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Oregon’s expanded bike tax passes out of committee with unanimous support

Posted by on March 1st, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Members of the Joint Transportation Committee who voted in favor of an expansion to Oregon’s bike tax.

Without a single word of debate, the nine members of the Joint Committee on Transportation voted in favor of an expansion of Oregon’s bike tax that will result in it covering more children’s bicycles. (UPDATE: As of Saturday, March 3rd the full Oregon House and Senate passed the bill with a total vote margin of 70-10. The bill now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.)

“I think we were discounted and undermined in this portion of the conversation from the very beginning.”
— Gerik Kransky, The Street Trust

House Bill 4059, a package of amendments to the transportation bill passed last session, whizzed through the committee at a work session last night with a vote of 9-0. As currently written (and in effect for the past two months), the tax has two main provisions: It applies to new bicycles with a retail price over $200 and a wheel size of 26-inches and larger. The amendment passed yesterday removes any mention of wheel size from the law so the tax would now cover all new bicycles sold in Oregon over $200. The change was requested by the Department of Revenue in order to simplify the collection process and clear up confusion they claim to have heard from bike shop owners.

During debate over the transportation bill last session, lawmakers wanted the wheel-size provision in the bike tax to lessen the blow to children’s bike buyers. Now that’s all forgotten. Despite opposition from major national bicycle industry trade and advocacy organizations warning about how children’s bicycle sales would be negatively impacted by the bill, they still voted in support of it.

I spoke with The Street Trust Policy Director Gerik Kransky about this today. Kranksy worked on the transportation package last session and earned a proverbial “seat at the table” by supporting the bill despite its inclusion of a tax on bicycles (the bill did include funding for The Street Trust’s top priority, Safe Routes to School). Fast forward to today and Kransky says legislators have made a big mistake by “ignoring” the bicycle inustry. “I think we were discounted and undermined in this portion of the conversation from the very beginning,” he added.

“The legislative intent was originally to not tax children’s bikes. That is exactly what they’re doing with this move. So they’re going against their own stated intent.”

Kransky said he thinks there’s very little chance the bill can be stopped. “It has passed the committee and it’s mostly a housekeeping amendment,” he said. “My concern is that the floors of both the House and the Senate will simply adopt it as a matter of business and move forward.” The only thing left would be for specific legislators to make a speech during floor debates. “We’re going to connect with some key champions to encourage some remarks, which I think will make an important point.”

In the long-term, Kransky people who feel like a bike tax is the wrong approach for raising revenue, “Need to get together and have a conversation about how we repeal the bike tax completely.”

Will The Street Trust actively work to repeal it next session? “We’re certainly going to look at that,” Kransky said. “I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. This is a brand new tax that we couldn’t stop and their remains broad support for using it in the suite of transportation revenue included in HB 2017. We thought it was a bad idea when they passed it. We think it’s a bad idea today. And we’ll just have to keep talking with more legislators to build support for our positions. We shouldn’t have a bike tax. Period. And we certainly shouldn’t be taxing children’s bikes in Oregon.”

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Now that the tax seems to be well-enshrined in Oregon law, Kransky has a stronger voice against it than he and his organization have had in the past. In 2008 Kransky’s predecessor Karl Rohde said he was not opposed to a bike tax and saw it as a necessary evil. “If you go in with a ‘no!’ attitude you get bulldozed,” he said. “It’s just not constructive for all the other things we’re trying to accomplish.” And in 2013, Kransky told us he’d be opposed to any “new barrier” to cycling, but that The Street Trust would be, “open to the conversation” of a bike tax, as long as the funds it generated were, “pointed in the right direction.”

The Street Trust was just one of many voices in the past that have been either supportive of, or open to the concept of taxing bicycles. Metro (our regional planning organization), The City Club of Portland, City of Portland Bicycle Program Manager Roger Geller, the Governor’s Transportation Vision Panel, and Portland bike lawyer Ray Thomas, are among the voices that have spoken in favor of a bike tax in the past.

A bike tax was most often considered a way to quiet cycling naysayers who couldn’t get past the fallacy that “Those cyclist don’t pay their fair share.” It was never seen as a way to make it harder for people to afford children’s bicycles.

Today Kransky told me the expansion of the tax, “Strikes me as arbitrary and capricious. Which is what this has felt like all along. It’s just a punitive politics at play and we remain skeptical it will generate any significant revenue.”

UPDATE, 3/2 at 11:00 am: People For Bikes has launched a campaign to stop HB 4059.

UPDATE, 3/3: The Oregon House (45-3) and Senate (25-4) have both voted to pass the bill. It is not headed to the Governor’s desk for signing. Votes below…

70-10. Keep in mind the bill included many tweaks to the transportation law that passed last session. The bike tax expansion was just one part of it.

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

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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

  • David Hampsten March 1, 2018 at 2:41 pm

    I don’t support sales taxes in general, as they tend to be regressive and hurt poor people disproportionately, especially in states that have sales tax on food (as we have one for 2% to pay for freeways here in NC.) That said, if the Oregon legislature is going to be punitive and tax bicycle sales because bike infrastructure is subsidized by the state, I think a better and more workable strategy is to get your conservative-Democrat legislature to apply an equally regressive sales tax on any other objects sold in the state that are also subsidized, such as car sales, tires, car parts, farm machinery, semis, etc. Since the state legislature allows for concealed handguns, why not tax those too? You could even tax the sale of concrete, asphalt, and rebar used in road construction. The possibilities are endless.

    Gerik, the genie is out of the bottle, the Street Trust had inadvertently helped state legislators pass an Oregon-version of a general sales tax without the messiness of a state referendum. It would have probably happened eventually anyway, but too bad y’all had to be part of it.

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    • Tom March 1, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Tire chains do millions of dollars in damage to the roadway every year. They should one of the first to be taxed, plus a monthly use fee.

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      • rick March 2, 2018 at 12:30 pm

        It is the metal-studded tire that is damaging year-round as people use them year-round in Oregon. It makes air pollution, too.

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  • David March 1, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Is anyone surprised by this change? The Street Trust had to understand the risk of trying to thread the needle the way they did. Unfortunately for the rest of us there’s now going to be a broad bike tax, a small pot of funding for bike infrastructure (still, this is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, not fixing the hole), and The Street Trust gets their nice big pot of money to educate kids as part of Safe Routes to Schools.

    This would be the downside of a bike advocacy organization deciding to include people on foot and mass transit. You might have a bigger seat at the table but it’s less effective for at least part of the constituency.

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    • John March 1, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      For the record, HB2017 allocated funding for Safe Routes to School *infrastructure* projects. No funding was provided for Safe Routes to School *education*. Given this, The Street Trust will not get a “nice big pot of money”—the fact is they won’t see a single cent of revenue from the bill. They advocated for the bill despite the bike tax because of the massive and unprecedented investments in SRTS infrastructure (again, not education) and their belief that children should be able to ride and walk to school without getting flattened.

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    • Gerik March 1, 2018 at 3:30 pm

      David, one point worth clarifying here is that Oregon’s new Safe Routes to School program funds only safety projects like sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes.

      Say what you will about the politics that got us here we fought hard and won new investments in transit operations and transit, biking, and walking infrastructure. We also fought hard and lost on the bike tax. Our work isn’t over, obviously.

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      • David March 2, 2018 at 11:33 am

        I stand corrected on the SRTS funding. My memory obviously failed and there’s no edit button for comments so this will have to suffice.

        The frustration is that the transportation bill is very flawed if you look through a lens of where our transportation infrastructure needs to go. The transit funding infusion is good and needed. However the SRTS funding is woefully inadequate given the amount of need surrounding a vulnerable population – we can digress into low income and communities of concern but any 6 year old forced to cross a busy street without a crosswalk is going to be at serious risk. The funding provided for cycling meanwhile is laughable and hypocritical: on one hand you have legislators talking about carbon caps/taxes and reducing carbon footprints but on the other refusing to fund bike infrastructure improvements without a imposing a tax on those same bikes. In Portland, people aren’t leaving their cars to hop on the bus/Max, they’re doing it to work from home or hop on a bike.

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  • Todd Boulanger March 1, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Oregon, sorry to hear about the pending removal of wheel size threshold in the law…I guess folks who buy even small wheeled “bicycle objects” will now have to pay the sales tax :’)

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  • Racer X March 1, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Perhaps Portlanders should show their support for this legislative change by crossing the Bridge to buy their children’s bikes in Vancouver (and use their OR license to avoid the WA sales tax + the Oregon tax too)…

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  • HJ March 1, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    No surprises here. This is why they had to change their name, to make it clear they don’t really particularly care about bicycles any more. Also Safe Routes to School? What exactly do they do? Because I live between 2 elementary schools, both on a 45mph arterial (Cornell), neither of which have proper infrastructure leading to them for cycling and walking. So if the whole point of Safe Routes is to provide such things, where’s the infrastructure? Because I’m sure not seeing it and honestly can’t imagine a road where it’s more important if you want people out of their cars.

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    • John March 1, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      Well I suppose it’s good that organizations like The Street Trust are around to advocate for funding devoted to Safe Routes to School infrastructure—so that dangerous problems like the one that you cite can be dealt with. Let me provide you with another instance of the fine reasoning that you’ve just offered:

      “Also the Environmental Protection Agency? What exactly do they do? Because I live next to a factory that is dumping its waste into the river and it’s made the water unfit for human consumption and has killed all the fish. So if the whole point of the Environmental Protection Agency is to prevent such things, why is this happening?”—This is clearly not a reason to be skeptical about the EPA—it’s a reason to fight to get them more funding to be able to better accomplish their mission.

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    • Jack March 1, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Are you talking about NW Cornell Rd in the City of Portland? If you aren’t in the actual city boundary then Safe Routes to Schools has nothing to do with you.

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      • Dan A March 1, 2018 at 5:32 pm

        The funding for Safe Routes to School is statewide. $10 mil/year until 2022, and then $15 mil/year after that. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much to work with.

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      • Dan A March 2, 2018 at 6:51 am

        We worked with SRTS a few years ago at Oak Hills Elementary. Oak Hills is in unincorporated Washington County. It has nothing to do with city boundaries.

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    • rick March 1, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      Cycle tracks and sidewalks are on the way on NW Cornell Road in Washington County from 113th to 102nd Ave for construction in 2019. Check the cedarmillnews website as “bike lanes.”

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  • BradWagon March 1, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Never would I have imagined such a diverse group of folks to misrepresent a communities needs.

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  • Jason Skelton March 1, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    My Rep. Rob Nosse made a strong commitment to consider my views if the bill comes to the floor. Democracy!

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  • BradWagon March 1, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I recently bought my son a balance bike. I looked at Isla Bikes although even their balance bikes are $250. At that price point, $15 extra on top of the time spent going to a shop, will absolutely be a factor in how I eventually buy his next pedal bike. I make an effort to shop from local bike shops, but while they aren’t hurting themselves by not stocking what I need and being just generally unknowledgeable the state is stepping in nicely to drive even more folks online.

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  • John Mulvey March 1, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Surely all the people complaining about bicyclists will be happy now.

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  • Jason H March 1, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    How “skin in the game” became a flaying.

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    • GlowBoy March 6, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Comment of the week!

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  • Ted March 1, 2018 at 3:44 pm

    A lot of good that “seat at the table” did.

    “Will The Street Trust actively work to repeal it next session? ‘We’re certainly going to look at that,’ Kransky said. ‘I don’t want to over-promise and under-deliver.'”

    He doesn’t want to under-deliver on _working_ to repeal a bike tax?

    Apparently he still needs to find his political backbone. Taking the path of least political resistance is not what advocacy groups are for, and not what their members pay for.

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    • Gerik March 1, 2018 at 4:05 pm

      Ted, we will continue to oppose the bike tax.

      Given our opposition throughout this process I don’t want to set expectations that we can change the outcome right away. We’ll need more advocates joining us in opposition, new information such as the cost to administer the tax compared to the amount of revenue raised, and increased support from legislators. I welcome your passion for this issue in future legislative sessions, committee hearings, town halls, and community organizing.

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      • Ted March 1, 2018 at 7:35 pm

        I find the statement “we will continue to oppose the bike tax” dishonest. The Street Trust supported the bill with the bike tax and therefore inherently supported the bike tax. They–and Mr. Kransky–need to own that.

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  • Jack March 1, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    The state of Oregon doing another great job at killing business. This won’t help anyone, people will just buy bikes online and it will only hurt local bike shops which in turn will hurt the local economy. Taxing certain things in certain states makes no sense and doesn’t work when you can just click few buttons on your phone and have a new bike delivered to your door in a week or two.

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  • Scott Kocher March 1, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Public policy would have us tax bad things and subsidize good things. Politics has us doing the opposite.

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  • Dan Kaufman March 1, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    This is a Public Service Announcement:

    Tired of being bulldozed by Oregon Legislature and ODOT?

    Become a precinct committee person (PCP) for your political party (Dem or GOP) and get behind the grassroots push for sensible transportation investment for the 21st century.

    PCP elections are coming up this May and deadline to file is next Tuesday March 6th at your county elections office. You can also be appointed later.

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    • 9watts March 2, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      What if neither of the parties you list is one I belong to?

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  • SD March 1, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Anyone who sees the bike tax as a “necessary evil” to appease the “bike haters” needs to take a long hard look at how easy it is to expand the tax; And, how easy it will be for the “bike haters” to keep piling on, now that they can taste political points.

    Volunteering for politicians to use you as a punching bag is not a good strategy to avoid being beat up.

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  • q March 1, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Of all the people thinking people who bike are freeloaders, I’d guess maybe one out of a hundred even noticed there’s a bike tax. And does anyone believe that that this tax is anywhere near high enough and applied broadly enough to get them to drop the “skin in the game” arguments? The better solution would be to stand up to those arguments rather than cave in to them.

    Or maybe just cave in more, and tax EVERY kid’s bike, since after all kids will become the adults using the trails we’re building for them…Then once the trails are built, agree to ban bikes from streets, since the trails provide a perfectly good place for people who want to go for a bike ride.

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    • 9watts March 2, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      “The better solution would be to stand up to those arguments rather than cave in to them.”

      I agree as far as it goes, but they aren’t arguments, they are foolish assertions that do not have any basis in fact, as I’ve noted here dozens of times over the past years. Todd Litman at VTPI has explored this in great detail.

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  • Todd Waddell March 1, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    I’m conflicted about this. I’m generally in favor of a bicycle tax to supplement bicycle infrastructure and education funds. But taxing kids’ bicycles seems counter-productive.

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    • Dan A March 1, 2018 at 5:34 pm

      I think it’s going to end up reducing what we could have had overall.

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    • 9watts March 2, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      ” I’m generally in favor of a bicycle tax to supplement bicycle infrastructure and education funds.”

      But you do realize that nearly all so-called bike infrastructure is derivative, is only meaningful as a protective gesture against the ubiquitous auto.
      Battered women’s shelters funded by taxing women?
      ICE detention centers funded by taxing immigrants?

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  • Paul Atkinson March 1, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    I’m not hearing so much as a tiny little mea culpa here from the Street Trust.

    You guys bought a seat at the table for yourselves, and you did it on the backs of cyclists. You thought you’d only sold out the adults but now the slippery slope — in fact, not the fallacy — is revealed and you’ve sold out the kids’ bikes for your seat.

    Now the line is “welp…can’t probably do anything about it but we’re real mad, eh? How about those legislators…big mistake, right?”

    I wonder whether anyone at the Street Trust has even the barest sense that maybe, just possibly, they could have done something differently to prevent this descent.

    I guess they’re the cynical kind of politicians, who believe admitting a mistake to be unacceptable.

    But hey…they have a seat at the table, right?

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    • Gerik March 1, 2018 at 6:25 pm

      Paul, The Street Trust is not responsible for Oregon’s Bike Tax. We have been the first line of defense preventing a bike tax during every legislative session since at least 2011. With direct personal experience I can assure you we’ve killed no fewer than three bike tax proposals before this one slipped through, despite our best efforts.

      Despite years of coalition building, community engagement, and sustained advocacy there were forces at work in HB 2017 that easily overwhelmed our team and we lost this platform of our policy agenda. And if you dare look as far back as 2009 and ask yourself how well Oregon performed on biking, walking, and transit in the Jobs and Transportation Act you might gain some valuable perspective.

      Yes, I’m sure we made mistakes in our approach to the bike tax and yes I’m willing to learn from them. As Jonathan helped make clear through this process, it has been a huge challenge:

      Evaluating this campaign from behind a computer screen leaves a lot of gaps in one’s understanding of what happened and why. Without naming names there are some organizations and individuals who played key roles to guarantee a bike tax would be included in HB 2017 whether or not we supported, opposed, or even participated.

      At the end of the day you should hold legislators who voted for the bike tax accountable.

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      • Dan A March 2, 2018 at 6:54 am

        “Without naming names there are some organizations and individuals who played key roles to guarantee a bike tax would be included in HB 2017 whether or not we supported, opposed, or even participated.”

        Why shouldn’t we know who?

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        • pixie March 2, 2018 at 9:13 am

          Comment of the Week: “Why shouldn’t we know who?”

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      • wsbob March 2, 2018 at 1:06 pm

        “…At the end of the day you should hold legislators who voted for the bike tax accountable.” gerik

        That’s exactly right. And while their reasons for voting in a tax on bikes in the first place wasn’t great, as a token gesture of money gathered from people that buy new bikes, specifically to support construction and maintenance of MUP’s and bike trails, I felt the idea was somewhat ok. As long as the scale of the tax is kept to a modest level, within reasonable boundaries.

        The question I’m not seeing addressed or answered in this story, is why the Joint Committee on Transportation would move the proposed amendment to the bike tax law, out of committee without apparently much discussion. I’d guess they’re doing this as kind of a hand off, figuring it would be better for the larger legislative body to consent to or reject the proposed amendment in its present unaltered state. I’d rather not guess, and would prefer a straight answer.

        I’m always wondering how well today’s legislators understand the state’s travel infrastructure, the relative demand placed upon it by people meeting their day to travel needs, associated with the correlation between the types of vehicles used to meet their travel needs.

        Legislators that do not realize it’s essential to work to encourage and support increased use of bikes for travel, and work to provide options to the use of motor vehicles for travel, may be lacking this very important, fundamental understanding.

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  • John March 1, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    What do you think would have happened if the Street Trust had refused to support any bill that included a bike tax?

    Do you think that the bike tax, which regrettably had overwhelming political support, would have been scrapped? Do you think that revenue from the bike tax would have been earmarked for paved and multi-use paths? Do you think that the bill would have included $125 million in Safe Routes to School infrastructure investments and prioritized title 1 schools? Do you think that it would have included $1.3 billion for transit, paths, and Safe Routes to School?

    The situation isn’t as simple as you present it to be. Sure, they could have fallen on the sword of “no new taxes”, sacrificing the many wins for active transportation and safety that were achieved—but it’s far from clear that that is the morally preferable path to take.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 1, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      I think the bigger question is how the hell did we get to the point where a bike tax was considered “baked-into” the bill to begin with? I think the answer to that is partially in my story above. It’s because BTA/The Street Trust and a bunch of other bike advocates and “progressive” orgs like Metro and City Club allowed the idea to become mainstream by entertaining it as a reasonable option in order to “have a seat the table”, silence the haters, get something else in exchange, and so on.

      I believe that early support laid the groundwork for the City Club report and the Governor’s Transportation Vision Panel report to reccomend a bike tax as a feasible revenue stream — thus paving the way for legislators to grab it and run with it.

      Again… If high-profile and mainstream bike advocates would have been solidly against the idea from the very start I think things might have ended up differently. But so many people around the bike issue are so used to being marginalized they have become less willing to fight for strong positions and are so desparate for any type of “win” or any shred of respect from the powerful or the hateful — they will even consider insane things like taxing bicycles.

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      • John March 2, 2018 at 9:49 am

        Your theory doesn’t seem to square well with Gerik’s comment above where he says that “We have been the first line of defense preventing a bike tax during every legislative session since at least 2011. With direct personal experience I can assure you we’ve killed no fewer than three bike tax proposals before this one slipped through, despite our best efforts.” It seems that at least one of the two of you is mistaken about the facts in this situation. Could you direct us to any resources that support your position?

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 2, 2018 at 10:30 am

          John. Just follow the links to our past stories. The record is all there. Gerik and The Street Trust can say whatever they want, but actions are the reality I’m most interested in.

          Also keep in mind the different places Gerik and I start in this conversation. We have very different masters to serve.

          Some background:

          In the years leading up to the creation of the transportation package, many people and orgs — including Gerik and The Street Trust — made it clear that the idea deserved to be discussed. And that, depending on how the tax policy was crafted, it might even merit their support. It’s my opinion, based on the reporting I’ve done and what I’ve read and heard for years, that if the bike tax was more strongly rejected from the get-go, we would not be in this position.

          Another fact: Since around 2009 or so, The Street Trust has taken a much more conservative and conciliatory tone toward legislators (and to their advocacy in general – a topic we’ve covered here a lot in the past). There has been a sense at The Street Trust for years now that they don’t want to offend or upset legislators — they would rather befriend them and try to build mutually respectful relationships. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a choice fraught with risk and it comes with consequences. A more conservative stance makes it hard for them to push back strongly on any one issue — because they are looking at bigger-picture, broader goals of funding policy and working with legislators and other partners to achieve them. It is extremely difficult as an advocate to be both a “partner” and have a “seat at the table” — while also staying aggressive and making powerful people and orgs afraid of you.

          Look at The Street Trust’s actions on the bike tax in the latest transportation package. While Gerik was clearly opposed to it in interviews on BikePortland and in testimony to the committee in Salem — they never did a big campaign to “Kill the Bike Tax!” and they never threatened to pull support for provisions in the larger bill due to the bike tax being included. It was strange that a national group – People for Bikes – had to do the campaign. Even now it’s PFB doing an action alert to try and kill HB 4059. Why isn’t The Street Trust leading that fight? (I’ve asked Gerik this too by the way – UPDATE He says he’s working closely with PFB and Street Trust doesn’t have the capacity and he has a ton of other stuff on his plate right now). Again, opposition to something happens on a spectrum from “Hell no! Over our dead bodies! Join us for the rally to kill this idea!” — to writing carefully-worded letters to lawmakers describing why you think it’s a bad idea.

          I accept some responsibility for the bike tax too. In hindsight, had I known this absurd idea would actually become a reality, I would have considered launching a strong campaign against it via BikePortland — or I would have considered working with a group like Bike Loud PDX to make a lot more noise about killing it. Probably wouldn’t have stopped it but at least we could have tried. Instead I felt like if we covered it closely enough people would realize how stupid it was and it would just die on its own. Maybe I made the wrong calculation.

          Thanks for your comments.

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  • Al March 1, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Just posted this in the previous article and saw this one appear.

    There are several things about this issue that are not being mentioned:

    CONNECT OREGON: This program isn’t about bicycles. It’s about multimodal transportation. Bicycle infrastructure didn’t even get funded by Connect Oregon until very recently. The little funding bicycles received irked rural legislators who panicked that their rail terminal and airport funding may be sucked dry by liberal Portland and its pet bicycle projects. This is the primary reason behind the sudden revival in a bicycle tax. Unless someone shows me something I’m not aware of, there’s nothing stopping bicycle tax revenue from being used for funding rail terminals.

    SKIN IN THE GAME: This awful phrase has been thrown around as the raison d’etre for the tax. It’s certainly fine that everyone should pay their fair share. The problem with this is that there are other modes of transportation that DON’T PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE already! Let’s ignore the huge externalities, an economist term for costs not accounted for, which make bicycling a positive influence on society and the environment and driving a huge negative one. How do studded tire users pay their fair share? How do pedestrians? Finally, this ignores the entire calculus and reasoning behind Oregon’s Bicycle Bill. The bill sets aside 1% of the states transportation budget for bicycles specifically because this saves the state money in excess of that 1% spending year after year after year. A bicycle tax essentially reverses this which will result in higher state transportation spending later.

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    • rick March 1, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      Next up is a tax on knee medicine. Somehow, the roadside shoulders of SW Scholls Ferry Road need funding from those people who choose to walk on it.

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    • oliver March 2, 2018 at 10:08 am

      Good points Al, and then there’s the bit about how little direct user fees contribute to road funding in Oregon.

      I did some quick and dirty math with ODOT’s budget from their website a few years ago…(I see that the link has since been removed)

      ODOT’s state revenue comes from:
      • tax on motor fuels or gas (22 percent);
      • bond proceeds (21 percent);
      • weight-mile tax (paid by freight operators) (12 percent);
      • driver and vehicle licenses and fees (14 percent)

      Direct User Fees account for 36% (22 +14)
      And as everyone knows, 100% of business costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, therefor the weight/mile tax is borne by all consumers regardless of travel mode.

      So 33% (21+12) comes from all Oregonians, with no bearing on mode. And the balance coming from other fees, grants, and misc funding sources like the lottery and cigarette taxes.


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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 5, 2018 at 9:11 am

      Hi Al,

      thanks for the comment. Lawmakers have specifically set-aside all money raised by the bike tax to be used ONLY for bike-related projects within the Connect Oregon program.

      This is something we’ll be able to track and if it doesn’t go this way we can hold everyone accountable.

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      • Al March 5, 2018 at 11:53 am

        I was already aware of that language in the bill. However, having been involved in politics for a while, I have to remind everyone that the devil is often in the details. I’m not sure whether Connect Oregon wasn’t funding bicycle infrastructure in the past because of lack of funds or because of project priority. If it is the former then the bicycle tax revenue will certainly help get some projects moving. However, if it is the latter, then things can get messy. Also, what happens when there is bicycle tax money but no bicycle projects to fund? Will Connect Oregon sit on the funds or continue to fund other projects? It would be helpful to learn from people directly involved in Connect Oregon how previous bicycle projects came to be funded and how they intend to deploy this additional money going forward.

        Finally, since Connect Oregon already funded bicycle projects WITHOUT bicycle tax revenue in the past, then it will be impossible to hold them accountable for how they spend this money. How do we know that bicycle tax revenue made certain projects possible? How do we know that bicycle tax revenue isn’t going to projects which would have been funded by Connect Oregon anyway?

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  • Roberta Robles March 1, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    I got a next day appointment with Beyer to discuss the Rose Quarter. You just have to show up. Doesn’t seem like there is a lot of people showing up for cyclists in Salem.

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  • rick March 1, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    but let us not put a fee on metal-studded car tires…

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    • Al March 1, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      This HAS come up before. Les Schwab’s lawyers and lobbyists have made this politically impossible so far.

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      • rick March 2, 2018 at 12:30 pm

        That doesn’t mean they cannot be fought.

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  • Beth H March 1, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    Statewide sales tax for almost everything else we buy is on the horizon.
    And just as with other taxes and burdens on the poor (i.e., the Lottery), we will not be able to stop the legislature from spend the extra money wherever its corporate sponsors see fit.
    Some of us who’ve lived here a long time have seen this before.
    I shop as little as possible for new things anymore.
    And if we were really serious about taking back our lives from corporate interests, a lot more of us would find ways to do the same thing.
    The only meaningful vote in this game is the one we make with our wallet.
    Happy un-shopping!

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    • Mike Quigley March 2, 2018 at 8:45 am

      Exactly. Why buy a new bike when hundreds, stolen and not, are available on Craigslist? Thrift stores are a good source for kid’s bikes.

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  • Josh Gold March 2, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    How do we contact the appropriate representatives regarding proposed tax on CHILDREN’S bikes? It’s hard to believe this tax is real.

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    • J_R March 2, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Are you serious about not knowing how to contact your legislator?

      Try typing something like “find my Oregon legislator” into a search engine or go to and the legislature tab. You can find your legislators, committee assignments, proposed legislation, etc.

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  • Amy March 2, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    Quietly, we had a meeting with our state Legislator before the bike tax. To sum up the meeting; Our Senator said, “We need money and the people of Oregon hate paying more taxes. The perception exists that Cyclists “don’t have skin in the game”. This tax will quell that”.

    We left the meeting (after 2 hours talking about cycling issues) feeling ineffectual. Simply, they don’t really care about bike riders. They want money.

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    • 9watts March 2, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      “The perception exists that Cyclists “don’t have skin in the game”. This tax will quell that”.”

      Fools all.

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  • John March 2, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    I haven’t read the new laws. But does the tax apply if one doesn’t buy a complete bike?
    i.e. buy the bike minus the wheels, and make the wheels a separate purchase?

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    • Doug March 2, 2018 at 10:23 pm

      Toyota and Nissan did that for years. A 10% tariff on imported trucks was avoided by shipping pickup trucks to Long Beach, CA, with the beds off. Ship the beds separately, and bolt them together in Long Beach. They’re now American-made, thus no tax.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu March 6, 2018 at 10:27 pm

      Seems the bike shop could have fully functional demo bikes, while the for sale inventory is frames and wheelsets, purchased separately. The problem would be complexity and labor cost. Also, which bike shop is financially strong enough to go up against the Dept of Revenue?

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  • 9watts March 2, 2018 at 5:40 pm

    Seems pertinent (post by Dan A from the archives here):

    Dan A
    The point that has been made clearly here is that drivers are currently under taxed for the externalities of driving. It’s not my responsibility to pay extra to make up for the perception gap. It IS the responsibility of our leaders to find out the facts and speak the truth, not just reiterate the bogus chants of the unwashed masses. Other countries have figured this out.Recommended 2

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  • SD March 3, 2018 at 9:21 am

    Portland city govt and businesses emphatically display cycling as a symbol of the PDX urban utopia. But, they do not risk one ounce of political capital or dedicate appropriate resources to make active transportation accessible to a wide range of users. In the meantime, state govt attacks cycling as a symbol of Portland to stoke resentment from their base who believe that all of their taxes are spent on Portland bike lanes. The result is blissfully ignorant people in Sherwood grinning about a bike tax while ODOT wastes 450,000,000 on an unnecessary project and my kids can’t ride their bikes to school with a reasonable level of safety.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) March 5, 2018 at 9:06 am

    UPDATE, 3/5: The Oregon House (45-3) and Senate (25-4) have both voted to pass the bill. It is not headed to the Governor’s desk for signing. Keep in mind the bill included many tweaks to the transportation law that passed last session. The bike tax expansion was just one part of it…and it’s likely many lawmakers had no idea it was in there. Here’s how they voted:

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    • Al March 5, 2018 at 11:41 am

      “It is not headed to the Governor’s desk for signing.” ????

      Did you mean to type, “It is NOW headed….”

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  • Mark March 6, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Another group of old white people

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    • q March 7, 2018 at 7:36 am

      Much like many of the people who oppose the tax? And many bike shop owners? And many cyclists? Or are those the groups you’re referring to?

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