Splendid Cycles

Lawmakers likely to tweak bicycle tax in response to opposition

Posted by on June 9th, 2017 at 9:43 am

Among a host of tweaks expected to Oregon’s transportation funding package is very likely to include a major change to the controversial bicycle excise tax.

Instead of 3 percent excise tax on all new bikes (with some exceptions), it’s likely to become a $15 flat fee.

In a meeting of the Joint Transportation Preservation and Modernization Committee at the capitol last night, Co-Chair Lee Beyer (D-Springfield) said he and other legislators have heard concerns about the tax from bicycle dealers. As we reported last week, the current proposal is a 3 percent tax on the purchase of new bicycles. That idea faced strong opposition from shop owners who fear the tax will drive sales toward online and big-box retailers, create onerous new reporting requirements, and put a black cloud over bicycling in Oregon.

“We didn’t want to carve out something that would hurt small businesses.”
— Senator Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay)

In written testimony to the committee, Metropolis Cycle Repair owner Nathan Roll said he wants the tax eliminated completely. “In a present where Americans are struggling to free themselves from the grip of congestion and obesity, we should be working to lower the bar of entry to cycling, not raise it,” he wrote. Roll also feels a bike tax, “could have a chilling effect on bike tourism” because of the many visitors whom he says purchase a new bike upon arrival in Oregon and then take it home with them afterwards.

House Bill 2017-3 (the transportation package) currently calls for the tax to be levied at the point-of-sale on all new bikes with 26-inch wheels or larger or that have a selling price of $500 and above.

In their meeting last night, Beyer said “We heard from bicycle dealers that it was problematic.” Committee Co-chair Caddy McKeown (D-Coos Bay) said “We didn’t want to carve out something that would hurt small businesses.”

The new idea is to have a $15 flat fee on all bicycles with 26-inch wheels and larger. There would no longer be a dollar value threshold for the tax. Senator Beyer said the flat tax is estimated to raise a similar amount to the 3 percent proposal, about $1.2 million per year. Money raised from the tax would go into the Connect Oregon grant program. That State Lottery-funded program is used specifically to build projects outside the highway right-of-way (like marine, air, port and bike/ped) that are constitutionally prohibited from receiving funding from the State Highway Trust Fund. Bicycling and walking projects (as per the bill) will receive 7 percent of those funds which equates to about $5 million at its current level of about $70 million.


There wasn’t much discussion about the changes to the bike tax at the committee meeting last night. Senator Rod Monroe (D-Portland) said he supports the flat fee. “It’s simpler,” he said, “And it still gives bicycles some skin in the game for new bike trails.”

“While our organization does not support the proposed sales tax on bicycles we know that people need more safe places to walk and ride bikes. We prefer the Oregon Legislature raise revenue for more trails from a broad base, including all trail users and industries that benefit from trails.”
— Gerik Kransky, The Street Trust

The Street Trust has lobbied to remove the bike tax from the bill altogether; but they have stopped short of threatening to pull their support of the bill on this issue. In a blog post yesterday, their Executive Director Stephanie Noll wrote that, while the group is opposed to a bike tax, they could support a “balanced” package that includes more money for the Safe Routes to School program, transit, and road safety. Noll said her organization would only support a bill that included a bike tax if it met a list of conditions — including a reduction to 1 percent, an upper limit of $100 per bike, and others.

In testimony to the committee The Street Trust’s Policy Director Gerik Kransky said, “While our organization does not support the proposed sales tax on bicycles we know that people need more safe places to walk and ride bikes. We prefer the Oregon Legislature raise revenue for more trails from a broad base, including all trail users and industries that benefit from trails.”

Keep in mind that this bike tax debate has nothing to do with good policy. It’s all about politics. Because of the pervasive “bike riders need to put skin the game” argument and the fact that the bill includes numerous new and increased fees and taxes for motor vehicles, there is zero chance lawmakers would remove the tax from the bill at this point. That is, unless there was massive organized opposition from lobby groups. That opposition hasn’t happened yet. The Street Trust is aware of the politics and is not threatening to pull support for the bill over the bike tax. Instead of vociferously opposing the bike tax, The Street Trust has decided to instead put its energy into pushing for more money to fund safe routes near schools. A larger coalition of environmental-related groups (which includes The Street Trust) says the bike tax is “frustrating” but they are still supportive of the bill overall.


In the past week, Oregon’s bike tax proposal has made national headlines. People for Bikes, a nonprofit advocacy group funded by bike companies, launched an action alert urging their members and supporters to contact legislators. “While the bike industry is supportive of finding new transportation funding sources in Oregon,” they group wrote, “the proposed bike tax will harm small businesses.” The tax was also covered in Bicycle Retailer & Industry News this morning with the headline, Oregon retailers try to fend off proposed tax on new bikes.

The legislative committee hasn’t made this change official yet; but given the support from lawmakers, it seems likely to become part of the bill. Yesterday was the last of four straight days of hearings on the bill. Now a host of amendments will be ironed out over the weekend and new bill language is expected sometime next week.

Among those amendments will likely be changes to the funding plans for the Safe Routes to School program. The Street Trust has focused their energy to win more money for this program and based on last night’s committee meeting, lawmakers have responded to their pressure. I’ll post a separate story with those details once the amendments are official.

Oregon’s transportation bill looks to raise $8.2 billion over 10 years and is largely focused on highway widening projects. It’s expected to be voted on in the coming weeks.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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  • Buzz June 9, 2017 at 10:09 am

    The bicycle tax surviving in any form is still BS.

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    • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 10:56 am

      The part that I’m having trouble following is the trails language. Unless I’m mistaken everything else about this bill and the discussion is about transportation. Trails evokes something quite different and I’d love to have someone explain if this is a Kathy Goss slip or something else.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 9, 2017 at 11:45 am

        oh 9watts… welcome to my world. I have resigned myself to not battling the word choice/language stuff on every front because I wouldn’t have energy for much else. But yes, the lack of rigor in using accurate words for various types of facilities is problematic. I have not used “trails” to describe paved paths for a long time because I feel they not only evoke a recreational vibe, but they are easily confused with MTB/hiking trails. unfortunately “trails” is how most people – even advocates! – refer to paved, nonmotorized bikeways and walkways. I prefer multi-use paths until something better comes along.

        The ORS and common usage is rife with stuff like this.

        Another bad one in this discussion is how many in Salem use “multimodal” when talking about the movement of freight containers on trucks/air/rail… when for many people in the planning/bike/walk world hear “multimodal” and think of bike/walk/transit facilities.

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        • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 11:54 am


          I did notice this clarification in your article:
          “That State Lottery-funded program is used specifically to build projects outside the highway right-of-way (like marine, air, port and bike/ped) that are constitutionally prohibited from receiving funding from the State Highway Trust Fund.”

          So the kinds of paths under discussion would link up bike lanes (presumably in the rights of way) but be themselves outside of those rights of way. And I’m assuming, from past discussions, that the term highway is here used in a broader sense to mean all streets and roads?

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          • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm

            Yes you are correct on both counts. This part of the bill is being widely misrepresented in the media. They are saying the bike tax money will go for “bike lanes” when in fact no on-street facilities will be funded with bike tax money.

            And yes, in Oregon the word “highway” means any public road.. (another one of the language/word issues that is confusing)

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        • J.E. June 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm

          I’ve always used “bike path” to refer to paved routes like the Spring water (that may/may not be primarily recreational) and “trail” to refer to anything unpaved and primarily recreational.

          “Trails,” to me, evoke a “that’s nice, but it provides no benefit to transportation or individuals who only recreate on paved surfaces, and is a poor use of funds that could have gone to making our roads safer” vibe.

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          • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 1:09 pm


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          • rick June 9, 2017 at 1:22 pm

            Then how to explain the public right-of-way trails in SW ? I see many people, teachers, and commuters using them.

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            • J.E. June 9, 2017 at 5:00 pm

              I’m not saying that trails can’t be part of our transportation network, just explaining my own gut reaction to the word.

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        • Pete June 10, 2017 at 10:39 pm

          When I hear “trails”, admittedly I think of unpaved routes for hiking and MTB too, but here in the bay area, Class I bikeways are referred to as “paths” by Caltrans, and “trails” by everyone else. Nearby is the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail, Stevens Creek Trail, Guadalupe River Trail, Los Gatos Creek Trail, and the Bay Trail. In fact, every bike path I’ve ever come across here has the word “Trail” as the last word in its official name (Iron Horse Trail in the east bay I also ride).

          And yes, they are all heavily used by bicycle commuters, probably more so than recreational riders (like myself these days; most people I cycle with prefer to stay on road rather than mix with pedestrians, dog/baby walkers, etc., simply due to speed).

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    • Edward June 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      The better solution is a tire tax. It simplifies the entire bike/car/electric car divide.

      A 10% tax on tires would make everybody have their fair share of skin in the game. If I buy a new $45 bike tire, I’d pay $4.50. If I bought four new car tires for $500, I’d pay $50.

      Everybody uses tires. Cars. Electric cars. Semi-trucks. Everyone.

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      • Pete June 10, 2017 at 10:41 pm

        Great idea. And the tax on studded tires would simply be much higher…

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      • El Biciclero June 11, 2017 at 8:04 am

        I could support this as a “fair” tax, especially if part of the revenue went toward recycling tires. Does anyone know where I can take my old bike tires to get recycled—or at least disposed of properly? I find plenty of uses for old inner tubes, but every time I throw a worn-out tire in the garbage, I cringe. I now have several hanging in my garage waiting to be thrown out unless I find a way to recycle them.

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        • 9watts June 11, 2017 at 8:17 am

          One strategy would be to drop them off at a place like City Bikes. There always seems to be a pile of used parts out front. I’ve often helped myself to tires from that pile. Surprising how much life is often left in them.

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          • Kyle Banerjee June 11, 2017 at 9:42 am

            I find that if you try to get too much life out of tires, you get more flats and the traction really starts suffering. Though I always ride on race tires.

            A tire tax heavily subsidizes cars. Decent tires for bikes actually cost more than cheap car tires, the price differential between decent bike tires and car tires isn’t that much, and you get only a tiny fraction as many miles out of a bike tire as a car tire.

            Happily, you can order bike tires online and have them shipped. For some reason, it’s often cheaper to have it shipped from Europe than to buy here. I suspect they might not apply the OR tax.

            I like the idea of recycling tires but am unsure how it would work since tires are made with so many different materials even within the same tire, let alone across different types.

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            • El Biciclero June 11, 2017 at 3:21 pm

              Good point about mileage and frequency of purchase, especially if I tend to buy high-end tires at $80 per; the last tires I put on my car I think were maybe that much, mounted and balanced—plus the “recycling charge”. Some of the best racing bike tires are also engineered for traction and rolling resistance, meaning durability suffers, making some of the highest-taxed tires also the most frequently purchased. But then the argument goes that if you can afford to be replacing high-end race tires all the time, you can likely afford to pay the tax, too.

              Anyway, that’s kind of why I put “fair” in quotes, because like most things, a straight flat rate across all taxpayers is probably not really all that fair. But still, with some tweaking I’d bet we could come up with something that at least seems more fair than the current proposal.

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          • 9watts June 11, 2017 at 9:55 am


            But also confusing. The post mentions ‘recycling’ but also ‘sent to the next user’ – which is it?

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            • soren June 11, 2017 at 5:58 pm


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            • Kyle Banerjee June 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm

              I am still curious what the recycling process actually entails and what outputs from that process are. As soon as the word “recycling” is used, people assume the process is efficient and beneficial when this is not necessarily the case.

              Remounting tires that still have service life makes sense. But many people keep tires far longer than they should. Compounds break down, small cracks form, and they become more prone to failure. Putting riders who might not be able to recognize signs of impending sidewall failure on the worst tires with the worst traction and reliability doesn’t strike me as a great idea.

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              • 9watts June 13, 2017 at 3:36 pm

                “As soon as the word ‘recycling’ is used, people assume the process is efficient and beneficial”

                I assume that this corresponds to grinding up and possibly feeding the resulting gunk into a new product that will inevitably be of lower grade and not itself recyclable.

                “many people keep tires far longer than they should.”

                What is that supposed to mean? If I can get more life out of the tire why wouldn’t I keep it?

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      • q June 11, 2017 at 12:43 pm

        I hope this tire tax gets some traction.

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        • Dan A June 11, 2017 at 4:04 pm

          I predict it falls flat.

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          • El Biciclero June 12, 2017 at 8:47 am

            You just have to get the public pumped about it, so it has an enthusiastic reception when it’s rolled out. No pressure…

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            • q June 12, 2017 at 9:26 am

              So this guy comes into the bike store and says, “I’d like to buy some racing tires”.

              The salesperson says, “That’ll be $200 plus tax.”

              The customer looked horrified. “Tacks!?! I thought they just slipped on!”

              OK, maybe the original joke worked better with the teenage guy in the pharmacy…

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              • Dan A June 12, 2017 at 5:57 pm

                No jokes about things that could ruin brand new tires please. I find them…tacky.

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              • q June 12, 2017 at 6:07 pm

                Sorry. Now I feel deflated.

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  • Justin Carinci June 9, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Interesting. I’d imagine that $15 is going to be a bigger deterrent for people buying cheaper bikes, the exact people who are deciding whether to get into cycling for transportation. If you’re spending $500 on a bike, it’s not going to make or break the deal. If you’re spending $100, that same $15 could.

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    • SE Rider June 9, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Bingo. So the solution is to make the tax more regressive?

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      • Racer X June 9, 2017 at 12:45 pm

        …no, make it more progressive…

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 9, 2017 at 10:30 am

      I expect that once the changes to the bill are finalized we will see some additional provisions that will prevent this from being so obviously regressive. If not, I’d expect The Street Trust and other groups to loudly oppose the bill on this $15 tax alone. Let’s wait and see how legislative counsel writes this up.

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      • Adam H.
        Adam H. June 9, 2017 at 10:41 am

        The Street Trust is directly benefitting financially from this bill since they get funding from the state for Safe Routes to School. That is why they are not and will not outright reject the bill, and also why their platform has shifted to asking for more money for Safe Routes.

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        • maxadders June 22, 2017 at 9:53 pm

          The Street Trust (formerly the BICYCLE Transportation Alliance) is officially dead to me. They’ve become totally out of touch. It was painful enough to watch their dysfunctional leadership flirt with irrelevance, but the latest crew seems determined to sink the entire ship. I think the time has come to pull the plug.

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 9, 2017 at 10:28 am

    So let me get this straight. They added a minimum sales price to avoid burdening low-income individuals. This was lauded as a win for equity by Democrats, including my state Rep. Then pretty much everyone complained about 5% or even 3% being too high, so the sales tax was lowered to a flat $15, but to make the numbers work, the minimum sales price was removed, thus putting the burden of picking up the slack on low-income people.

    So much for equity, eh?

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    • bikeninja June 9, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Welcome to Trump’s America. Now all they need to do is remove the tax altogether from carbon fiber bikes that cost over $10,000. Because as you know folks who buy those are “job creators” and we want to encourage them because putting more money in their pocket will trickle down to the little folk.

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      • meh June 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

        Yes because those who are proposing this tax are Trump Republicans. Who is it who controls the government in Oregon?

        Everyone quoted in this article have a D after their names. I don’t care who writes it, if it’s bad legislation it’s bad legislation. Hey if Trump has infiltrated the ranks of Oregon Democrats, well the sky is falling.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 9, 2017 at 11:10 am

    One interesting thing to watch as the bill gets finalized is whether this ends up being called a “privilege tax” or an “excise tax”. It’s an important difference because an “excise tax” as initially proposed would have to be labeled on customer receipts and then reported to Department of Revenue in a tax return. However, a “privilege tax” (for the privilege of selling a certain item) would have the option of sellers absorbing the tax themselves without being forced to pass the tax onto customers in such an explicit way. In others, shops would be able to “eat” the tax and either charge more for the bike and/or spread out the cost among other products (or just make less money).

    There’s a new “dealer privilege tax” in the bill that will be assessed to auto dealers (of .75% last I checked). In that case the auto dealers don’t have to publicize the tax to the customer at all.

    The reason I bring this up is because the current language of the bill calls it a “bicycle excise tax”… however a summary of the bill written up by legislative staff calls it a “privilege tax”.

    Also, this issue — as to why the bike tax isn’t a privilege tax like the new car tax — was brought up by one of the senators during the committee hearing. Stay tuned.

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    • Matthew in Portsmouth June 9, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      It’s a sales tax, pure and simple. If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

      We can be absolutely certain that these privilege taxes will start with new bicycles and automobiles, soon it will be on smoked fish, caviar, perfumes and other luxury goods. Eventually, we’ll have a goods and services tax, enacted as a privilege tax.

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      • SE Rider June 9, 2017 at 1:32 pm

        Technically I would call it a sales fee (as it’s specifically to pay for off road paths).


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      • Stephen Keller June 9, 2017 at 2:08 pm

        We’re already there. Privilege taxes already exist on wine, beer and spirits, lumber from timbers harvested in Oregon, utilities (gas, electricity, communications, etc) distributed in Oregon via public rights of way, coin-operated music and amusement devices (I think this one is still on the books) just to name a few. One hardly ever hears about these because businesses aren’t required to disclose them and many a levied several levels removed from the consumer.


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  • David June 9, 2017 at 11:21 am

    There is something being missed in the reporting and comments about this misguided tax. There’s the other end of the double-edged sword that legislators are swinging all over the place.

    On one hand they are saying that by adding this tax bicyclists will “have some skin in the game” however the other side of that is that we can have a forceful reply in the future that we EXPECT them to fund bicycle infrastructure. Obviously the hope is that we suck up the tax while neglecting the implications.

    Perhaps the counter to this tax is not that it’s regressive, self-defeating, or anything else. Maybe we just need to say that if you’re going to put our skin in the game that our expectations are going to go way up and adding a line of paint once or twice a year is no longer sufficient for any roadway. Do you think Senator Monroe would still support a seriously counter-productive tax if part of the expectation by those impacted, and the larger populace who will be defanged by the presence of this tax, was protected bikeways?

    Something to consider…

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    • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 11:26 am

      How do you figure this?
      The sum the tax is anticipated to raise is trifling.

      No, I see this as more mendacity, more crumbs, less clear thinking about how our system is currently funded and those funds misspent.

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      • David June 9, 2017 at 11:31 am

        Using the same logic as car drivers expecting sparkling new facilities in spite of paying for less than 50% with registration fees and gas taxes. Just because you don’t pay for something with a funding mechanism doesn’t mean that you don’t expect it.

        When people were complaining about potholes after the winter storms they didn’t see how the decision to allow studded tires or underfunding roadway improvements over the past 10+ years impacted those conditions. They just expected it to be fixed. To an extent people on bikes should raise the expectation bar if this tax goes into force (it shouldn’t take the tax to do this but that’s a different matter).

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        • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 11:38 am

          “When people were complaining about potholes after the winter storms they didn’t see …”
          Correct. That is the definition of Car head.

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          • SE Rider June 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm

            Were cyclists not also complaining about those holes? Bike-head?

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            • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 1:39 pm

              If you read the whole sentence I started quoting your point makes no sense.

              For that matter if you understand what Car-head is about the whole idea of flipping it is absurd. http://www.sightline.org/2007/04/19/car-head/

              Car-head. Unintentionally and even unknowingly, we see the world as if through a windshield. We evaluate our surroundings as if from the driver’s seat (obstacles to speed? places to park?). We consider “automobile” almost a synonym for “transportation.” And we consider such thinking utterly normal. This Car-head mindset, this set of auto-oriented assumptions and perspectives, is so deeply enmeshed with our life experience that we are little aware of it. It’s so universal that we certainly shouldn’t be blamed for holding it. But it’s there and it’s powerful and it has consequences in our actions and, more important, in our communities’ decisions.

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              • SE Rider June 10, 2017 at 8:42 pm

                Based on that definition I certainly think there are some on this site who have bike-head.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty June 9, 2017 at 1:54 pm

              I read the whole sentence, and it applied exactly equally to people riding bikes and people driving cars. Or anyone else upset with the condition of the roads.

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              • David Hampsten June 9, 2017 at 2:16 pm


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              • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 2:24 pm

                “I read the whole sentence, and it applied exactly equally to people riding bikes and people driving cars.”

                Someone on a bike who laments potholes isn’t failing to see the connection between his mode choice and the problem, but someone in a car would be, in David’s framing of the matter upthread. Automobility is the thing that generates the costs, the inequality, the frustration, yet most who sit in traffic, complain about the condition of the roads, etc. are not predisposed to recognizing that it is them, their mode choice, which has saddled us all with these problems.

                cf. the old you’re not stuck in traffic; you are traffic line.

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              • David June 9, 2017 at 2:34 pm

                What 9watts said. Also not the best example to illustrate the issue.

                As a cyclist I lament potholes because of the debris that pollutes bike lanes and makes them more dangerous. Amazingly there’s a general lack of potholes in bike lanes, someone should investigate why that is and encourage that form of transportation.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 9, 2017 at 2:48 pm

                Most cyclists also drive. So there is indeed a disconnect, at least for those cyclists.

                Not “us” and “them”… it’s only “us”.

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              • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm

                Are you trying to suggest that Car-head is not a meaningful concept because most people who bike also sometimes sit in or pilot autos?
                Your humor here is nonpareil, but your logic sometimes stumbles.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 9, 2017 at 3:05 pm

                If you are lamenting the (theoretical) disconnect between people complaining about the roads and them driving (and thereby theoretically causing said damage), does it matter if they are sitting in their car or standing astride their mighty metallic steed when they make their complaint? I say nay, it matters not.

                (I’m ignoring, for simplicity, those who never drive or take the bus or do anything else that contributes to road degradation.)

                Of course, I reject the whole construct. I drive on occasion, and I feel I can, while sitting in my dry, cozy car, without irony or hypocrisy, complain that the roads are poorly maintained, and feel that I am not responsible for their state of disrepair.

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              • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 4:30 pm

                “If you are lamenting…”

                I think this started with an assertion about Car-head.

                “I reject the whole construct”

                Isn’t that what this is about, an abdication of responsibility, a willful disregard for how mode choice, costs, & consequences are related?

                “I feel I can, while sitting in my dry, cozy car, without irony or hypocrisy, complain that the roads are poorly maintained, and feel that I am not responsible for their state of disrepair.”

                Perhaps this was your intent, but these attitudes strike me as perfect instantiations of Car-head. Why won’t somebody fix this…so I can get to work quicker, without being jostled!

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 9, 2017 at 5:34 pm

                I must be fundamentally misunderstanding your point, because what I’m hearing you to say doesn’t make sense.

                I have every right to complain, regardless of the mode I’m using at the moment, when public infrastructure is not maintained by the public entities who are responsible for keeping it in good working order.

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              • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 7:01 pm

                You’re right. We do seem to be talking past each other. The point I’m trying to make has two parts.
                (1) Car-head is a pervasive filter through which we, all of us, see the world and in particular those aspects that bear on transportation, how we get around. This is the First Order part.
                (2) The Second Order part is about how we understand some of the derivative dimensions of this subject, for instance why roads are/are not maintained.

                I’m trying to argue that an inability or unwillingness to recognize our own complicity, our unconscious reproduction of certain conditions (e.g., worn out infrastructure) derives from what Durning summarizes with his phrase Car-head. Ivan Illich talks about this as dependency. Just as we are not stuck in traffic, we are not suffering from worn out infrastructure. Both are conditions our preferred mode choice automatically and inevitably produces given how we’ve designed our system.
                It doesn’t make sense, in this view, to complain about congestion or potholes because the reasons are found not in mismanagement or malfeasance but in how automobility works, in our collective reluctance to tax those who rely on the automobile thereby externalizing so many of the costs onto society at large.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty June 9, 2017 at 7:09 pm

                (1) Comes through loud and clear. (2) Even if I have some (trivial level of) complicity in the roads becoming damaged, does my choice of mode at any particular moment change my ability to complain about crumbling infrastructure at that same moment? I would say no, you seem to be saying yes. I don’t want to debate this, I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy June 9, 2017 at 4:01 pm

          I think it is closer to 38%.

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    • Adam H.
      Adam H. June 9, 2017 at 11:33 am

      If this idiotic tax passes we should definitely use that as an angle, but I agree with 9watts in that the amount cycling will actually be getting is virtually meaningless — especially when compared to the $1.1 billion for highway widening.

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      • David June 9, 2017 at 11:46 am

        I am not disagreeing with any of that, nor do I think this tax should exist in any form given our current transportation environment.

        Listening to Think Out Loud on OPB yesterday I was trying to understand how they could have a 21 minute conversation on this bill discussing congestion and how to fix it and bikes are barely mentioned and only in passing. An interesting note is that the Portland Area projects came directly from Metro’s JPACT. There are too many people at all levels eager to try building our way out of this regardless of how ineffective it will be. All so that people can keep driving their SOV to and from work (this is how most of the congestion is created).

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  • GlowBoy June 9, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Still a terrible idea. Bicycling is arguably better for society in numerous ways than driving. It should be subsidized, not taxed. Everyone buying a bicycle should get a flat $15 credit, and motorists (myself included) should pay for it. That solves your equity problem, too.

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  • Franco June 9, 2017 at 11:32 am

    I’m not too familiar with how funding works, and I understand why some people may want everyone who uses the road to help pay for it (and we all already do help pay for it anyway via state taxes, I believe), but one thought that has crossed my mind over the years is…

    If 10 (or however many) people stop driving and become bike commuters (or at least bike part of the time), doesn’t that alone save wear and tear on the roads? And therefore, save money too? It seems like when people get out of cars and start biking that they contribute to paying for the roads simply by making the road maintenance cost less. One could even make the argument that cyclists should receive tax credits for helping lower the cost of road maintenance. I’m not making that argument, but it seems like a better argument than making bikes cost more, which could mean less people biking, which could lead to higher road maintenance costs.

    Anyway, I wonder if there have been any studies done to see how much money is saved on road maintenance when people switch from cars to bikes? Seems like that should be part of the equation. And who knows, maybe I’m wrong and somehow switching from car to bike doesn’t save road money, or not enough to matter, but it would be good to know the answer.

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    • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 11:48 am

      “doesn’t that alone save wear and tear on the roads? And therefore, save money too?”

      Yes, precisely. There are studies that have, I think, been mentioned in past Monday Roundups which explore exactly this question. Every mile or kilometer biked saves a city or municipality money; every mile or kilometer driven costs it money (net, above and beyond the user fees, taxes, etc. that may be collected from people who are using those modes).

      Always a good source for this kind of question is the Whose Roads piece by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute –

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      • meh June 9, 2017 at 1:04 pm

        Not to mention the health benefits of riding over driving.

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        • Middle of the Road Guy June 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm

          What if I drive to the gym and get a different and arguably better workout than just cycling?

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          • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 4:40 pm

            You are drawing the circle too small. Think about how well your proposal would work out if everyone emulated your approach.

            + Health benefits from everyone biking: great at all scales, from the individual to society.

            + Health benefits from everyone driving to the gym: questionable at the individual level, and an unmitigated disaster as soon as you try to scale it up.

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          • Dan A June 12, 2017 at 7:19 am

            You’d get an even better workout riding there.

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            • Dan A June 12, 2017 at 9:21 am

              My dad is 74 with a heart condition and he rides to the gym 5 times a week.

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              • q June 12, 2017 at 9:30 am

                I was talking to a guy in the 90-94 age group at a masters swim meet, being held at his home pool. I asked if he lived nearby. “Yeah, about 20 minutes away by bike”.

                Then he apologized in advance, because he was going to start his races in the water instead of diving from the starting blocks. He said he usually dives but he’d hurt his knee snowboarding last week.

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      • David Hampsten June 9, 2017 at 2:29 pm

        As bad as traffic is at damaging roadways – and on arterial roads the damage can be awful – the lack of timely maintenance versus weathering and time/pavement-ageing is by far the biggest culprit. Even on dead-end residential streets that rarely have cars can quickly “go to pot” without a regular regime of maintenance. While most of the US “went to pot” during the great recession (2008-12), when most cities cut back or eliminated street maintenance, Portland (and most of the rest of Oregon) started to severely reduce maintenance way back in 1992. Given 25 years of neglect and deferred maintenance, and the (relatively tiny) new funds being discussed, I’d say the impact of bicycles versus cars on city streets is relatively negligible.

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  • Ashbel Green June 9, 2017 at 11:34 am

    I am baffled why progressive groups are willing to give up so much for this bill. A flat (regressive) bike tax. A vehicle regressive registration fee schedule that imposes bigger increases on more fuel efficient cars. At least $630 million to widen freeways in the Portland metropolitan area.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 9, 2017 at 11:41 am

      Me too Ashbel. Me too.

      I have my hunches… but I will save those for a future post once we see how this thing plays out.

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    • David Hampsten June 9, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      What I find most interesting about all these posts about Oregon transportation legislation is how little discussion occurs about the maintenance backlog. How much money is needed to fix Oregon’s roads? In Portland, just for PBOT alone, that figure is over $1.1 Billion. How much is needed annually to maintain what we have? Again, in Portland, the annual cost is short by $70 million minus the new gas tax revenue.

      The money being raised is far short of what is actually needed. Our various lobbyists and legislators know that this legislation is a short-term stop-gap before the next set of legislative sessions, when raising real money will need to be discussed.

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      • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 2:47 pm

        This was something I stressed repeatedly in the ill-fated Street Fee period.


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        • David Hampsten June 9, 2017 at 3:09 pm

          Thank you for your link, it was very helpful. The figure the city got was $16 million rather than your $14 million, but neither figure dents the $70 million annual increase in deferred maintenance all that much. I suppose the annual growth in the PBOT maintenance backlog is now about $56-$58 million. What I’d love to know is the same figures for ODOT, the total maintenance backlog and the average annual growth of the deficit. Does anyone have those figures?

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  • Oliver June 9, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Skin in the game? I pay parks bonds, vehicle registration for two motor vehicles (including a surcharge for a new bridge for Clackamas county car commuters) and property taxes. I always vote for schools, even though I do not have any children.

    4 times in the last two decades I’ve paid for metro bonds to buy natural areas, which are usually sold as potential spots for new bike trails.

    You insult me Mr Monroe.

    Someone had better be doing something about the ridiculous idea of charging more to people who choose to make do with smaller more efficient motor vehicles, instead of subsidizing those who drive full size rigs.

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    • bikeninja June 9, 2017 at 12:09 pm

      I am ashamed that this guys was my high school american history teacher. Seems like he should have been teaching medieval studies with this attitude.

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  • BradWagon June 9, 2017 at 11:36 am

    None of this matters. Current policy and funding proposals being discussed for transportation are entirely insignificant in the scope of transportation challenges facing humanity. We can argue over which side of the ship we should be bailing water… but it’s still gonna sink, deploying the life boats would be a better course of action.

    That such an entirely inadequate approach to transportation reform is using so many resourcing and drawing so much attention reflects the inefficiency with which we are dealing with societal issues. No bike tax, or 50% bike tax, the current trajectory of safe alternative transportation will not change in a meaningful way. We as a state should not even consider major roadway improvements until public and active transportation availability has saturated urban, suburban and critical rural connector routes.

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  • Ted June 9, 2017 at 11:46 am

    This runs counter to the fundamental economic principal of taxing the things you want to discourage and NOT taxing the things that you do.

    I will not be renewing my membership with the Street Trust. The political calculus they’re playing is misguided.

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  • rick June 9, 2017 at 11:59 am

    No thanks. I’ve shed enough skin on the asphalt and snow over the past few years around the Portland area. Start a giant tax on metal-studded tires for cars and a general sales tax. Lower the income and property taxes.

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    • J.E. June 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Seriously. Forget “skin” in the game; I put my entire *body* in the game every time I need to use an unsafe facility when biking to my destination!

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    • El Biciclero June 9, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      Another massive downvote for “skin in the game”. Every time I hear this in reference to bicyclists, it sounds more offensive. Talk to any surviving friends/relatives of a bicyclist killed in what would have been a mere fender-bender between two autos, and see how much “skin” they believe the departed had in the game.

      Dear lawmakers: please put down your cigars for a minute and think about those who are already creating a positive net on the transportation system by not degrading it with every single trip taken. Consider increasing this positive net by incentivizing folks to trade car trips for bike trips, rather than punishing those who already give back to the system by employing non-destructive practices.

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  • Kyle Banerjee June 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I’m not a fan of the tax. As others have pointed out, it raises very little, but it’s obnoxious to boot (especially given how adamant people are about insisting that we don’t have sales taxes). This particular tax is interesting because it hits low end bikes disproportionately. While nominally regressive, the effect is not necessarily all bad.

    This encourages buying used bikes which are a much better value and avoids the tax entirely. Cheap bikes are often more expensive to own because they have such hopeless metallurgy, tolerances, quality etc that they need to be fixed a lot more often. In addition, flat tax hits the big box stores much harder than the local shops. The bad news is the actual bikes affected by the tax are going to be ridden by a lot of kids.

    I still would have preferred a $5 annual tag that all adults on bikes would be expected to pay similar to the invasive species permit. My guess is that most poor people would just ignore the tag, no one would actually get ticketed for failing to purchase a tag, but enough people would fork over the dough that they’d raise more money than with a sales tax.

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    • BB June 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      You can’t raise money with a fee that costs more to receive than it brings in, that’s pretty basic math.

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      • Kyle Banerjee June 10, 2017 at 12:13 am

        It wouldn’t cost more for the simple reason that you don’t worry about registration and other things that cost $$. Invasive species permit is $7 and that model hasn’t been so bad.

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    • OregonJelly June 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      I am absolutely opposed to any law, fee, fine, etc that is knowingly not going to be enforced.

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      • Kyle Banerjee June 10, 2017 at 12:22 am

        Bicycle fees are political theater. As such, we need to be practical about this stuff and get attention focused on more substantive issues. Who cares if 50% of people chisel the gov’t of $5/yr? Heck, they could do a few “random” checks at event rides or races where MAMILS (Middle Aged Men In Spandex) predominate and hand out a few $100 fines to people belonging to a group that can afford them for show.

        My guess is that most people would pay. I know I would.

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    • B. Carfree June 9, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      “I still would have preferred a $5 annual tag that all adults on bikes would be expected to pay similar to the invasive species permit. ” – Kyle Banerjee

      Taxing bike use similarly to invasive species? Ouch! I could see this come out as a Freudian slip from a motorhead, but from you it’s funny.

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      • Kyle Banerjee June 10, 2017 at 12:16 am

        I’m thinking of the the revenue model only. No registration. Low fees, lots of payers (way more than with the invasive species permit). Raises a lot of dough. Looks good politically and the pain is minimal.

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  • JL June 9, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Bike/Pedestrian. Not a fan of seeing it written that way.

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  • SD June 9, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    “Noll said her organization would only support a bill that included a bike tax if it met a list of conditions — including a reduction to 1 percent, an upper limit of $100 per bike, and others.”

    This is the error that the BTA/ Street Trust makes over and over again.

    Absolutely no financial penalty or restrictive law on riding a bicycle should be supported by the Street Trust. This just enables the ridiculous symbolic anti-bike legislation that seems to pop up in the minds of clueless legislators every year.

    “Skin in the game” is a totally meaningless throw away phrase in this context. Bike shops and cyclists don’t have “skin in the game” when they are forced to pay a tax. This is more accurately a “pound of flesh” or “salt in the wounds,” if Monroe needs a phrase to describe the idiocy in his mouth.

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    • 9watts June 9, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Thank you.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu June 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Welcome to the sausage-making process that is politics . . .

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      • SD June 9, 2017 at 12:36 pm

        More like welcome to amateur hour.

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    • Kyle Banerjee June 9, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Being categorically opposed to all fees only contributes to marginalization. Better to use them as a negotiating point.

      I find the 1% tax with $100 max interesting since you wouldn’t max out until your bike price hit 10 grand. I wasn’t aware that was such a huge part of the market. I wasn’t aware that bikes in that price range were ever actually bought as a bike.

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  • Matti June 9, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    If a local bike shop were to no longer offer complete bicycle sales, but instead sell frame and component packages and separate wheel packages, could this tax be skirted, since a complete bike was not sold in a single sale?

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    • Dan A June 9, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      As noted by Kyle in a previous thread, they could sell them without seats. But then it might fall into the ‘scam’ area, like the ’empty box jewelry scam’ that Trump participated in.

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  • bikeninja June 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    A more efficient way to solve our traffic problems would be to handle cars the same way we handle guns in high crime cities. Cars are dangerous, dirty and bad for the planet and the health of all that are near them. So lets do the equivalent of the “gun buy back” and pay people to not drive. Give a driver a certain amount of money to turn in their drivers license. Its probably much cheaper to pay people to stay off the roads than to spend millions in dubious expansion plans that may or may not accomplish anything. Fewer cars, more bikes, more transit, and cash back in to the local economy with fewer resources used and a great move towards climate change mitigation, a win for everyone but the auto zombies.

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    • David Hampsten June 9, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Concealed Prius permits?

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  • J.E. June 9, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    For a less conciliatory bike tax testimony, here is what BikeLoudPDX sent in: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/CommitteeMeetingDocument/133018

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  • SD June 9, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    “Being categorically opposed to all fees only contributes to marginalization.”

    Sorry, this stand alone statement doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Maybe you should tell me story about how much you bike instead.

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  • Babygorilla June 9, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Not sure where in the process the legislation is, but I imagine this change will draw the attention of Wal-Mart, Kroger and Target and there will be a result like the Columbia River Crossing proposal – killed but not because the “good” arguments prevail.

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  • rick June 9, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    Hey Rod Monroe, where is the tax in Oregon on cars? Or heavy electric cars?

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    • Dan A June 9, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      And shoes! $30 tax on shoes!

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      • q June 11, 2017 at 12:42 pm

        Exactly! Millions are spent on crosswalks and sidewalks, yet pedestrians–the only group that uses them–pay nothing. They need skin in the game. Also need a surcharge for people with wheelchairs or strollers, for triggering the need for expensive curb cuts, and for blind people for those otherwise unnecessary yellow tactile warning dots.

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  • Joe Adamski June 9, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    100,000 bikes sold, subject to the tax would gross $1.5million. Net would be far less after admin costs. One bridge over N Columbia Blvd is expected to cost $2.4 million. This promises to be a great boost for cycling State wide.
    Don’t hold your breath. This is all part of making Oregon Great Again.

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  • Dave June 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm

    I’m not an Oregon resident, so this is just a question out of curiosity but why didn’t anyone talk in terms of “no bike tax unless we get a studded tire tax?”

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  • Todd Fahrner June 9, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    26 inches you say? Sounds like a Brompton/Bike Friday/Tern subsidy to me. Sneaky!

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    • Kyle Banerjee June 10, 2017 at 12:23 am

      Nah — high performance highracer or lowracer much more fun 🙂

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  • Adam H.
    Adam H. June 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I should note that I’m downright offended by the “skin in the game” comment as if I don’t pay taxes into the general fund that pays for roads. This is literally the same argument Republicans make about people “freeloading” off our health care system.

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  • ron June 10, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    This is so counterproductive. We should be ENCOURAGING people to bike, not introducing some idiotic tax that, let’s be honest, who knows where the money will end up. what a huge middle finger to bicyclists. Will this also apply to people on motorcycles, scooters and skateboards so they also have “some skin in the game”?
    Anybody who rides at all knows fully that they literally have their skin in the game.
    This whole topic is just another symptom of our toxic political environment.
    bike riding is better for everything.
    What;s next, a tax on walking?

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  • SD June 15, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Whoever wrote this for Beyer operates at the level of “lazy intern” or has their hands tied by being forced to justify something that is not justifiable.

    “Thanks for sharing your perspective on the transportation package, specifically the proposed tax on certain bike sales.The Joint Committee on Transportation Preservation and Modernization is working on various ways to support Oregonians with all means of travel in the State.

    The excess tax would have resulted in the doubling of funding for off-road bike paths as well as for maintaining the one-percent of funding already set aside for on-street bike paths that are required of any new road construction. Together, these approaches would constitute the largest increase in investments towards bike safety in Oregon’s history.Unfortunately, Oregon’s constitution restricts any vehicle related tax or fees to maintaining roads, which in turn limits our ability to support off-road bike paths. The proposed sales tax of 3% on new bikes has been removed and replaced with a simple $15 fee on the purchase of new adult bikes. This was the recommendation of bike shop owners who testified to the committee.

    Bicycles ease stress on our infrastructure and reduce harm towards the environment. While it is perhaps desirable to consider other funding sources for supporting bike paths, the reality is that there are few options available. General funding is already in short supply, and the priority for those funds is for education and human services.

    Again, thank you for sharing your perspectives. I will keep your concerns in mind as the Joint Committee continues its work.


    Lee Beyer
    State Senator, Dist. 6
    Central Lane & Linn Counties”

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