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I wouldn't whine about a $4 excise tax when buying a bike, but it won't quiet the people who don't like bikes on their roads. They pay more than $4 bi-weekly via gas taxes, afterall. It's their attitude that if it sucks for them it has to suck for everyone, no?

Ooo, and lets tax shoes to pay for sidewalks and sports equipment to pay for parks.

Cars are taxed and drivers are licensed because of all the damage they do. It's drivers who are the trespassers in the public space and are charged to act responsibly when they're doing so. And now because they pay for ~1/2 the cost of the roads somehow it has become totally theirs.

But even so, lets put forth that all road users should be taxed for facilities they use. That would put gas for 21 mpg cars at $7-$8 per gallon, higher mpg cars would have to be taxed even more. Get this done and then we can talk about a tax on cyclists and pedestrians. As it stands now the non-driving public (~30%) is supporting the driving public and this has to change!

I'd be OK with it, but I'd want something in return.

The amount of money going specifically to cyclists is really minuscule. Some of it comes from money to mitigate the environmental damage of cars. Some of it comes from money not paid by drivers, but rather boaters, pilots, ATV users, etc... (anyone who uses gas on something other than a road). At least a third of our FHWA money is spent on interstates and highways that probably don't serve cyclists at all. Some money is spent on Maglevs, border control and other non-car, non-bike items. But the bike share is rather small.

I'd give in to a bike excise tax, if the money was used to fund bike projects and if the gas tax was raised to 1994 levels and then tied to inflation. It wouldn't hurt to see it capture more of the negative externalities either.

But really, I think the argument should be made that when I ride a bike, drivers win. When I bike I use some, but not many, resources and pay for none of them directly through "user fees". When I drive I use much more and pay for some directly. I'd bet that the gap between what I use and what I pay for is larger when I drive.

Some of it comes from money not paid by drivers, but rather boaters, pilots, ATV users, etc... (anyone who uses gas on something other than a road).
Technically, you only have to pay the gas tax if you use the gas to operate a motor vehicle on a public road. You can either apply for a refund, or you can buy untaxed fuel that has been dyed to signify that it hasn't been taxed. For my tractor I buy about 100 gallons a year of red dyed untaxed diesel.

Back on topic: the problem with a bike excise tax is that it is conceding the argument that paying taxes is what gives you the right to the road. It wouldn't settle any arguments anyway -- I can't imagine that anyone who now doesn't think bikes belong on roads would change their mind because of a couple dollar tax. And there is the practical problem -- the main reason DC got rid of mandatory bike registration is that it was just impractible to collect small amounts of money from large number of people.

As an advocacy position, however, it might have some merit if phrased right. Start with some scholarly research to determine the "right" amount of tax. Finish by "demanding" the right to pay the same as motorists -- but only the same 51% of costs, of course. A good campaign would involve a thorough analysis of road taxes, and end up highlighting: 1. how little is spend on bike facilities; 2. how little impact cyclists have on roads; 3. how under-taxed motorists are.

Be sure to follow the link about the guy in Ennis, Texas. The local police are harassing him to keep him from riding his bike on the road, and he is fighting it. Right-to-the-road cases are extremenly important to cyclists*, and legal challenges cost money. There is no source of funding to help cover the costs in a case like this, the only source of funds is donations from other cyclists. So click through and send him a few bucks.

(*except for W of course).

I'm not sure how it all works, but from the FHWA website "The RTP funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from nonhighway recreational fuel use: fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks." So I may have been too expansive in my list.

I find it somewhat funny that everyone has bit into the "drivers pay 51% of the cost of the roads" bit that Texas did. Has anyone stopped to consider that the percentage may vary by region? For example, in the Twin Cities, the University of Minnesota did a study and came up with a number of 84%.

Let's not forget that Federal transit money comes from...you guessed it...the Federal gas tax. So in response to "the human car", everyone is subsidizing everyone else. It's *NOT* a one-way street. (pun intended)

Tough issue. I honestly don't mind the "money" aspect of it, since it wouldn't kill me to put out a couple of extra dollars.

As others have mentioned, it's the idea that cyclists can maybe be seen as "paying" members of the road (even though I already pay taxes on a car that I seldom use as well)....will it work? I don't know. I doubt anyone would notice honestly.

Also, as already mentioned, bicycles do a miniscule amount of damage to public roads compared to cars.

I don't know. Maybe if they can outline exactly what they intend to do with the tax I'll support it more (as Wash mentioned).

Actually the Texas study showed that tax gap ratio was less than 50%. "Some roads pay for about half their true cost, but most roads we have analyzed pay for considerably less."

But nationally, it may be closer to 50%.
For 1997, federal receipts were $22 billion; state receipts were $55 billion; and local receipts were $30 billion.... The federal government and most state governments rely chiefly on highway-user revenues, such as motor-fuel and motor-vehicle taxes. On a nationwide basis, this averaged to about $400 per capita and a little more than four cents per vehicle-mile traveled. Local governments rely on other sources, such as appropriations and property taxes, for their receipts.

So most of the $30 billion and much of the $55 billion is not from user fees. The average gas tax is 27.2 cents. Average gas mileage is 17 cents. So average gas tax is 1.6 cents per mile. Even with other auto taxes and tolls, I doubt that climbs above 50% of the 4 cents per mile we spend.

I get my 51% number here: http://www.subsidyscope.com/transportation/highways/funding/

“Using Federal Highway Administration statistics, Subsidyscope has calculated that in 2007, 51 percent of the nation's $193 billion set aside for highway construction and maintenance was generated through user fees—down from 10 years earlier when user fees made up 61 percent of total spending on roads. The rest came from other sources, including revenue generated by income, sales and property taxes, as well as bond issues.”

“Today, user fee revenue as a share of total highway-related funds is at an all-time low since the Interstate Highway System was created in 1957.”


Also keep in mind that the lion's share of gas taxes go to roads like interstates and expressways where cyclists are either prohibited outright or not accomodated. The local roads that cyclists prefer are overwhelmingly paid for by local taxes on property and sales.

What's interesting is to look at all of the exemptions that states have to the gas tax. Here is a link to the exemptions to the gas tax in Virginia. It's 25 categories, including concrete mixers, private-school buses, any vehicle used in agriculture, and
"urban or suburban bus line, a taxicab service or a common carrier of passengers." Does anyone argue that school buses or taxis have less of a right to the road because they don't pay gas tax? No. The list is more about political clout than any sort of rational transportation policy.

But I do think it would be good political theater to propose a tax on cyclists. Using round numbers, start with the $100 billion or so collected in fuel taxes each year. Bicycles are about 0.5% of vehicle miles traveled, so allocate $500 million to bikes. There are roughly 100 million bikes in the US, so that's $5 per bike per year. Discount it for the fact that bikes don't tear up the road, use less of the road than other vehicles, and are banned from the most expensive roads. Propose a tax of 75 cents per bike per year, and stand back.

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