay a registration fee for their vehicle based on annual miles driven and weight?

…and according to all the other impacts: volume (space taken up on the road), air pollution, noise pollution, [ground]water pollution, etc. Are we left with any bicycle registration fee that covers even a tenth of its administrative costs?

Skid
Guest

Can it be value-based so I am not paying more for my 6 bikes built out of used/salvaged/dumstered parts than someone who just has one Litespeed titanium road bike? Otherwise I’ll put the sticker on a thin magnet and transfer it bike to bike.

I drive a car too, and I think the motorist scofflaws are much more dangerous. Not sure why I can still see them when I drive, because apparently to other drivers, they don’t exist. I guess it’s just one more thing they don’t see, on top of cyclists and pedestrians.

James Sherbondy
Guest
James Sherbondy

I’m with Dan(#41), charge a registration fee based on the weight of the vehicle weight. I figure about $2 a pound, but this is just a guess, which would put my Schwinn at about $40 every two years, would be fair to most cyclists, a little under $2 a month. Now a brand new Ford Escape which I think is the new name for the Explorer weighs in at a portly 3,663 pounds for a grand total 2 year fee of $7,326. Ouch! That’s $305 a month, but motorists all want us to pay our fair share, so I’m sure NONE of them would object to these fees, right?

I’d vote for any politician that had the cajones(man or woman) to float this one to the masses. It might actually make people think for once about how well they really have it.

matt picio
Guest

middle of the road guy (#23) – Sure, but then they’d just start saying that cyclists aren’t paying ENOUGH.

drew (#30) said: Why are “bicycle scofflaws” even an issue?

Because Terry Parker was at the meeting. If Hughes hadn’t brought it up, Parker would have. It’s entirely possible Mr. Hughes knows Mr. Parker’s propensity for long diatribes and vitriol against cyclists, and merely headed it off by acknowledging Parker’s point before Parker could make it.

Bex
Guest
Bex

My frustration is that while I bike a majority of the time, I also own a car and pay taxes and fees on insurance for the car. I think it unfair should I suddenly be charged twice – one to register and pay tax on my car and two to ride a bike which in many ways is saving the City money.

Andrew Plambeck
Guest
Andrew Plambeck

PLEASE, PLEASE ELECT BOB STACEY.

And I’ll see you all tonight at RonTom’s to watch the results!

dennis
Guest
dennis

Not going to happen. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Bicycle infrastructure is REMEDIATION. if it wasn’t for cars, bicycle infrastructure wouldn’t be needed. I REFUSE TO REGISTER MY BICYCLE. Are they going to ticket my seven year old son for no tags? Let’s see how well that plays on COPS.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

To add to this discussion…I am hearing rumours that the Clark County Commissioner(s) are considering the adoption of a bicycle license fee for all bicycles up here. It is in its early stages of being discussed now.

The funny thing is that the City of Vancouver Police Department used to register bikes for free until (~2003) but found it to be an expensive administrative burden and less necessary due to national Bike ID services for theft recovery. [The Sherif’s Department likely had a similar service at one time too, but I do not know.]

SR
Guest
SR

I sure wish there was a way I could cancel my vote.

Evan
Guest
Evan

@James,

The Ford Escape is the small SUV in their line-up. The Explorer (which is way more popular) is a lot heavier, as it is built on a truck chassis and is bigger in every dimension.