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Agreed that this tax is stupid.

Plus they could make so much more revenue if they just hung out at intersections in Portland and ticketed all the self-important cyclists running red lights. You could probably fund the entire state budget with that kind of cash.

I'm a former Oregonian and daily cyclist.
I fully endorse the tax.
Use taxes make perfect sense. We levy them in numerous areas, such as consumption of water, sewer, electricity, goods, food, gasoline and nearly everywhere else it is possible.
The 'fact' that auto drivers don't fully fund their own infrastructure is both a red herring and also false. Even if you're a dedicated 100% cyclist (and there are only a handful of people who are) you need those roads for the delivery of goods to your local store. You need them for cops. Ambulances. To cart your kids to and from school. To have your Amazon packages delivered.
I love bike lanes and trails. I want more. It's time for the cycling advocacy groups to grow up a little and stop insisting that because we are more 'virtuous' than our driving brothers and sisters, we don't need to pay for our own infrastructure. Vegans consider themselves to be making 'the right' choice as well. Does that mean a tax should be levied on meat to fund free tofu for vegans? Of course not.
The amount of whining over a $15 tax, that will apply once per lifetime of a bike, which can easily be a few decades, is ridiculous. And makes cyclists look even more self-righteous than people normally take us for.
Portland spends literally millions on bike infrastructure. Crying when asked to pay a dollar a year for is is not a good look.

Richard, they could make EVEN MORE money by enforcing the speed limit at the actual limit instead of a courtesy 10mph above, or - as so often is the case - not at all.

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

What exactly is the bigger picture here?

Bikes are the bigger picture. We've gone so long not thinking about bikes at all that a lot of people literally don't know how to drive around a cyclist.

Taxing bicycles definitely narrows our perspective.

Talk about a regressive tax. $15 on a $200 bike is a 7.5% tax. $15 on a $2000 bike is a 0.75% tax. I guess the Democrat Party in Oregon with this?

Use taxes - or user fees - make sense in some cases - like when you want to limit use (like a congestion tax) or when the main goal is fairness. But they run counter to other goals in many cases - this being one. I'd also argue that the sales tax is not really a "user fee" it's a consumption tax, which is different.

That drivers don't fully fund their own infrastructure is absolutely true for starters (https://taxfoundation.org/gasoline-taxes-and-user-fees-pay-only-half-state-local-road-spending/) and not a red herring if one is making a fairness argument.

It's true I buy stuff that is delivered to my home and stores via roads. I'm assuming they're adding the cost of shipping, and thus the gasoline tax, into the cost of what I buy right? What does that have to do with the fact that the gasoline tax is insufficient to cover the costs of roads.

Cyclists do pay for their own infrastructure. Automobile user fees pay for only about 1/2 the cost of roads. Where does the other half come from? All the other taxes that everyone, including cyclists, pay.

If you believe, as I and others do, that pigouvian tax are a better way to achieve policy goals like a cleaner world, better health, greater safety etc... then virtue should be relevant. As LAB wrote "The “user fee” concept is problematic because it collapses into absurdity when applied to all road users. Nobody seriously makes proposals to tax shoes to pay for sidewalks, or to tax wheelchairs to pay for ADA-compliant ramps."

"Does that mean a tax should be levied on meat to fund free tofu for vegans?"

That's a terrible analogy, but a carbon tax would definitely drive up the cost of beef and lamb and I would think that's a good thing. I would also support a tax on sugar or at least less of a subsidy for corn syrup, etc... That would be good policy as well. But if there were a strong enough argument that meat was bad and tofu good, even your proposal would make sense. We tax cigarettes and booze right? And we don't tax milk or other staples. Ta-da, you're very policy is already in place.

"The amount of whining over a $15 tax" The only person whining here is you.

"And makes cyclists look even more self-righteous than people normally take us for." How does it make cyclists look self-righteous exactly?

You apparently have the luxury of finding $15 to be not much of a hardship. Not everyone does.

As for crying, see what would happen if you tried to raise automobile registration fees by $1 a year. AAA would go bananas.

"It's time for the cycling advocacy groups to grow up a little and stop insisting that because we are more 'virtuous' than our driving brothers and sisters, we don't need to pay for our own infrastructure."

But bike infrastructure is incredibly cheap. Getting more people onto bikes saves the local DOT in maintenance costs overall.

"Vegans consider themselves to be making 'the right' choice as well. Does that mean a tax should be levied on meat to fund free tofu for vegans? Of course not."

I don't know. Raising livestock has some pretty deleterious environmental effects so a tax to fund environmental programs actually kind of makes sense to this meat-eater.

Moreover, I don't think its whining to point out bad policy even when the effects are relatively minor.

It's bad policy because there's no real reason to find a new source of money for bike projects.

It's bad policy because it targets the group causing the least amount of wear and tear on the roads.

It's bad policy because it's clear they thought about the source of the tax (cyclists) first and then retroactively decided it could go to bike projects.

A $200 bike wears on the path the same as a $5k bike. And requires the same width of trail and quality of surface.
The sales tax is probably what you're thinking of, which is 'progressive'.
Use taxes make sense. And they make sense to be equal for different levels. We don't charge tolls based on the expense of the car. Just the size.

But none of what you say refutes Kolo's point that this is a regressive tax. Sales tax is also regressive, btw. Income taxes and inheritance taxes are progressive.

drumz raises a good point - when can one disagree with a law or policy and have it not be whining? Or has civil discourse descended to the point that all opposition to things I like is whining?

And yeah, I'd rather see a blanket carbon (or methane) tax than on specific products.

There are a lot of good ideas within this comments section. Strictly enforcing speed limits, good idea. Raising the gas tax to ensure that road users are fully funding the cost of roadways, good idea.

I should point out, however, that the knee-jerk reaction of opposing a tax on bicycles is rather short-sighted. Bicycling does have a very light impact on roads and the environment, but cycling infrastructure does cost money. As much as I would hope that everyone in our society would automatically see the great social and economic benefit of cycling infrastructure, they do not.

I believe that a bicycle use tax is the only sure way to ensure consistent and steady increases in good cycling infrastructure. Otherwise, us cyclists always be an afterthought with our facilities underfunded, under-maintained and less than ideal. It is time for our communities to take this amazing transportation method seriously. A use-tax is the best way to do that, I believe. But it should be a progressive tax scheme with carve-outs for those less fortunate.

I wouldn't call it knee jerk. It's not like this came out of nowhere or has never been discussed before.

I already pay taxes on my bike -sales taxes on both purchases and services (I'll concede that OR has no sales tax so they don't make the same argument).

Cycling infrastructure does cost money. So does policing. And education. And sidewalks and a lot of other things. And for most of them, there is no user fee. So you're arguing that cyclists should pay a user fee because they don't right now. There's not a lot of logic there.

You'll have to explain to me what the goals of government are and how this tax achieves them.

Oregon has had no problem funding biking and neither does DC. The idea that we need a dedicated stream from a bicycle user tax is both naive (if you think it won't ever be raided) and wrong. Schools have no dedicated user fee stream for example. Roads do have a user tax stream and are still underfunded, under-maintained and less than ideal so the logic fails there too.

Does this tax apply to bikes purchased via the internet? Also, if neighboring states do not have a similar tax, some people may choose travel a few extra miles to buy a bike. Of course, the absence of a sales tax in OR may mitigate that choice.

I expect many shops will waive the tax on lower cost bikes and add the difference to the cost of mid to high priced

Perhaps we need an excise tax on all vehicles based on weight. Maybe 33 cents/ pound...still a regressive tax, but most taxes are.

From the "raspituin" comment:

"It's time for the cycling advocacy groups to grow up a little and stop insisting that because we are more 'virtuous' than our driving brothers and sisters, we don't need to pay for our own infrastructure. "

"Vegans consider themselves to be making 'the right' choice as well. Does that mean a tax should be levied on meat to fund free tofu for vegans?"

These two strawman arguments that bear very little resemblance to anything actually proposed by the cycling community. If the supporters of this tax have to resort to telling such lies in order to support their position, it suggests to me that they (the supporters of this tax) know they don't have a leg to stand on.

I personally have mixed feelings only because I like the idea of dedicated funding for cycling facilities.

As for placating angry drivers, politicians need to recognize and acknowledge that we've basically turned most of the USA into one big Angry Driver Factory. Most of our cities are built around the idea that it is practical for everyone to drive everywhere when the truth is that we'd be totally gridlocked if everyone tried to do so at the same time. Relentless propaganda in support of automobile sales certainly helps keep the factory humming along.

To shore up this broken transportation system, we hear ever more claims that an app (Uber, Lyft) or some other technology is making things better for drivers (does driving seem better to you?) or that self-driving cars will magically fix everything any day now. Now we have a tax on bicycles in a nation where the only thing considered more evil than a tax is whatever we are willing to tax (drinking, smoking, bicycles). Until we commit ourselves to discouraging more driving instead of encouraging more driving (and the anger that comes with that), we will continue down this twisted path.

As for regressive taxes, it would be nice if income taxes were progressive enough to overcome all the regressive taxes in the system. That way Warren Buffet would pay a higher aggregate tax rate than his secretary (instead of, as was widely reported, the other way around).

"even if you're a dedicated 100% cyclist (and there are only a handful of people who are) you need those roads for the delivery of goods to your local store."

Yes, And the trucks who make those deliveries, pay fuel taxes. Which are passed on to the shipper in the form of the cost of trucking. Which are then passed on to the retailer. Which are then passed on to me. So a car free cyclist is already paying for that. As are carfree walkers, who are not effected by this tax.


Its not perfectly OK according to run me over with a car according to the Washington Post because drivers drive 10mph above the speed limit. It is because you and other bikers cannot stop at a traffic light.

I don't get blamed for car drivers terrible behavior. Nor is it my "responsibility" to correct the behaviors of the driving community. I am a biker and am tired of getting the blame for you and your ilk that can't stop at a bloody traffic light.

Plus when a non biking voter sees the behavior most bikers exhibit constantly, with flaunting traffic laws whenever they get a chance, the regular voter is thinking, screw them, lets tax the hell out of them. If the biking community really wants to not be treated with such disdain, maybe they should stop acting with such disdain for others every time they see a red light. You know its not illegal to unclip your shoes right?

I'm sorry richardb, what are you talking about because this post is about the Oregon bike tax, not about stop signs.

If people are blaming you for bad things other people do, that sounds like there is something wrong with them. You should be mad at them.

As to what "regular voters" think, I wonder where you're getting this information from.

Look, it's just not true that the source of driver rage at cyclist is a failure to obey traffic laws. It's a failure to get the fuck out of the way. 99% of the time that I get yelled at by drivers, or honked at by drivers, it is while I am doing things that are perfectly legal, like riding in the center of the lane, or not using the non-existent bike lane.

I'll take this opportunity to post a link to a comment I wrote in 2010(!):


The gist:
"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."

WashCycle countered with:
"Even being less generous, if a bicycle tax were to cover the whole $500 million per year. A tax of $27 on each new bicycle sold would cover it."

This seems prescient in light of the Oregon tax proposal.

Yeah, but you proposed that as political theater and as guez (may he rest in peace) pointed out that political theater is meant to be absurd. Which is why I still say it's a kinda stupid. It's not the end of the world, I doubt you'll see a measurable difference in biking, but stupid nonetheless.

One of the things I've dreamed about doing is to create a website where cyclists can make a 75-cent contribution to the US Treasury and get a printable, wallet-sized certificate that they are a full road-tax-paying user of the public roads and entitled to all the rights and privileges that entails.

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