Support BikePortland

Bike tax a big moment for cycling movement says Oregon Congressman Blumenauer

Posted by on July 13th, 2017 at 12:56 pm

Congressional Reception-10

“It’s an acknowledgment of the power of the cycling community.”
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The face of bicycling in Oregon isn’t that mad about our state’s new, $15 tax on new bicycles.

U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, who served six years in the Oregon House of Representatives and nearly 10 years as a Portland city commissioner, shared via a phone interview yesterday that he feels the tax is a “modest fee” that isn’t that big of a deal when viewed in the light of the overall infrastructure funding package.

I caught up with Blumenauer from his office in Washington D.C. where he’s standing against strong political winds.

“I think this is a really great opportunity for the cycling community to take a step back and think about the bigger picture,” he said.

Blumenauer probably knows more about the “bigger picture” than anyone in the bike advocacy game. He has fought for bicycle-related transportation funding for about 40 years. During that time he’s heard all the anti-bike arguments you can imagine.

“One of the arguments we hear repeatedly is that cyclists don’t have any skin in the game… so there’s been blowback.” Blumenauer thinks the “cyclists don’t pay” argument has only gotten louder as more money has gone to bike projects. During his tenure in politics, Blumenauer has seen Oregon implement the pioneering 1971 “Bicycle Bill” which sets aside 1 percent of all the state’s highway gas tax money for biking and walking infrastructure (which should equal about $3.7 million per year over ten years in the new bill. And federal programs like Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, and TIGER grants have funded billions in bike infrastructure. “That’s big money,” he said.

“For me, the bill represents a coming-of-age of the cycling movement. It is part of a key for more resources in the future and it’s an acknowledgment that we’re players.”
— Rep. Blumenauer

Blumenauer acknowledged that, “The cheapest way to solve traffic congestion is to get somebody out of the car in front of you,” and that the Portland region has made “significant improvements in getting more people out of cars and onto bikes.” “But,” he added, “It’s not always as compelling,” which I took to mean bicycling still doesn’t hold the political sway it deserves. And to build more political power, Blumenauer feels it’s essential that bicycle advocates have a seat at the table. In his mind, going along with this tax is simply part of the “give-and-take” of compromises that advocates should expect and engage in.

Given the bill’s unprecedented investment in public transit and Safe Routes to School — and the increased Bike Bill funding thanks to the higher gas tax — Blumenauer sees the bike tax as being “relatively modest” and “an interesting response to some of the people who argue that cyclists don’t pay their own way and that we’re already spending too much on cycling.”

While saying, “It’s not exactly how I would have designed the package,” Blumenauer is positive about the bill overall, calling it “balanced” and an important step for bicycling. “I think it moves us forward and it’s building relationships, trust and momentum that can help us next time; because we’ve got to do a lot more than this. I hope people will take a look at the big picture and see how it all evolves and realize that if we’re going to be players in the bike/ped space, it’s important to be part of the whole process.”


These two (former NYC DOT chief Janette Sadik-Khan) have some making up to do.

By “process” he means the sausage-making that went into the bill. From his view, lawmakers didn’t ignore cycling. On the contrary, he sees the bill as, “an acknowledgment of the power of the cycling community… We were an important component of the deal-making.”

Here’s a bit more of his comments on that angle of it:

“This was about preserving our seat at the table and showing we’re not opposed to participating… I think that having a little tiny tax makes it less likely that something worse comes out of left field and now a principle has been established that the cycling community is politically important and we are part of the transportation and air quality solution and I think it is highly likely that this will be part of a process that enables us to have a larger footprint in the future and I think the precedent is we’re going to be listened to and we’re flexible and we have a broad-based approach.”

Continuing on that line of thinking later in our conversation he said, “For me, the bill represents a coming-of-age of the cycling movement. It is part of a key for more resources in the future and it’s an acknowledgment that we’re players.”

Is he concerned that the bike tax tarnishes Oregon’s biking reputation he has done so much to burnish? That question made him think of the snarky tweet from his friend and former New York City DOT Director Janette Sadik-Khan. Last week she posted,”Oregon adopts nation’s 1st & only bike tax. I guess the longtime US cycling leader finally got tired of winning.”

Chuckling, he said, “I haven’t had a chance to respond to Janette, but what I want to say is, ‘Janette, I love you… But is a small fee dedicated to bike infrastructure that’s part of a much bigger package, really so misguided? And wouldn’t some of the flack you caught in New York have been moderated a little tiny bit if it appeared the cycling community had more skin in the game?'”

Oregon’s bike tax is making news around the country and it’s likely other policymakers are politicians are eyeing it for their states as well. I asked Blumenauer how he’ll respond when someone asks him if they should pursue a bike tax. “I’d tell them to take a look, not at the tax, but at the package. Look at the process, look at the dollars devoted to cycling… This tax is providing an answer to the age-old controversy that bicycles get a free ride, that it’s not fair they don’t pay for the roads… I’d tell them that this was an effort in Oregon to smooth the way for what is a significant package.”

How will we know if it works or not?

“You have to ask yourself, what can you do with it? Can you use this to build broader support? Can you get more momentum? This is just a step, now it’s up to us to make sure all the resources materialize and that the investments are done wisely and that we look, going forward, about what we need to do for bike infrastructure.”

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

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or an advertiser today.

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

  • CaptainKarma July 13, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    Bicycles should be incentivized, not taxed.

    Recommended Thumb up 65

    • bikeninja July 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm

      Exactly, the benefits that come from someone giving up a car and riding a bike are so enormous that our descendants will study this moment in history class. As they sit in their classrooms looking out at the landscape devastated by the now defunct automobile , they will wonder what form of madness overtook our brains that we could think that putting a tax on the one thing that would have saved them from this bleak future was a good idea. If our decisions were made using the seventh generation principal, as used by the Iroquois confederacy ( future generations are given a voice) we would be giving people rebates for buying bikes and proving that they gave up their automobile.

      Recommended Thumb up 12

      • Kevin July 13, 2017 at 9:01 pm

        The future is fine, but we’ve got to deal with the optics of getting ignorant drivers to accept change.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Danl Storyteller July 23, 2017 at 9:20 am

          here’s an idea on how to get “ignorant drivers” to accept change. Make hand signals MANDITORY for bicycle riders and include the hand signal recognition on the automobile driver’s test. Using hand signals properly will no only relieve congestion because everyone will know where everyone is turning, it will also lower auto/bicycle accidents. It is NOT JUST the automobile driver that needs to learn. After all, if a bicycle and an automobile get into a meeting, the bicycle ALWAYS loses, so it behooves the bicycle rider to get the auto drivers to SEE him.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Dan A July 24, 2017 at 9:06 am

            Did you angrily type this on your phone while sitting in traffic?

            Recommended Thumb up 1

          • 9watts July 24, 2017 at 9:08 am

            “Using hand signals properly will no only relieve congestion…”

            Now why didn’t we think of that?!

            Recommended Thumb up 0

          • El Biciclero July 24, 2017 at 10:05 am

            “After all, if a bicycle and an automobile get into a meeting, the bicycle ALWAYS loses, so it behooves the bicycle rider to get the auto drivers to SEE him.”

            Geez. I just can’t even.

            I’m afraid it’s a little more nuanced than that. It’s anecdotal, but the only time I’ve actually been hit by an actual car was in a MUP crossing (crosswalk) at which I had the signal, the driver had stopped, I was dressed in bright orange and was using a 600-lumen front strobe as a daytime attention-getter, as it was around 8:30 am. The driver waited until I was directly in front of him and then accelerated into me.

            Also, more anectodes, but I’ve been overtaken rather carelessly and closely on multiple occasions during right turns due to the fact that I did signal them, thereby inviting clueless drivers to cut their corners into me as they overtook, rather than maintain a proper distance for either following or passing.

            But don’t worry, I’ve adjusted my behavior to enhance my own safety by only signaling movements that will cause me to cross someone else’s path, and I don’t necessarily wait for signals to tell me when it’s “safe”. After all, the safest intersection is an empty one.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Brad July 13, 2017 at 4:14 pm

      It’s a token of a tax. The “bike tax” amounts to $1.2 million over ten years in a $5.2 billion (with a B) transportation package.

      Recommended Thumb up 9

      • Dan A July 13, 2017 at 5:24 pm

        Right, so we will be symbolically taxing people for alternatives to driving.

        Recommended Thumb up 15

        • Brad July 13, 2017 at 5:37 pm

          Not everyone, just those who could afford to spend over $500 on a bicycle.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

          • David Hampsten July 13, 2017 at 7:32 pm

            $200, not $500, which means nearly everyone.

            Recommended Thumb up 9

            • SE Rider July 14, 2017 at 8:48 am

              because no one buys used bikes?

              Recommended Thumb up 1

              • Dan A July 14, 2017 at 10:54 am

                If you like this tax, why don’t you come out and say so? You keep sort of defending it by pointing out the ways righteous people can avoid it.

                Recommended Thumb up 5

              • SE Rider July 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm

                I’m with Earl. I don’t really think it’s the big deal that many are making out to be, and a necessary component to get the bill passes (that has a lot of good things for everyone in it).

                I’m just pointing out that it’s only going to impact a small percentage of cyclists in this city (those who buy a new bike over $200). I don’t buy into the hyperbole that people are going to travel up to Vancouver to buy a bike now over a measly $15.

                Recommended Thumb up 3

              • SE Rider July 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm

                Sorry for typos.

                Recommended Thumb up 0

        • GlowBoy July 14, 2017 at 8:34 am

          Exactly. It won’t raise very much money in the big picture, so for the most part* it is a symbolic tax.

          And the symbolism – discouraging rather than encouraging cycling – is really shitty.

          * where it is NOT symbolic is at the $200-300 level, a price range where a lot of the public buy their bikes. For those either unwilling or unable to spend more than that on a bike, this 7.5% tax is a significant disincentive to cycling.

          Recommended Thumb up 15

          • wsbob July 14, 2017 at 9:52 am

            “…* where it is NOT symbolic is at the $200-300 level, a price range where a lot of the public buy their bikes. For those either unwilling or unable to spend more than that on a bike, this 7.5% tax is a significant disincentive to cycling.” glowboy

            Unwelcome…but I kind of doubt the additional 15 bucks to buy a bike in this price range, will dissuade someone from deciding to ride a bike. Out here in Beaverton, just seven miles from the big city of Portland, it’s fairly common to see working class adults riding those shiny new big box store bikes.

            I’d guess they’re people with low wage earning jobs such as landscape maintenance, restaurant work, construction work. The fifteen buck tax they’ll now be paying for those bikes commonly regarded as poor quality, could for them be far more readily spent on something like food on the table…rather than some luxury.

            This nominal tax though, isn’t probably going to be a ‘make or break’ factor in their, or anybody’s decision to decide to ride or decide not to ride a bike instead of drive, take the bus or train, or walk. Biking, as long as it can realistically meet the travel needs of each individual person that considers riding, remains by far, the most economical and efficient travel option there is.

            This 15 buck bike tax is about the amount of a couple matinee movie tickets. So, not a big deal to have to dig into the pocket to scrounge up the change to pay it. I wonder some though, whether the contribution to better biking infrastructure this money is marked to go to, really will be able to bring about the beneficial regard for biking on the part of the general public that Blumenauer hopes it will.

            Does the public widely understand and support the long time philosophical and realistic importance of people opting to use a bike for travel rather than burden the road and street system by driving or taking mass transit? This is something I think needs to somehow be known. Otherwise…though given the way this bike tax idea was put together, I kind of doubt it’ll happen…maybe it could become another nickel and dime revue source that legislators keep raising to appease negative critics of biking.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

            • GlowBoy July 20, 2017 at 10:12 am

              “Unwelcome…but I kind of doubt the additional 15 bucks to buy a bike in this price range, will dissuade someone from deciding to ride a bike.”

              Basic microeconomics, Bob: even a 1% increase in price causes a real decline in the level of demand. It might not appear likely to influence any one purchasing decision, but taken in aggregate, that 1% increase is enough to persuade a handful of people who were on the fence to make a different decision. 7% absolutely will make a difference – not for the majority, by any means – but some difference.

              Your mention of it being perceived as somewhat of a luxury – a discretionary purchase – proves my point exactly. This means demand for bicycles is highly elastic. Some percentage of people who would buy a given bike at $250 will not buy it when it costs $265*.

              * The reality is somewhat more complicated. Google “Tax Incidence” for more specifics, but a $15 tax will not fully be passed on in the form of higher prices one they reach equilibrium, because as the level of demand drops, suppliers lower their price to compensate. The amount by which they do this depends on the relative elasticities of supply and demand. I’m guessing that supply at this price range is fairly inelastic (there’s only so much you can do to reduce cost) and demand is highly elastic, so the new equilibrium price for that former $250 bike is probably about $260. Still a disincentive that’s not completely insignificant.

              Recommended Thumb up 1

            • Adam
              Adam July 20, 2017 at 10:15 am

              Such a world we live in… where $200+ bikes are a “luxury” but no one bats an eye at taking out a 5 year loan on a $20,000 automobile.

              Recommended Thumb up 1

          • Spiffy July 14, 2017 at 11:33 am

            7.5% is a pretty normal sales tax in most states… so sure, some people that might cross a state line to avoid a tax might be annoyed but if it’s really a big deal they’ll buy a slightly cheaper bike, or a used one…

            Recommended Thumb up 1

            • Beth H July 14, 2017 at 12:39 pm

              Yes, except that Oregon doesn’t HAVE a sales tax.
              And that is why so many folks from Vancouver already cross state lines to shop.
              The symbolism is crappy and the approach is punitive.
              The real symbolism send the message that you get a seat at this table — or, really, ANY meaningful table in politics — unless you pay the price of admission.
              So, instead of reducing subsidies for automobiles and gasoline, we’re going to tax a class of citizens whose transportation is NOT subsidized?

              Recommended Thumb up 7

          • SE Rider July 14, 2017 at 12:15 pm

            “$200-300 level, a price range where a lot of the public buy their bikes. For those either unwilling or unable to spend more than that on a bike, this 7.5% tax is a significant disincentive to cycling.”

            I was curious about this, so looked at a few bike shops’ online catalogs. Seems like vast majority of adult bikes (even just commuters) start around $500*. The $200-300 range is mostly kids bikes and cruisers. Even Ikea’s bike is $400-500.
            * and this is excluding the big box bikes from Walmart/Fred Meyer’s/etc. that all retail below $200

            Given the high price points on most bikes sold at independent shops (not big box), it would have generated a lot more revenue to have avoided a flat tax and gone with a 3% tax. This would still generate $15 for the average $500 bike. But I get the argument that a flat $15 is a lot easier for the shops to administer.

            Recommended Thumb up 0

            • GlowBoy July 17, 2017 at 10:43 am

              Most bikes are not purchased at bike shops.

              Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Cory P July 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm

          Skateboards are still tax free!

          Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Danl Storyteller July 23, 2017 at 9:21 am

        and it opens the door to a PEDESTRIAN tax. After all, if you walk, you have an impact.

        Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Your personal savings IS the incentive.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • TOM July 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm

      Now we all have ‘skin in the game’.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

      • Beth H July 14, 2017 at 12:40 pm

        I don’t buy it. My $15 ticket will not get me a seat at the table where the real action happens. I have NOTHING in this particular game.

        Recommended Thumb up 8

  • SD July 13, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Would have been much better for everyone if it was a check box donation on state tax form. More revenue, not regressive, not a penalty for local bike shops, reflective of Oregon values, not an open door for escalating the tax amount, and less likely to be implemented by anti-bike states.

    Recommended Thumb up 20

  • Paul Atkinson July 13, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    To me, what makes this tax bad policy — in the big picture — is that it’s a response to the false assertion that people on bicycles weren’t paying a “fair share.” The correct response to false information is to provide correct information rather than to compromise.

    This only gives the next lie more power.

    Recommended Thumb up 56

    • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:07 pm


      “This tax is providing an answer to the age-old controversy that bicycles get a free ride”

      I couldn’t disagree more with this statement by Earl. I’m curious how he thinks the thinking on this works?
      (a) the controversy is based on a misconception
      (b) the puny tax both breathes new life into the misconception, and invites criticism over how puny it is

      Recommended Thumb up 22

      • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:02 am

        9, I agree with you.

        The whole “fare share” argument we hear from motorists is not the issue – it’s simply the easiest one at hand. The real issues are deeper. When you challenge them on the who idea of who pays for what…the reasons they don’t like cyclists then change.

        Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:06 am


          jeez…my brain is not working today.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Kittens July 13, 2017 at 11:23 pm

      The problem here is that the same people who would make the ridiculous assertion that bikes are “not paying their fair share” are in no way going to be swayed by this $15 tax.

      For them, there’s no amount great enough to persuade a change of heart because theirs is an opinion not based in reality.

      And yet it is sends the WRONG message about bikes and priorities.

      I don’t care how you want to massage it. It’s just wrong and anyone not in the weeds recognizes this.

      Recommended Thumb up 23

  • Adam
    Adam July 13, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    I’m getting real sick of this “skin in the game” argument. As if I don’t pay income tax, property tax, etc. If anything, drivers don’t have enough skin in the game, since the gas tax still isn’t keeping pace with the maintenance backlog we’ve accrued, not to mention the unnecessary highway widening this bill will fund. In an ideal world, governments should be subsidizing programs that are good for society, not taxing them – things like affordable housing, health care, and low-impact transportation should be encouraged, not slapped with symbolic taxes to appease out-of-touch carheads.

    It’s saddening to see Rep. Blumenauer buying into the right-wing mantra that cyclists don’t pay their fair share.

    Recommended Thumb up 46

    • Middle of the Road Guy July 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm

      How much did you pay last year, Adam? What amount is a “fair share”?

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Adam
        Adam July 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm

        Oh sure, like I’m going to just post my tax returns in the comments of a public blog…

        Recommended Thumb up 13

        • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:08 pm

          MOTRG loves this; jeering from the sidelines, never committing to anything.

          Recommended Thumb up 13

          • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:08 am

            Nope, I am just asking someone to quantify what they think they pay.

            If you say you pay a fair share, I am curious as to what the amount is.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

            • Beth H July 14, 2017 at 12:41 pm

              To pay a “fair share”, you’ve gotta EARN a fair share first. Just sayin’.

              Recommended Thumb up 3

            • Adam
              Adam July 15, 2017 at 11:20 am

              I happen to reject the neoliberal Reagan-esque idea that in order to receive services, one must first “pay their fair share into the system”. Ideally, government would collect tax revenue and distribute it to things that improve society as a whole. Whether someone “earned” it is irrelevant.

              Recommended Thumb up 5

      • K Taylor July 13, 2017 at 9:08 pm

        Given that licensing fees and gas tax are now paying less than half the cost of roadway projects in the US and motor vehicles are responsible for pretty much all the wear and tear not caused by nature, and cars cause massive amounts of pollution, and a huge number of roadways are either inaccessible to bikes and pedestrians or so dangerous/unpleasant they can’t be used by anyone not in a vehicle, I’d say people who don’t have cars and walk, bike or take the bus shouldn’t be expected to pay anything. I’d happily revise that opinion if personal cars were pushed into last place for transportation dollars.

        Recommended Thumb up 20

        • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:09 pm

          Todd Litman has answered MOTRG’s question in great detail, and he agrees pretty much with you, K Taylor.

          Recommended Thumb up 7

          • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:21 am

            Actually, he does not answer my question. It’s a great article on costs and benefits but it does not answer “what is a fair share.” Yeah, cars have greater impacts. Nobody is debating that but the reality is that we all pay something different. I would argue that a motorist who makes $200k a year is paying more into the system than does a cyclist making $30k. So who is paying a fair share? The overall benefits outweigh the costs, but Cycling infrastructure still requires funding and has impacts/opportunity costs.

            That cyclists are better invested in local roads in the strongest argument. DOT roads are pretty much subsidizing both cycling and car use since a majority of the fees come from sources other than gas tax, registration and general fund.

            “Although motor vehicle user fees fund a major share of state highway expenses, local
            roads, the roads that pedestrians and cyclists use most, are mainly funded through general taxes that residents pay regardless of how they travel. General tax funds are also spent on various traffic services, such as policing, emergency services, and subsidized parking. (Litman 2009).”

            Recommended Thumb up 3

            • 9watts July 16, 2017 at 8:00 am

              “the reality is that we all pay something different. I would argue that a motorist who makes $200k a year is paying more into the system than does a cyclist making $30k. So who is paying a fair share?”

              OK now I think I’m starting to get your drift. What I think we need to tally and then compare are
              (a) the periodic or “operating” costs, such as fuel, vehicle maintenance, highway maintenance, salaries of police officers, travel-time, noise, injuries from accidents, and disease from air pollution;
              (b) the replacement value of all capital, such as highways, parking lots, and residential garages (i.e., terms that provide a stream of services), converted into an equivalent stream of annual costs (annualized) over the life of the capital, on the basis of real discount rates; and
              (c) the human health and climate impacts of motor vehicle use and associated costs;
              (d) other costs not captured by any of the above categories, such as land use changes, the provision of nearly ubiquitous free parking, inequality that is exacerbated by our over-reliance on the automobile (Catherine Lutz), etc.

              I haven’t found the meta study that attempts to sum all of these costs there are such studies and I’ve read them), but from memory the figure divided into a per gallon charge dwarfs what we normally think. Somewhere in the $15-$24 range as I recall.

              “The overall benefits outweigh the costs,”
              I’m not sure I understand what you are saying here. Can you explain?

              “but Cycling infrastructure still requires funding and has impacts/opportunity costs.”

              Let’s recap. Attempting to combine all the direct and indirect costs of the automobile we find the cost per gallon of gas (one reasonable metric; there are of course others) to be ~$20. This is of course a far cry from what we (anyone, individual or society) currently pays, which is why we’re in the hole, borrowing from the future. Now let’s compare this to the total direct and indirect costs that bicycling represents. Somewhere between zero and ‘lost in the noise’ I would venture.
              Manufacturing, shipping, and maintaining the vehicles (bikes) represents a non-zero cost that I am comfortable assuming will in some imperfect manner be reflected in the prices paid for by the purchaser/owner. You are exercised about the cost of cycling infrastructure, which I’ve argued here for years is derivative and would not be needed but for the car. Even discounting that, the total (direct and indirect) costs of bike infrastructure are, I’d venture, trivial in this comparison, impossible to filter from the noise.

              Some light reading on the general subject:







              Recommended Thumb up 3

        • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:22 am

          Except that is not how public goods work. We frequently fund things we do not use.

          Recommended Thumb up 3

          • Beth H July 14, 2017 at 12:43 pm

            Or they are so heavily subsidized that the public never sees just how expensive they really are (or ought to be) — like car ownership or car-centric infrastructure.

            Recommended Thumb up 8

            • Dave July 15, 2017 at 12:31 pm

              and public school.

              Recommended Thumb up 2

          • K Taylor July 15, 2017 at 1:31 am

            Yes, but it makes no sense to subsidize car use as a public good. It’s not a public good, it’s a private good.

            Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Stephen Keller July 13, 2017 at 1:49 pm

      This was one of the things I talked about in emails to my Senator. In principle, I am unhappy with the tax as long as owners of motor vehicles were so heavily subsidized out of the state’s general resources. It’s something of a quandary for me, because about half my miles are traveled in a well-loved Subaru. As a driver, I don’t mind the current tax situation so much. It lets me comfortably not think too hard about the costs of driving to the supermarket. As bicycle commuter, the fact that general fund dollars are disproportionately funneled into roads offends me.

      Personally, I would like to replace our gas taxes with an annual per/mile levy on all vehicles that operate on Oregon roads (even out of state ones, such as long haul truckers and Washington commuters). The rate would be proportional to the gross weight of the vehicle. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to implement that sort of thing without raising the hackles of privacy advocates everywhere.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Adam
        Adam July 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        Yeah, I don’t love the idea of a GPS tracker that logs how many miles you drive in Oregon. However, I wonder if we can accomplish something similar by just tolling or adding congestion pricing all highways in Oregon and some of the busier bridges. That way, freight will have to pay to use I-5 and drivers from Hillsboro or Vancouver will think twice about driving into the city center and consider transit instead. The state would only have a record of what tolls you passed though and not a complete GPS log of every location you visited.

        Honestly, even a relatively inaccurate self-reported milage tax would be better than what we have currently. Drivers would just have to keep track of how many miles they drove outside of Oregon and subtract that from the odometer reading.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

        • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:11 pm

          a stiff gas tax would surely accomplish what you’re after much cheaper, or am I missing something?

          I mean I love congestion pricing and tolls as much as the next person (I mean bikeportland commenter), but some ways of dis/incentivizing behaviors are cheaper to set up and administer than others.

          Recommended Thumb up 5

          • Adam
            Adam July 14, 2017 at 12:36 am

            I’m all for a stiffer gas tax, but unfortunately as electric vehicles become more prevevalent, the gas tax is weakened. Maybe we need a battery tax too?

            Recommended Thumb up 3

            • 9watts July 14, 2017 at 5:54 am

              Don’t fall for the EV hype, Adam. Let’s face it Norway has ***far higher*** EV mode share than just about anyone, and are they worried that the gas tax sky is about to fall?

              Of course, they already have a gas-tax-worthy-of-the-name, which more than pays for the kinds of things we never get.

              Recommended Thumb up 4

            • bArbaroo July 15, 2017 at 2:37 pm

              Did you not hear? There will be a tax on electric bikes! Not a battery tax but a full on excise tax which is the same tax being applied to new autos. That tax is to help raise funds to provide e-car incentives.

              Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Another Engineer July 14, 2017 at 9:42 am

          Adam, we could accomplish something similar but why would we? The advantages of a GPS system far outweigh the privacy concerns, which can be heavily regulated. Plus if you carry a phone on you every day I am pretty sure the NSA could find out what you’ve been up to if they really wanted to.

          The Oregon pilot system for a per mile tax uses a GPS tracker to log your miles and one of the end goals is real time variable congestion pricing to manage demand and help funnel people to other modes. This is one of the reasons tolling was adopted in the bill. Would you rather spend a little bit of money building a software solution that doesn’t cause additional delay and can use variable rates to tax higher during peak times while dedicating the other funds to other infrastructure. Or would you like to spend millions building out older style tolling systems and tolling plazas using up precious right of way?

          Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Spiffy July 14, 2017 at 11:42 am

          privacy in your own affairs is a right, but driving on public roads is not… the state could pass a law requiring all vehicles on public roads to have a GPS tracker reporting to the DMV… don’t want the government knowing where you’re going? then don’t use a vehicle that is easily a weapon…

          Recommended Thumb up 2

          • El Biciclero July 15, 2017 at 3:53 pm

            Be sure you say “…all motor vehicles”, or the tracker goes on your bike, too. Plus, GPS tracking would likely turn into another “no fair” cry from drivers; one more thing those bicyclists don’t have to suffer with. “They need to be licensed, taxed, and GPS-tracked like the rest of us if they want to be legitimate road users!”

            Recommended Thumb up 1

          • Pete July 15, 2017 at 10:38 pm

            You use a cellular phone? You’re already tracked, and it’s not exactly done with GPS technology. Doesn’t matter what you’re vehicle of choice is – phone is on, you’re tracked. Phone is off you say? Not really…

            Recommended Thumb up 2

      • Kyle Banerjee July 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm

        One of the cool things about gas taxes is they do a fairly decent job of accomplishing exactly what you want. The more miles you drive, the more you pay. The bigger your vehicle, the more you pay.

        Electric isn’t really a factor, but adding in a rough fee for those as they’ve recently done seems reasonable enough.

        People obsess with road use taxes, but that’s just not where their hard earned cash goes. Just as adding a dime to a gallon of gas is totally insignificant in terms of the cost of operating a vehicle, a one time $15 fee that only applies to new bikes is also totally insignificant in terms of the long term operating cost of a bike.

        This is not a good hill to die on. As was pointed out, this is about the package which turned out pretty well considering all the competing interests that needed to be balanced.

        Recommended Thumb up 18

      • Another Engineer July 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

        Stephen this is already in the works right here in the State of Oregon which is leading a consortium of States in the West. A fun fact, the damage to weight function for roads is a cubic function so a linear function proportional to weight would still be subsidizing large vehicles and freight! Check out the program at the link below:

        Recommended Thumb up 1

        • Stephen Keller July 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm

          I was aware of the scaling issue but figured “proportional” was fuzzy enough to slide by.

          I didn’t realize anyone was trying to account for in the tax plans, though.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Gary B July 13, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      I don’t think he’s “buying into the mantra” by admitting it to be an acceptable political strategy. You can fault him for being pragmatic, if you choose, not for being ill-informed.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

    • wsbob July 14, 2017 at 10:21 am

      I think Blumenauer is right to think that people that bike being willing to make some direct contribution to the road system infrastructure that helps to make biking a viable means of travel, may help them get a better seat at the table where decisions about solving transportation problems are made.

      “…And to build more political power, Blumenauer feels it’s essential that bicycle advocates have a seat at the table. In his mind, going along with this tax is simply part of the “give-and-take” of compromises that advocates should expect and engage in. …” bikeportland

      Lots of people have been saying for years that people biking don’t pay anything towards road use the way that people driving do through the gas tax. This tax on new bikes makes such a contribution in a more visible and direct way than any indirect contribution through income taxes, property taxes, etc. do. And, at 15 bucks, it’s just a very nominal amount, and rather than being lost in some slush fund, is earmarked specifically to projects that will aid and enhance the viability of biking and walking as practical and enjoyable means of travel.

      It’s kind of the answer to ‘You want money from biking? Ok…here’s money. Now it’s your turn to listen and help more to allow biking to be the means it can be to have the roads working better.’.

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • rick July 13, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Users of metal-studded cars aren’t players in Oregon. No tax and no fee for them. I just saw a truck using them yesterday on Sylvan on SW Scholls Ferry Road.

    Recommended Thumb up 19

  • BikeSlobPDX July 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    I just bought a bike in May, so I won’t be paying that tax any time soon. Yet somehow the fact that the tax exists means I’m now no longer considered a freeloader. This is making less and less sense.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Chris I July 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      Don’t worry, the sociopaths that dangerously buzz you while you ride around town will still call you a freeloader if you get in a heated discussion at the next light. This tax will change nothing.

      Recommended Thumb up 19

      • Dan A July 13, 2017 at 2:56 pm

        People that complain about bicyclist freeloaders aren’t paying attention and have no idea how the numbers work. They aren’t going to notice this change either.

        Recommended Thumb up 14

        • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:17 pm

          That is one version, one interpretation of how this might register.
          Another is that they now have an opportunity to notice that with this new fee we most definitely were freeloaders before, and that the fee—by virtue of its puniness—isn’t really much of a contribution, at least from the perspective we’re imputing to this segment of the population. So where is the win?

          Recommended Thumb up 5

          • Dan A July 14, 2017 at 8:11 am

            Also true.

            Recommended Thumb up 1

      • GlowBoy July 14, 2017 at 8:26 am

        Yes! Why, if only this tax had gotten passed a couple years ago!

        Then I wouldn’t have gotten buzzed on Skyline a couple years ago by a driver screaming “get off my f****** road!”

        Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Go By Bike
    Go By Bike July 13, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Great perspective from someone who has probably helped guide more money go to bicycling than anyone else in the country (maybe?). I am also not that upset by the $15 for the same reasons Earl gave. One of my first thoughts when I heard about the tax was, “I wonder what Terry Parker is going to do with his time now?” He is going to have to get rid of all his “tax the bike” hats and signs. Who knows, maybe he will start riding a bike on one of the new awesome trails that are built with this money.

    Recommended Thumb up 17

    • Chris I July 13, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Earl is clearly too reasonable to be working in the House of Representatives. He definitely doesn’t fit in with the current breed of congressional leaders that have been elected in the past few years.

      Recommended Thumb up 7

      • granpa July 13, 2017 at 5:29 pm

        Too reasonable for many patrons of this blog also

        Recommended Thumb up 9

    • Erik Sandblom July 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      “He is going to have to get rid of all his “tax the bike” hats and signs. ”

      No, the anti-bike people will say the tax is not high enough. And they will find roads which this tax does not fund, and they will want to prohibit cyclists from there. A lot of people believe bikes do not belong on the road, and a special bike tax is unlikely to change their minds.

      Recommended Thumb up 15

      • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:19 pm

        It doesn’t take much head scratching to imagine exactly this line of thinking.
        Terry Parker, John Charles, Randy O’Toole, and their ilk.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

      • GlowBoy July 14, 2017 at 8:27 am

        Yeah, like this is going to stop them. Hahahaha!

        Recommended Thumb up 1

      • JeffS July 14, 2017 at 11:36 am

        And because the tax funds no roads, that means all of them.

        Of course, cycling “advocates” around here are working towards the very same goal with their insistence on the segregation of bike traffic.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Todd Hudson July 13, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    One thing that keeps not getting mentioned is Oregon’s constitutional requirement of 60% majority for any tax increase. Both chambers needed Republican votes for this to pass. The bike tax was the bone thrown to get those votes.

    The “skin in the game” argument is inane, but the alternative to the bike tax was to watch the entire bill die and just hope things get solved in the next session.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • Paul Atkinson July 13, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      I’ve heard this argument but I don’t find it convincing…yet.

      Has anyone provided a list of representatives for whom this tax was the key to flipping their votes? With several people asserting that it was necessary to get the votes I’d imagine at least one of those people could mention *whose* votes it was required to get. I asked the Street Trust after they said this — no response. Earl mentions no one, but he wasn’t in the negotiation. Now you…do you know a rep for whom this was the tipping point?

      WIthout any names, I begin to feel as if it’s more of a plausible (but unsupported) story rather than an actual fact.

      Recommended Thumb up 13

      • Gary B July 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm

        I think it’s rare when a single item in a huge bill carries specific votes tied to it, so I think your ask is far-fetched. Look at the Senate Trump”care” bill–the new version axed the tax cut for rich folks, but it did a whole lot of other things too. Yet still Senator Collins is “skeptical.” If they make one more change that gets her vote, is it attributed to that change or one of the other dozens? Which one was the specific item?

        I believe The Street Trust that this tax was *part* of what it took to get it passed, based on what we know about the bill nearly dying before being saved.

        Recommended Thumb up 3

        • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:21 pm

          But there still were conversations, arguments, log rolling, back scratching, etc. I think Paul Atkinson’s question is entirely reasonable. Without some clarification it is just too easy to blow smoke in our faces with a statement like this.

          Recommended Thumb up 2

    • David Hampsten July 13, 2017 at 7:50 pm

      I know already that no one on this blog cares, but the $15 is a flat fee, not a sales tax at all, so the double-majority clause does not apply. For a $1,000 bike, it’s 1.5%, which is far smaller than the sales tax paid in 45 US states. In most states, the “fee” is between $30 (in Colorado) and $72.50 (in California), to about $100 in parts of Louisiana, for that same $1,000 bike. If advocates from other states are really upset over the Oregon fee, why are they not working to eliminate sales taxes in their states, or at least allow an exemption for bicycles?

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 14, 2017 at 9:24 am


        The comparison to a general sales tax isn’t valid in my opinion. The power of this tax isn’t in the dollar amount as much as in its political symbolism. Our legislature — with not much high-profile opposition from bike/walk/enviro advocacy groups — passed a sin tax on bicycling. And they did it to curry votes. That’s it.

        Lawmakers and other advocates who are OK with this (recall that it was intially an idea of City Club of Portland and Metro) simply gave up trying to fight the “cyclists don’t pay” argument. Instead of create a different narrative/proposal and fighting the absurdity of taxing bikes, they encouraged and/or went along with this.

        I’m finding that the closer someone is to the sausage-making, the more OK they are with this tax.

        Recommended Thumb up 5

        • David Hampsten July 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm

          You are right, I’m pretty close to the sausage-making process. Not the casing, but certainly the ingredients, and some of the herbs. I also have a fair idea how them sausages will be cooked and by whom.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Al July 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    I am deeply disappointed with Blumenauer about this.

    I’m disappointed that he chose to speak out without being informed about the process that burdened us with the bike tax. I’m disappointed that he chose to repeat the “skin in the game” phrase which, given the recent trend in cycling fatalities, is inappropriate. I’m disappointed that he is setting up the anti-cycling interest groups and politicians for greater gains. It would have been better had he simply declined to comment on the tax.

    Talk of a bicycle tax has popped up in legislative sessions before and it never amounted to anything. I suspect that, this time, it became reality because:
    – rural republican lawmakers were upset that Connect Oregon which is funded by the Oregon Lottery to promote intermodal transportation and typically spends money on rail and aviation projects in their districts, spent a small pittance on bicycle projects in its last round of funding.
    – they added the tax to offset money Connect Oregon would potentially spend on bicycling in the future to leave lottery funding free to pay for their pet rail and aviation projects
    – democrats were focused elsewhere and found the reliable source of revenue appealing or simply allowed the bike tax for some other line item concession in the bill. When asked, they will respond almost verbatim to Blumenauer but I suspect that there was a deal.

    Some facts that refute the need for a bicycle sales tax:
    – cyclists already overpay into transportation infrastructure because a considerable amount is derived from the general fund and bicycle infrastructure costs are negligible compared to motorist infrastructure costs
    – most cyclists are also motorists like myself. In fact, every time I commute to work pedaling, there’s a motorcycle and car in my garage that sits there unused. I paid into the transportation infrastructure like a motorist but I’m only using the system like a cyclist which already puts me far ahead of the typical driver in terms of having “skin in the game” to use that hateful phrase.
    – cyclists tend to have more than one bicycle and yet we can only use one at a time. In fact some bicycles like track bikes will never see a road and yet will pay into the system none the less.
    – cycling generates massive positive externalities for the state of Oregon by improved health of the population and the world by reduced carbon emissions. This alone should make cycling an activity worth subsidizing!

    A bicycle sales tax makes about as much sense as a shoe sales tax to pay for sidewalks.

    Is it possible to ballot this tax away and who will do so?

    Recommended Thumb up 17

    • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      All good points, and well articulated.

      “Is it possible to ballot this tax away and who will do so?”

      I’m afraid the damage has been done, the goose has been cooked. To do as you propose would put us that much further back, into the vortex of misconception and resentment that of course predated this round, but has now received a powerful shot in the arm. How’s that for a bunch of mixed metaphors?

      Recommended Thumb up 3

  • bikeninja July 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    The way I like to look at is if some benevolent space aliens arrived and used their dematerializer ray to zap all the automobiles, SUV’s and pickups on earth and turn them into topsoil, fresh water and glaciers the cyclists wouldn’t need any road infrastructure spending at all. The existing roads, sidewalks and bridges ( now free of cars) would last us for generations with minimal maintenance. But if the evil aliens arrived to punish mankind and used their “karma” ray to eliminate all bicycles and the knowledge to make them then the roads would be even more crowded and even more infrastructure spending would be required.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

    • canuck July 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

      Actually no they wouldn’t. Nature is an amazing force. A small crack a little water and freezing temperatures and you now have a pot hole started. Same little crack add a seed and a little water and your asphalt is destroyed. Just look at the state of any number of bike paths that don’t have car traffic, yet a single tree abutting the path can send out roots the destroy the path. It wouldn’t take a generation before those roads were in very sorry shape.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • bikeninja July 13, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        Gravel Biking for ALL!

        Recommended Thumb up 6

        • Kyle Banerjee July 13, 2017 at 3:53 pm

          It wouldn’t be only unbikeable, it would be difficult to walk.

          All backcountry travelers are familiar with the term “bushwacking.” Even if you’re healthy and fit, it can get very difficult and slow. It takes surprisingly little time for large trees to come down, significant areas get consumed by bramble, hillsides collapse, paths along waterways wash out, etc.

          Even the burliest bikes can only be used in very limited conditions as far as Mother Nature is concerned.

          Recommended Thumb up 5

          • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:30 pm


            As if biking (with 21st century tire technology) required asphalt. The nice thing about (sensible) bikes is they can go most anywhere. Do you think really people in Laos or Burkina Faso or Haiti can’t bike because there are few paved roads in their countries?

            And we don’t all have to have Danny McCaskill’s balance either.

            Recommended Thumb up 4

            • Kyle Banerjee July 14, 2017 at 9:39 am

              Have you ever been in unmaintained areas? I suspect the examples you’re thinking of are pretty busy, have a lot of people, have packed everything down really good, and have long removed most of the things that cause trouble.

              Even dirt trails need maintenance. On flat ground, things fall on them and grow through them. A tree is not just a trunk, but there are a zillion branches. When one falls on the path, getting by can be tricky. When multiple trees come down, it can be nearly impenetrable. Things like brambles can also make life difficult. Flooding sometimes cuts deep trenches, and once you add hills, it gets awful fast.

              For a glimpse of what it can be like, I recommend experimenting with some of these forest roads that are closed for the winter and typically don’t get reopened until June or July. They’re typically not passable to something on wheels — unless you have a chain saw and winch with you. It would work for awhile in populated areas for awhile, but only because most of nature has been removed and paved over. Eventually, it will come back.

              Bikes don’t need pavement, but they do need relatively smooth surfaces regardless of your skilz. I am somewhat amused by this discussion. Portland has excellent cycling surfaces to the point that few cyclists are prepared to change a flat (a shocking number don’t even know how) — you may recall how strongly people felt about having a bit of gravel around after the snowstorms….

              Recommended Thumb up 1

            • Middle of the Road Guy July 14, 2017 at 10:27 am

              Those really are amazing videos.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

            • resopmok July 14, 2017 at 6:33 pm

              I think it’s a valid argument to make that historically speaking, the best use of the wheel technology has been on maintained roads. After this, the use of burden-bearing beasts is a reasonable alternative for less maintained, unmarked, or other back country routes.

              Recommended Thumb up 0

      • El Biciclero July 24, 2017 at 10:16 am

        Well, bikeninja did say “with minimal maintenance”, which I think would be true compared to the amount of maintenance required to keep up with heavy vehicle damage.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

    • buildwithjoe July 14, 2017 at 10:06 am

      Bike ninja wins the best comment award and should be given a guest article piece. The bike haters were given a false sense of delivering Karma to their enemy.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Mike 2 July 18, 2017 at 2:27 pm

      Get rid of the bikes too! Walking for everyone!

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Tom Hardy July 13, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    I am curious from the announcement yesterday on the news (KGW) of the fact that Oregon and specifically greater Portland was given permission to institute tolls on the federal highways for the purposes of paying for the I-5, 26, I-84, and I-205 improvements. Is this the billion dollar transportation grant money or in addition to pay for the 14 years that it will take to finish the 1 year projects?
    217 will have to be included as well. It will take care of the employment problem manning the toll stations 24/7 on ALL the entrances and exits from the freeways. it is the only way to catch all the trucks, cars, Washington commuters in SOV’s ETC…

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Gary B July 13, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      Given permission? The Act tasks ODOT with seeking permission. Unless the State made that request and the USDOT turned it around all in less than week (it didn’t), I think there was some mis-reporting (or mis-hearing).

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Kevin July 13, 2017 at 9:48 pm

      I don’t get your post. Are you against drivers paying their fair share?

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rachel b July 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    A very good rundown of the true costs of driving, from The Atlantic, a couple years ago.

    “A report published earlier this year confirms, in tremendous detail, a very basic fact of transportation that’s widely disbelieved: Drivers don’t come close to paying for the costs of the roads they use. Published jointly by the Frontier Group and the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, “Who Pays for Roads?” exposes the myth that drivers are covering what they’re using.

    Recommended Thumb up 12

    • Al July 13, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      This is an excellent article. Thank you for sharing.

      I find the following paragraph especially useful in this discussion:

      “To be sure, these same questions can be raised about public-transit, biking, and walking projects. And for transit projects, close financial scrutiny is far more common than for roads. A key difference with these other forms of transportation is that they arguably come with bigger social benefits—lower congestion, less pollution, and greater safety. They also make transportation available to those who don’t own or can’t operate a motor vehicle.”

      Recommended Thumb up 2

    • bikeninja July 13, 2017 at 3:42 pm

      True, yet another reason that happy motoring will soon come to an end. As states become increasingly unable to subsidize roads ( Illinois, NJ, CT, Maine etc) and same becomes true of the federal government then people will find that they really couldn’t afford it after all.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

      • David Hampsten July 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm

        However, we’ll always be able to afford the wars we wage, especially if they are to protect our oil supplies (or opium in Afghanistan.) Compared to the Pentagon, highways is small change.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

      • Mossby Pomegranate July 13, 2017 at 10:25 pm

        Obama lives in a 8 MILLION dollar house. Man of the people for sure!

        Recommended Thumb up 1

  • I wear many hats July 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    Perception is EVERYTHING. Just look at the local mountain biking debate. Earl is right, it was worth doing because it gained more for active transportation than it cost active transporters. It was well worth paying a pittance to refute that tired inaccurate argument that cyclists don’t pay.

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • 9watts July 13, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      “to refute that tired inaccurate argument that cyclists don’t pay”

      How do you refute something by confirming it?
      Sounds to me like something the Mad Hatter might propose to the Dormouse?

      Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Beth H July 14, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Well, no, I don’t think so. Buying into this warped view of gamesmanship means giving my power away with no meaningful benefit for me — or the community — being offered in return.
      Unless you think that simply getting the anti-bicycle crowd off our backs is the best we’ll ever achieve.
      Refusing to play their game — by living simply, refusing to shop my way to happiness/social acceptance/whatever else, and remembering that climate change is real — will cost me lots of political capital. But I get to keep my soul.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Allan L. July 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    Who says we’re not mad about it? I’m mad about it.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • grrlpup July 13, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    I’m not gnashing my teeth over the fifteen dollars, but I’m still a little bummed by Rep. Blumenauer’s remarks. The cycling community now has “skin in the game” and that’s the same as “a seat at the table” and they’re now “participating” because they’re paying a new fee? I think our government should be looking out for everyone including kids, old people, poor people, et cetera, not operating as pay-to-play. I know that’s naive but I still wanted to say it.

    Recommended Thumb up 16

    • Eric Leifsdad July 14, 2017 at 2:05 am

      And “we are part of the transportation and air quality solution” — who is “we”? There is no “cycling community special interest group” waiting to solve climate change, air quality, traffic, and health care while everybody sits on a rolling armored couch burning fossil fuels and running over people on bikes. I can’t bike anyone else’s commute for them. Most people are going to have to get out of their cars (maybe onto an e-bike) and do it.

      We can’t treat something that we need most people to be doing like some special requests from the few who are doing it now. (I think the legislature actually treated biking more like a recreational hobby here since this tax doesn’t go to transportation (so we don’t actually have any new skin in the road game here but you can’t well-actually somebody who is thick enough to think we need people to pay a tax to use a bike.))

      We don’t need “the cycling community” to have a seat at the table. We need the whole table to be on board with people riding bikes as a key part of urban and even suburban transportation.

      The e-bike community (“cheaters”) didn’t even get a seat at a table, they just got signed-up to bankroll cars and nothing in return.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

      • JeffS July 14, 2017 at 11:42 am

        There is no group who uses a bike primarily for environmental reasons. That’s a tertiary benefit that we use when we want to feign moral superiority over people who don’t share our lifestyle choices.

        Recommended Thumb up 2

        • Dan A July 14, 2017 at 12:38 pm

          Are you saying 9watts is the only one? I don’t believe you.

          Recommended Thumb up 1

    • Pete July 15, 2017 at 10:52 pm

      “…not operating as pay-to-play.”

      Exactly. I don’t have a “seat at the table” for decisions on public school education, yet over 70% of my property taxes (in two different states) break down as going to local public schools and community colleges. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve voted for educational bond measures, but parents and non-parents don’t have much (if any) “skin in the game” on how administrators spend our money. Maybe a ‘child tax’ would help ‘acknowledge the power of the parenting community’?

      That drivers – and legislators – don’t seem to see a bicyclist as someone who is reducing impact on state roadway expenditure and reducing traffic congestion by eliminating another car in front of them at that red light is beyond me.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

      • 9watts July 16, 2017 at 6:48 am

        “That drivers – and legislators – don’t seem to see a bicyclist as someone who is reducing impact on state roadway expenditure and reducing traffic congestion by eliminating another car in front of them at that red light is beyond me.”

        That, my friend, is an excellent question/observation. So much about the conversation at the state levels is so utterly lacking w/r/t the basic facts and relationships.

        Recommended Thumb up 1

      • El Biciclero July 17, 2017 at 9:27 am

        Similarly, I don’t see how those complaining about how easy bicyclists have it aren’t doing everything they can to take advantage of the cushy, tax-free life of a bicyclist. Not many seem to even try. Not even a little bit. Play not to pay, if you will. Why isn’t everyone clamoring to jump on the freeloading bandwagon?

        Recommended Thumb up 4

        • Pete July 17, 2017 at 9:57 pm

          One would think with all those complaints about ever-increasing traffic delays, that more people would venture an alternative.

          Recommended Thumb up 0

          • Dan A July 18, 2017 at 7:37 am

            It’s not bad enough yet.

            Recommended Thumb up 2

            • El Biciclero July 19, 2017 at 7:59 pm

              But– but– but—congestion!

              Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Todd Boulanger July 13, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    So here is my pitch to make lemons into lemonade…

    …how about documenting this purchase “fee” paid with a secure sticker that would document to drivers that the bike’s [lifetime] purchase tax has been paid AND help track it in case of theft…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

    • Kevin July 13, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Gotta tag it every two years.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

    • JeffS July 14, 2017 at 11:39 am

      When you finish collecting and enforcing the tax, hiring people to run the sticker department, not to mention equity departments for the enforcement and sticker departments, will there be any money left?

      Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Phil Richman July 13, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    We need to stop referring to ourselves as “the cycling community.”

    Recommended Thumb up 6

    • Stephen Keller July 14, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Agreed. Personally, I’m just some guy trying to get to work on time. A couple days a week I use a bicycle because driving stress is way worse than cycling stress. The only down side to cycling is I don’t get to spend all those dues on gym membership.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Kyle Banerjee July 14, 2017 at 11:00 am

      We are part of the cycling community the same way we are Oregonians or Portlanders.

      Curiously, I have never described myself to anyone face to face as being any of those things and don’t expect I ever will….

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Mossby Pomegranate July 13, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Oh please…Blumenauaer is such a *******. Have your lives on a bike really improved because of this politician? Please site specific examples. I can’t think of any.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Jenya July 13, 2017 at 11:43 pm

    I’m disappointed by the comments and attitude of Earl Blumenauer here. But he didn’t really have anything to do with this bill and bike tax.

    Serious question: how do we get a real bike advocate elected to office? Can we replace “skin-in-the-game” Oregon Senator Rod Monroe, who apparently doesn’t think that people who bike have enough skin in the game, despite spilling blood on the streets. There are many of us who own cars, pay taxes and still choose to bike to work, and many more who would choose to bike if it was safer and more convenient than driving.

    Monroe is involved in the transportation committees and is a big proponent of widening our freeways for business interests. He also is the biggest landlord in the Legislature, and will block any attempts at rent control. The guy is 74 years old and has been politicking long enough. We should be able to do better.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • Wisconsin Resident July 14, 2017 at 8:08 am

    I lost all respect for Blumenauer and his complete lack of understanding on how infrastructure is paid for. More importantly for those of us outside Oregon you pretty much just screwed us over as now bike opposition is gathering around this bill and proposing similar measures. It is extremely important that the “bike supporters” in OR understand that for the rest of the country, outside of highways, almost all local infrastructure is paid for by sales/property/income tax which we contribute to disproportionately as cyclists considering we do almost zero damage to the roads. Even the federal highway fund which trickles down to the states is now supported with annual transfers of $10 billion + from the general fund.

    To “get a seat at the table” how about you start educating your constituents on how infrastructure is funded instead of resorting to extremely regressive and counter productive taxes.

    Recommended Thumb up 14

  • Mike Sanders July 14, 2017 at 9:07 am

    This idea that accepting the bike tax was needed not only to get the transportation bill passed but proves to the powers that be that the ped/bike community now has, and deserves, a seat at the table, is interesting. If the provision wasn’t there, the argument goes, the bill would’ve died, and we would’ve had to wait until next session for that bill, which might not have had any ped/bike funding at all. Earl’s right. This is a step on a long road, and we must look at it in terms of the Big Picture. Trump wants to kill all transcontinental Amtrak service, which is becoming more bike friendly, on the argument that we don’t need, or can afford, Coast to Coast service. Trump’s vision calls for N-S service on the west and east coasts, and a few locals out of Chicago covering the surrounding area only (Chicago-St. Louis, for example). Earl must defend Amtrak’s very existence, and we need to help him do that. Bike friendly train service is part of the Big Picture, along with the national bike route system, which needs wider and fuller support. CT, for example, now has 21 separate projects filling in gaps on the East Coast Greenway which are rapidly being approved for construction ASAP. Getting a statewide bike route network in Oregon – and getting the Trans-American Trail (Route 76) to Oregon – will require total commitment from everyone at every level. In an era when congressional leadership is almost nonexistent, Earl is one if the brave, one of the bold few who still believe in leadership. His POV is important.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

  • nmr July 14, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Bike tax makes about as much sense as a shoe tax.

    Recommended Thumb up 3

    • Adam
      Adam July 14, 2017 at 11:09 am

      It’s almost as if Oregon should just join the rest of the civilized world and just implement a general sales tax on all goods…

      Recommended Thumb up 1

    • DIMcyclist July 15, 2017 at 1:17 am

      Believe it or not, such things do in fact exist.

      Recommended Thumb up 0

  • El Biciclero July 14, 2017 at 11:22 am

    Please stop using the “skin in the game” terminology. I’ve said repeatedly that if people want to complain that bicyclists get a free ride and pay no taxes and have too much money spent on “them”—and they aren’t out there taking advantage of all of the purported largesse afforded to bicyclists by becoming one—they are hypocrites. Those that “have to drive” are a much smaller portion of the population than many imagine, and the main reason those who could ride a bicycle for transportation don’t is that they don’t want to put any real skin in the game.

    To use this terminology doesn’t just make one sound like a cigar-chewing bookie—it is offensive when bicyclists are being injured and killed every day by carelessly-piloted automobiles.

    Let’s just say, “we want people to be taxed specifically for riding a bike, but taxing them to own a new one is the best we could get done. This time…”.

    Recommended Thumb up 7

  • JeffS July 14, 2017 at 11:52 am

    We should have a compelling reason for every new tax, fee and fine implemented by the government. This tax fails that test, largely because of the insignificant amount of money it generates.

    I have yet to hear anyone state what the tax will cost to implement and maintain.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • Bluenidiot July 14, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Earl’s a **** who should retire. The bill is full of regressive taxes and anti-environmental projects.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

  • DIMcyclist July 15, 2017 at 1:14 am

    I really don’t mind paying my taxes; I think it’s essential to having a state & government that can respond appropriately to public needs. That said, I still think this is yet another glaring example of Oregon’s simple-minded, ham-fisted, & ad hoc approach toward taxation.

    Whether our state & its residents like it or not, at some point we will inevitably be faced with having to reassess & fully overhaul our state’s entire tax system from top to bottom, hopefully with due patience, to arrive at a system that’s more ethical & fair for everyone, business, private, or public.

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Tax Reform July 17, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Great point. Oregon tax reform should be about moving towards a fair system of taxation based on ability to pay. The state income tax should be steeply progressive with a wide range of graduating rates. Those making minimum wage should pay nothing. The state income tax should mirror the federal income tax with large personal deductions, low income credits etc. As it stands now the state now hits the poor about four times harder than the feds. The flat payroll tax and flat head bicycle tax move the state in the wrong direction. They’ll only help increase income disparity in Oregon.

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • DIMcyclist July 20, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Oregon is, like- ground-zero for regressive taxation… People complain about high personal income taxes & yet the state is constantly going through the couch for spare change because those very people vote down measures to fairly tax business, industry & uber-high earners? A street usage fee because a 2% hike in the gas tax seems politically risky since it might offend gas guzzlers? Gimme a freaking break! Our property tax system is a joke by almost any reasonable standard- one house pays $3500/ year and the one next door pays twice as much because someone remodeled a kitchen, finished a basement, or improved a roof? Absurd. There are houses around here that are falling apart because their owners can’t afford the tax increases if they actually fixed them up; it’s ridiculous.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • BB July 21, 2017 at 4:27 pm

    1. How does this stop someone form buying a bike online? This seems a big disadvantage for local shops.

    2. I also believe this validates that cyclist needed to pay something in order to be included to the exclusive road club. As if they added no value otherwise. Sometimes value is not seen as $$ but in quality of life given back to everyone.

    3. How does this validate that pedestrians pay their fare share?

    4. If I am finally going to be included into the road club with this tax. Then why are their no owner laws on the books? I should be able to charge the owner of that vehicle to some civil or criminal action. But right now I need to identify the driver, which renders the plate useless.

    5. By paying this tax how do I feel included in this exclusive road club now? What has changed from before?

    You ever hear about instant karma?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • SLAPFACE July 21, 2017 at 4:37 pm

    Slap in the face to think, the gov. failed to put in lanes for cyclists when they built the roads. Now need to charge cyclists to redo the failure.

    Recommended Thumb up 1

  • Mark Smith August 4, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    It’s not a big deal. Bikes are taxed in 46 states. Pretty much guessing…they still sell there. Bowtie earl is right. This is about recognizing bikes. Not diminishing them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0