Until last week, I probably expressed more of my thoughts about Oregon’s new bike tax on Twitter than I had here on the blog.
Sometimes when I have a lot to say about a complicated, or sensitive, or generally unwieldy issue, it’s hard for me to organize all my thoughts into coherent sentences (I know, a bad trait for a writer).
So when a KATU (local ABC affiliate) producer reached out last week and asked if I’d be on their Your Voice, Your Vote show, I was happy to oblige. I was on the Sunday morning news show five years ago and had a great experience. Back then the topic was a proposal to license bicycle riders. After both myself and the man proposing the idea had a chance to explain our views in a neutral setting, the proposal went away and was never heard about again (hmm, I wonder why?).
Then and now, I relished the opportunity to explain my views in a calm and professional format with an experienced broadcast journalist as moderator. It’s the opposite of arguing on the Internet.
Last Thursday I rode down to the KATU studio to have a conversation with Steve Dunn, a respected veteran of the news business who has covered Portland for 30 years. Using his notes from a pre-show interview I did with a KATU producer a few days earlier, Steve and I had a 15-minute chat about the bike tax. He asked good questions and I think the interview is a helpful addition to what I’m sure will be an ongoing discussion.
Watch it below (if the embed doesn’t work, you can watch it here):
As I say in the interview, this tax raises a lot of concerns. It’s important that Oregonians understand what it means beyond the $15 and it’s important for advocates to understand how we got here and what it means going forward.
If you have any questions about this issue you’d like to ask me feel free to do so in the comments and I’ll reply. For more on my views of the bike tax see this article in The Washington Post and listen to this episode of the Outspoken Cyclist Podcast.
Thanks for reading and stay tuned.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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I strongly believe that Oregon needs a tax or fee for metal-studded tires for cars. The state of Washington has one. Just yesterday, I saw a person driving a truck with metal-studded tires by Sylvan. More than 83 degrees outside in July.
Interesting, I did not know that, and I live in Washington. It’s only $5 per tire. Here’s the code:
It is illegal to drive studded tires this late.
No luck trying to watch the interview in either of the locations suggested.
Are others able to view it? Maybe something to do with my computer…
The KATU link works: http://katu.com/news/your-voice-your-vote/your-voice-your-vote-is-oregons-new-bike-tax-good-or-bad-for-the-cycling-community
Excellent interview, Jonathan, you really presented the issue well.
bummer 9watts. hopefully you can get it to work. i wish everyone just kept it simple and used YouTube.
It took a while to load on my computer (I had to try twice.) Once I had successfully loaded it, it sounded like you were dubbed. Great interview, though.
I always cringe when people tell me to “ride home safely”… Like, yeah I’m riding a bike in an environment that kills 30k people a year, I am acutely aware of the threat to my safety. But don’t worry I will be overly cautious to subsidize the lack of care exhibited by auto drivers, thanks for the reminder of my secondary status on the road.
Couldn’t ask for a better public voice on the issue Jonathan, sensible and tactful responses. Thank you!
I usually reply with “you too”. Many of the people that say this commute 40-60 miles round trip each day, mostly on rural 2-lane roads on the fringes of the Portland metro. Statistically, their commutes are significantly more dangerous than my 10 mile bike ride.
OK…..I’ll bite….prove it.
“For one, car deaths are clearly lower in denser, more urbanized states. The rate of road deaths (per 100,000 people) is negatively correlated with state-level density (-0.51) and state-level urbanization (-0.63). This is not surprising since people drive more and faster in less populous states and less and slower in denser, more urbanized, and more populated states. The states with the highest rate of road deaths all have top speed limits of at least 70 mph and some have top limits of 80 mph. Conversely, many of the states with lower rates of road deaths have lower speed limits. Only three of the states with the lowest car death rates have speed limits of 70 mph or more and the majority have top speed limits of 65 mph or less.”
Fast, undivided roads are the most dangerous roads to travel on. And someone driving 50+ miles per day is covering more of those dangerous miles, compared to a cyclist with a 10-20 mile day.
the citation really does little more than cement the idea that, yea, in my steel cage driving around the city with airbags, seatbelts, and sensors that automatically brake my car if a crash is imminent, i’m pretty much not at risk of personally being a fatality in a crash in an urban area…whereas someone on a bike who can’t even make up his/her mind over whether wearing a helmet is an attack on personal liberty, is prone to serious injury for no other reason than urban planning has left bike infrastructure down to “um..yea….just stay to the right.”
the drop the mic moment that “cars kill more people” than bikes is a fishless eddy when focus should cleanly and constantly be on urban bike infrastructure where statistically bikes are unnecessarily left prone to injury or worse…not to mention the people on those bikes.
adjusted by commute mode share cycling to work is about as safe as driving to work. cycling currently has a 7% mode share and comprises ~6% of fatalities over 20 years. driving has 57% mode share and comprises 52% fatalities over 20 years.
i’m focused on urban commutes…not car wrecks on interstates. think urban environment is more crucial to the bike/transpo conversation. If your numbers are adjusted for just urban environment, my mistake…just presume 7% mode share over last 20yrs would be a little high
though statistically somewhat irrelevant….if there were 44 traffic fatalities in pdx in 2016, and 5 were on bikes…thats not a good look vs mode share.
you can say cars are killers…u can say people who drive cars are murders…but i just don’t see how arguing that bikes are a safer mode of transport in an urban area advances any pertinent argument given current infrastructure deficiencies
You obviously didn’t read my first comment, or you just didn’t comprehend it. I’m comparing a short bike commute to a long car commute on rural roads. Nationwide, cycling has a fatality rate that is about twice the fatality rate per mile traveled while driving. This means that a 40 mile commute by car is deadlier than a 10 mile bike commute. Thus, the cyclist should be instructing their rural coworker to “drive safe”, not the other way around.
was admittedly being needle-dicky…but i had read your comment…i was just responding to the comment prior to yours (cars are the real deathtrap at 30k per year), your narrowly defined subset of drivers who drive 40-60mi on rural roads, and the 3rd comment challenging you to “prove it”….i read all the comments, and i think i understood them….just thot they were going down a rabbit hole of futility. and i didn’t mean to waste your time…just i see threads going this direction frequently in the comments section and just wanted to vent.
I usually tell them “It’s not up to me.”
I wish there were a pithy, non-judgy way of saying, “I hope you avoid a high risk of cardiovascular illness by exercising sometime most days before or after driving a mobile couch everywhere you need to go!”
“Live healthy!”? Sadly, it’s a little judgy and also non-pithy (or clear).
I much prefer “have a good ride!”
I say “you too” to that as well.
People wish each other safe trips for all modes of transport.
If you want more people riding, repeating how dangerous it is might not be a solid game plan.
I do not buy that cyclists are systematic victims of scorn and ridicule even if drivers don’t sympathize with them. I’ve never had a problem with that anywhere. Playing the perpetual victim doesn’t do cyclists or cycling any favors.
Hopefully there is a difference between acknowledging the true source of risk and just playing the victim. I wouldn’t repeat my above statement to someone. If I feel like responding it’s usually something like “Oh, I always do”, or “Yeah it can be dangerous”. If someone really wanted to talk about it I would likely frame the conversation around how virtually never fall off my bike and that the true source of risk isn’t so much my own bike handling.
It’s always interesting to me how many people tell me how dangerous it is to ride a bike with how careless people drive… like, is that an admission of guilt? Or are you the one person driving safely? It seems everyone wants to side with the cyclist when they are face to face with another human without acknowledging they fall into the same anonymous, impatient, mob mentality when they get in a car.
The risk is inherent to the environment. If 99.9% of the people are awesome drivers and 0.1% are crаppy ones, you still need to be prepared.
However, properly managed risks don’t present any particular danger. Bottom line is that this stuff is way easier than it sounds.
I don’t understand what your saying… riding my bike poses nearly zero risk in an of itself. In my 10k miles I’ve gone down once because I didn’t know it was icy. The likelihood of me causing myself harm while riding is nearly nonexistent. Cars around me, no matter how good or bad their drivers, are the source for 99% of the potential energy that would cause me serious injury.
Also if a risk doesn’t present any real possibility of danger then it’s not really a risk is it? Whatever convoluted smug point your trying to make just stop cause I’m not gonna get it.
Which I suspect is also the reason that non-helmet wearing Dutch cyclists are many times more likely to not be hit or killed than helmet-wearing US cyclists.
We totally need a tax on studded snow tires. Every major road and freeway that hasn’t been recently resurfaced shows the worn ruts from studded tires. I understand that emergency vehicles need the ability to run studs, and the few people who live on very steep hills may as well. Everyone else can get around just fine on studless snow tires. I’ve run studless snow tires for a decade of winters, and have never encountered a situation in which they didn’t work.
most smart people know a studded tire tax makes sense. But we don’t have it because lawmakers and the general public sympathize with drivers.
Most smart people also realize that taxing shoes makes no sense… and we don’t have that because people sympathize with walkers.
And most smart people know a bike tax makes no sense. But WE DO have that because bicycle riders don’t get sympathy in our culture. it’s the opposite… they get scorn and ridicule and systemic disrespect.
we don’t have it because lawmakers and the general public sympathize with drivers.
…also because Les Schwab bought a seat closer to the head of the table.
The studded tire problem is almost self correcting. The performance of studless tires is so good that there’s not that much point to running studs. That word has been getting out and a lot fewer people are running real studs — especially since they’re no good except on hardpack and ice.
What kills me is the tame conditions people chain up for here. In many states, chains are illegal. But they frequently chain everything here in conditions where chains are a liability rather than an asset.
The problem is that there are many people (mostly baby boomer age) that refuse to let go of metal studs. Their simple brains can’t comprehend how a studless tire can perform as well or better in most conditions. The other problem is cost: studded tires tend to be cheaper, because the rubber compound is not as advanced. This is why a tax is perfect. At $50/tire at point of purchase, this would make all studded tires more expensive than the studless alternative. Studded tire sales would plummet.
I have been reading this website for years; I have not been on a bike since high school, but I am interested in the topic (yes, I am one of those lazy individuals who drives everywhere).
Reading Jonathan’s last sentence above, and considering all of the similar remarks I have read here over the years regarding the lack of respect for bike riders, a thought comes to mind: what is the bike community doing to reverse this public perception of “scorn and ridicule”? I do not mean this as a flip comment; while I no longer ride a bike, I have no issues with those who do. Many groups, businesses, government agencies, special interest organizations, etc. conduct such campaigns in an effort to improve their public image. However, I am not aware of any organized effort to publicize a positive image of bike commuting.
What bike community? Did somebody announce a meeting?
Yes, we meet every morning in the Hawthorne Bridge. Although we don’t stop pedaling so you’ll have to make your remarks quick.
That’s a good – if leading – question, Bankerman. As you’ve been following BikePortland for awhile, you probably recognize what Dan A says about “bike community.” While there are a lot of people who ride or are otherwise interested in bicycles, many of them/us commune little, if any, with other bike riders.
From the top down, the bicycle advocacy organizations which exist around here are League of American Bicyclists (LAB; http://www.bikeleague.org), The Street Trust (formerly BTA; http://www.thestreettrust.org), and recently Portland’s Bike Loud PDX (bikeloudpdx.org). Some other states and cities have similar regional bike advocacy groups, for example Washingon’s Cascade Bicycle Club (www.cascade.org) does a lot of advocacy up here. There’s overlap among various other bike, pedestrian, ‘green’, and recreation advocates. None of those have or are backed by resources which I’d call “deep pockets,” and given the recent admission by a number of Oregon legislators (others, too) that government is a “pay to play” or “buy a seat” proposition, I don’t find it too surprising that they have quite limited influence over legislation and policy.
Bankerman, maybe you have further thoughts about bike advocacy and how to advance wider acceptance of bicycling? Do you participate in any of those orgs? What would get you out on a bike, at least occasionally, around your home town?
“I am not aware of any organized effort to publicize a positive image of bike commuting.”
It comes around each May, in the form of “bike month”, which really only (vaguely) shows up on the public’s radar as “Bike to Work Day.” When I lived in Beaverton, there was a club there who would picket outside the library, downtown, and other visible places with the message that bicyclists are just your neighbors, friends, and family choosing a different mode of transportation. But I think it comes down to, why should we have to?
Bicycling is consistently proven to improve health and reduce traffic and emissions. The obvious point that the person in the bike lane beside you is not in another car in front of you further holding you up, is rarely met with “thank you”, but more often with “bikers run stop signs and don’t pay road taxes.” How can you reason with that?
I guess if I were to expend the effort on anything organized, it would be to teach drivers the actual (rather than perceived) rules of the road. You know, not every shoulder is a bike lane, sometimes we need to make left turns, etc. My impression after decades of self-identifying as a “cyclist” is that it seems like h8ers gonna h8, no matter what you do.
There was a brief effort by Lance a few years ago, to get states and cities to widen shoulders and give cyclists more passing space, but his efforts “did a faceplant” after he admitted his doping. Now he’s a TV announcer.
“what is the bike community doing to reverse this public perception of ‘scorn and ridicule’?”
Lots of bicyclists have a negative perception of “drivers”—what is the driving community doing to reverse this perception of “clueless and sociopathic”?
I’ll tell you what will help the image of bicyclists in the U.S.: nothing. Those that feel they own the roads, and that roads are there for cars and trucks and other motorized vehicles exclusively, who can’t stand having to watch for and maybe even slow down for a bicyclist will not ever change their perception. That is the key—changing “perception” is about as easy as “being seen”: those that are looking to see or adjust their perception will find a way to do it, those that aren’t won’t.
We live in an impatient and selfish culture with a driving addiction, so if a slow thing we are technically not allowed to run over is in our way, that makes it okay to get mad and hate the person instead of actually killing them. As Americans, we also have a history of grouping people together and systematically discriminating against them in continuing fulfillment of manifest destiny. Combine the two and the reputation of modern bicyclists suffers.
Which is funny because my bicycling experiences are usually quite pleasant, with mostly innocuous driver interactions, but every time I get in my car and drive at the speed limit on one-lane roads, you should see the drivers behind me!
“…if a slow thing we are technically not allowed to run over is in our way, that makes it okay to get mad and hate the person instead of actually killing them.”
Trust me, you don’t even have to be slow. I’ve been passed in a no-passing (residential!) zone while going 28 in a 25. I’ve been yelled at for not “moving over” into parked cars while going 25-26 in a 25. I’ve been told to move over while stopped at a light. You don’t have to be the cause of anyone’s hold-up, you just have to be on a bike.
Ever notice how drivers behind you at a stop sign don’t stop for the sign and just proceed with you? I once had a guy drive on my tail up Johnson (a greenway) and skip every stop sign so that he could intimidate me from behind. He yelled at me for taking up the whole road (weird — my bike was quite a bit smaller than his car) and told me that he was a cyclist.
Well done, Jonathan!
Well done on the interview, Jonathan. You covered all the major points well and I, for one, am glad to have you as a spokesperson on this topic.
Bankerman makes a good point. Technically, the League of American Bicyclists is the org that should tackle advocacy. I have been an avid cyclists since I found myself to like bicycles more than other kids in the 80’s. While it has been nice for America to finally get on board with the sport thanks to LeMond and later Armstrong, like it or not, there seems to be a backlash against cyclist recently. I’ve suffered pretty much everything from having stuff thrown at me from cars to being run off the road. So, while cycling is much better than it used to be and Oregon is much better than many states I’ve ridden in, I still get honked at now and then and yelled at to get off the road just for pedaling in the bike lane (happened just last week on Stark and 94th which has ample bike lane space).
I think the main points that drivers are missing are:
– cyclists are also drivers
– cyclists are actually saving drivers money and reducing THEIR traffic
– cyclists are saving the state money not only on infrastructure but healthcare
So if the League is delinquent in getting this message across and I think they are, at least in Oregon, then what do we do? Who else can we turn to?
This bicycle sales tax is a warning. We shouldn’t ignore it.
– cyclists are also ___
– cyclists are actually ______
– cyclists are ____
That is all fine and good but it has nothing to do with the anger directed at those of us on bikes. For that I recommend this archived discussion here from some time ago:
here’s another piece:
Thanks these are great even though I haven’t read all of this material yet.
As someone who also happens to be a motorcyclist, I find a stark contrast in the way drivers treat motorcycles. The idea that motorcycles don’t belong on the road is simply not there. I’ve been in plenty of situations on the same roads and circumstances where I’m treated entirely differently on a motorcycle than on a bicycle. The biggest difference I can cite is that drivers tolerate motorcycles as another car while there is this expectation that bicycles are in the way and on a bicycle I’m expected to accommodate cars.
this reminds me of El Biciclero’s oft-reiterated point here that people driving are chiefly concerned about damage their car might sustain.
I think he’s right, but that’s not differential treatment — they think that about anything their car might touch. I find I can use that dynamic to my advantage, particularly in town.
BTW, it doesn’t work with junkers….
And another good piece from the archives:
My favorite part was this bit:
JM: “I don’t know if you ride or not…”
SD: “I do have a bike”
SD and about 25% of Americans own a bike, but are too afraid to use it to get to work. If you can get the city and other public agencies to build facilities so they may more easily get to work using a combination of bicycling, electric bikes, and public transit, AND convince them to use it, you’ll be very much on your way towards getting to that 25% bike mode split called for in the original Portland Plan. They key is not only to get good facilities that connect inner neighborhoods to downtown, which the city already has done much on, but also to have excellent bike and transit connections directly between East Portland and Swan Island, the Columbia Corridor (including North Portland), Gresham, Clark County, and Clackamas Town Center, including connections that bypass downtown altogether.
These all help, but having good bike facilities at work matters and few places do. Dress requirements at work also matter.
At one of the places I worked I had to spend about a grand a year on a health club membership so I could be cleaned up. Needless to say, I didn’t work with a lot of cyclists.
I also think efficiency is a big deal. Riding just has to get you there in a reasonable amount of time. Keep in mind that sitting in your own personal environment is a big draw. I try to get all my coworkers to ride, and one who strikes me as a good cycling candidate who I even helped get a bike keeps driving because she likes to decompress and the car is a nice way to be away from the weather, noise, and the temperature is perfect.
I don’t disagree with anything you’ve just written. However, Portland is going to keep growing, probably hitting 900,000 to a million by 2040, while its roadway infrastructure and city area will not be expanding at all, since Oregon voters refuse to tax themselves and the city has no incentive to annex. I’m figuring that as Portland densifies and car traffic becomes increasingly intolerable, it will make a political decision to prioritize transit and carpool express lanes over individual SOV lanes on its 4-lane streets, that is, prioritize the movement of people over the movement of motor vehicles. At a certain point, the very real pleasure of decompressing in one’s own motor vehicle will become a rare privilege, even in a robot car, with much longer commute times, often as long as bicycling with your own physical power, as opposed to electric bikes, or bicycling + transit, which will gradually become much faster than SOV travel.
As for work fashion, perhaps in 20 years we’ll dress again like our medieval ancestors, with tights, tunics and loose shirts? Minus the daggers, of course, as we have concealed handguns now.
I share your view of the likely trajectory. If the population continues to grow, something has to give.
The same people who insist certain solutions are impossible will be cheering those same measures.
Sadly, I do not hold out hope for elevated or below grade public transport in this timeframe, as public transport is hopelessly slow except along certain corridors.
I just wear my work clothes when I ride. It’s really easy – you just get on your bike and ride it.
The feasibility of doing this depends both on your job and your ride. Though it is true that kitting up is totally unnecessary for many people.
Haha, agreed. Subtle non-answer.
Riding your bike once a year during Sunday Parkways doesn’t give you the proper perspective to speak out about cycling for transportation.
If you’re saying the right things, it doesn’t matter 🙂
Oh, definitely not. I know tons of people who own bikes and don’t ride them….Steve’s comment was very typical :).
Thanks Johnathan, glad to have you speaking for those of us opposed to the tax.
Good interview Jonathan. When I first flipped past the channel I rolled my eyes and thought “ugh… more tired debate about bikes.” Then I realized who was on, and flipped back, and glad I watched. I think Mr. Dunn also did a good job of not being hostile, which is all too often the case.
Suit jacket and tie by bike, well played! Nice job in the interview.
So, if I buy a new bike with a plug in rechargeable electric light, can I call it an electric vehicle and collect the $2,500 rebate for 5,000 lbs. Teslas the state passed with the tax on 30 lbs. bikes?
I’m glad you posted this. I caught the last 3 minutes or so while flipping channels on Sunday morning, but was glad to be able to see the rest of your interview.
All good points made, especially the one about it being illegal to spend any of the funds collected from a bike sin tax on anything other that MUPs. To me, that is a slap in the face. It says, “pay us money so we can make a cluttered place for you to go play somewhere else”. It isn’t aimed at getting more people to trade car trips for bike trips—which is the key to congestion relief—it is aimed at getting people who already want to ride a bike not only off the road but away from the road (and any desirable destinations thereon) entirely. If it promotes anything at all it is the notion that bikes are toys, don’t belong on the road, and aren’t worth consideration as a means of transportation. It likely won’t do a thing for congestion, and could merely invite more people to drive their cars to places where “bike paths” exist so they can ride recreationally to nowhere in particular.
Ding, ding, ding!
When are we going to dare to have this conversation? About the politics of biking-as-transportation? The legacy of bikes-as-toys, -as-recreation is not helping here.
Still haven’t succeeded in watching this clip. My computer is not up-to-date enough, apparently.
The notion that ‘cars are fun’ is something that keeps people coming back for more. How else to explain car commercials?
“The legacy of bikes-as-toys, -as-recreation is not helping here.”
It’s harmful on multiple levels. Not only is the “bikes are toys” mentality harmful to the idea that they are essential transportation for many people (and could be transportation for many more) and deserve consideration on the roadways, it translates nearly directly into the corollary that people are grown-ups when they are driving, and somehow turn into children when they ride a bike (or actually worse, that they turn into grown-ups acting childishly). That corollary is what hurts the most, as evidenced by treatment by police at collision scenes or during traffic stops. I’ve never been “scolded” by an officer after being stopped in my car, but of the only two interactions I’ve had with police while riding my bike, one involved a very surly threat of arrest (for riding on a park driveway after the park was closed), and the other was an officer “yelling” at me via his car’s loudspeaker from across a parking lot to tell me, “bicyclist! You have to stop like everyone else!” as I slow-rolled through a STOP sign to make a right turn into a bike lane. Now, sure, I was doing something technically illegal in both cases, but in the first case, the officer didn’t need to jump straight to threatening to arrest me, and in the second case, I would bet all the money in my pocket that the officer who scolded me had watched countless cars do the exact same thing I did without trying to “yell” at them. It also comes out in interactions with drivers. The few times I’ve received unsolicited (i.e., I had not initiated anything by yelling or gesturing, but was merely riding along) verbal “input” from drivers it has been (similar to the experience wsbob recently related) to ask me to move over, or to point out where the bike lane was, or to threaten to call the police and tell them about my legal behavior—all very parental.
I recently commented similarly about my experience being stopped in my Audi doing 75 MPH on I-84 in Rowena versus any interaction I’ve had with a police officer on my bike, anywhere. (Ironically, the most ‘scofflaw’ cyclist I’ve ever ridden with is my neighbor Mike, who’s a cop that drives like a maniac as well).