Oregon lawmaker introduces bill to toll people who ride bikes across new I-5 bridge

House Rep. Kevin Cameron thinks people who
ride bikes don’t pay for roads and he wants
a bike toll on a new I-5 bridge
over the Columbia River.
(Photo: Cameron for Oregon)

A new bill has been introduced in Salem that would toll people on bikes for using a new bridge over I-5 (if one ever gets built). Existence of the bill started as an uncomfirmed rumor on the Facebook page of a state legislator yesterday and it was confirmed this morning via an article in The Oregonian.

The bill, HB 3152, was put forward by House Rep. Kevin Cameron (R-Salem). Here’s the key text from the bill:

“If the Department of Transportation collects a toll from motor vehicle operators for the use of Interstate 5 bridges, the department shall also collect a toll from bicyclists who use the bridges.”

HB 3152 is co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Freeman (R-Roseburg), Rep. Vic Gilliam (R-Mollala/Silverton), Rep. Julie Parrish (R-Tualatin/West Linn), Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), and Rep. Tobias Read, a Democrat from Beaverton and a Bicycle Transportation Alliance member who has worked on bike safety bills in the past.

According to The Oregonian, Cameron has introduced the bill, “to start a conversation.” Here’s a snip from The O:

“The point here is this is a very expensive project and from my opinion, people who use it should help pay for it,” Cameron said. “I want to make this a very practical look at how you could do this.”

Rep. Cameron thinks having biking Democrat Tobias Read as
a co-sponsor will help raise awareness of the issue.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s worth noting that Rep. Cameron hinted at his opinion that people who bike are getting a free ride during a hearing for HB 2800 in Salem on Monday. Cameron, a member of the Joint Committee on the I-5 Bridge Replacement Project, voted in favor of HB 2800, a bill that would set the I-5/Columbia River highway expansion project into motion in Oregon. Before giving his vote, Cameron thanked all the citizens who testified on the bill. He even, unexpectedly, gave a shout out to a group from Portland that rode their bikes to the hearing.

But then Rep. Cameron added, “I want them to know they rode bikes on roads that were paid for by gas taxes from vehicles.”

Rep. Cameron’s bill follows a long line of ill-conceived bike measures introduced by lawmakers to “start a conversation” but that ultimately end up causing outrage among citizens and then get eventually pulled.

In 2008, Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski introduced an all-ages, mandatory helmet bill and then shelved the idea about one week later after it sparked massive criticism.

In 2009, House Rep. Wayne Kreiger introduced an absurd mandatory bicycle registration law that caused a lot of outcry and then died in committee ten days later.

In 2011, House Rep. Mitch Greenlick introduced a bill that would have banned children under six years of age from riding on a bicycle or in a bicycle trailer. The bill ruffled a lot of feathers, angered a lot of people, and then didn’t go anywhere.

Whether Rep. Cameron’s bill suffers a similar fate remains to be seen; but I shared in an editorial after the Greenlick debacle, I sure wish lawmakers would study these issues a bit before trying to legislate them.

Punitive bills with unfair impacts to people who ride bicycles, masked in “starting a conversation,” are the height of bias and discrimination. Where’s the bill that would limit car engine speeds to 20 mph just to “start a conversation” about road fatalities and traffic safety?

(Note: This bill has zero chance of going anywhere (both because its policy underpinnings are deeply flawed and none of the co-sponsors will spend any time on it), so I would not let it divert too much attention away from the extremely important CRC bill that is rushing toward passage as we speak. Read this article in The Willamette Week about how shady HB 2800 is and then contact your legislator to share your opinion about the project.)

We have contacted Rep. Cameron and are awaiting a call back.

UPDATE, 12:57 pm: I heard from Rep. Tobias Read who wanted to explain his sponsorship of the bill. I shared that conversation in a separate post.

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