Editor’s Note: RBR contributor Stan Purdum (don’t miss Stan’s article “Days of Adventure” in today’s issue) forwarded a link to an article on the League of American Bicyclists website that should be of interest to all of us. It details Oregon’s recently passed tax on new bicycles. Beyond that, and noting another example or two of jurisdictions that tax or otherwise require a paid registration for bikes, the article delves into a long explanation of why we should beware “user fees” – especially as means to pay for cycling infrastructure.
Moreover, it raises the very real possibility that other, less friendly cycling states and localities will use the Oregon law as easy justification to enact their own (potentially onerous, or even outright ridiculous) taxes or user fees on bikes and cyclists.
The LAB article was written by Ken McLeod, the League’s legal expert on advocacy issues. Because it is so detailed and thorough, I’ll just give you a brief taste of Ken’s own words, along with a link to the full article.
“Earlier this month the Oregon Legislature passed a transportation bill that will dedicate $1.3 billion to biking, walking, and transit over the next 10 years out of a total of $5.3 billion. The bill includes $125 million for Safe Routes to School investments. Notably, this exceeds 2% of the transportation package, somewhat fulfilling a key feedback point from our 2015 Bicycle Friendly State report card. Unfortunately, this great win for bicycling is also paired with a disappointing tax on new bicycles. New adult bicycles that cost more than $200 will be subject to a $15 flat fee.
“Oregon’s bicycle tax is not particularly surprising – it has been a part of their transportation funding debate for years and was always part of this most recent funding legislation in Oregon. The Street Trust, formerly the Bicycle Transportation Alliance and currently the largest active transportation advocacy organization in Oregon, has been fighting against various forms of bicycle tax proposals for years. In this most recent legislation their dedicated lobbyists became convinced that there was no positive way forward without working with a package that included a bike tax.
“I hope that Oregon’s bicycle tax isn’t a sign of a reversal of Oregon’s embrace of bicycling or a precursor to similar taxes without similar associated investments. It is possible that Oregon’s tax will lead to more investments in making streets safe for bicyclists and be successful by changing the conversation that starts when someone says bicyclists “don’t pay for roads.” Perhaps states that have not sought to make significant investments in bicycling before will emulate the tax and make investments in bicycling they could never justify before. Time will tell whether this tax shows the persistence of an antagonistic “user fee” theory of transportation funding or is a prologue to more inclusive transportation funding policy and decision-making where outcomes, not funding sources, are what matters.”
Click to read the full article on the LAB website.