Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tax on .. uh .. me?

The Oregon House of Representatives have put forward a bill to register all bicycles. This registration would cost $54, would be non-transferrable, and would be required for any bike that "operates on the highways of this state." The money would go into a Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund that would then be used to fund “bicycle-related transportation improvement projects”.

I'm of two minds on this. Let's call one mind "Jim" and the other mind "Clyde." I wish I could have made one of the minds "Mary" or something, but Randoboy does not have much of a feminine side.

Jim thinks this bill could be a good thing. He is willing to pay his fair share of taxes, and is very willing to contribute towards a fund for "bicycle-related transportation improvement projects."

One thing Jim likes about this bill is that it gives him another foot to stand on (we'll say it's Jim's left foot) when arguing with motorists who claim that they have more right to the roads than he does because their car and gasoline are taxed. Jim knows that he has excellent arguments to counter this position, such as the fact that he owns cars as well and pays taxes on them, and their gas, and on the food that he eats so he can have enough energy to pedal his bike. But Jim likes the idea of pulling out his bicycle registration and waiving it at the next screaming Hummer driver at a stop light, shouting back, "I paid for the use of this road, too!"

Jim can be rather militant. I hope the Hummer dude doesn't pull out a gun, shoot Jim, and drive off saying, "Well, this gun's not registered, so I guess I didn't pay for it."

Clyde, on the other mind, doesn't like the bill. He is not a trusting soul, and knows down deep that the government will use the money for bicycling in about the same way that they use money from the lottery for education. Sure, they may put in a multi-use path in a park, or tack up more signs saying "Share the Road," but he knows that these are not the kinds of things that really make the roads better for cyclists.

What would make the roads better for Clyde, and probably Jim and every other cyclist, is more cyclists. The more of us that there are regularly using the road -- and not just out riding three abreast on a country road on a nice Saturday morning, but going to and from work and school and shopping -- the more drivers have to accept us.

Clyde often shouts out: We're here, we steer, get over it!

(Yeah, Clyde's kind of a dork. And he may have a bit of a feminine side.)

So, doesn't Clyde think that a bill like this, which will raise the awareness of cycling and maybe get people riding to that multi-use path in the park, could be a good thing? No, Clyde thinks that the $54 fee could be too much for some people, and they won't even get on that bike. And, since they don't get on that bike, they will never discover just how much fun it is to get somewhere on their own power. They'll never realize that they really can lessen their carbon footprint, smell the blooming pear trees, slow down, and enjoy that short trip to work.

I own four bicycles, so would I pay $216 to keep riding them? Of course. And if I do, I will continue to demand my piece of the road, although maybe not waive my registration card in Hummer guy's face. If that $216 went towards another bike lane on one of my routes -- or just went towards regularly sweeping the glass and tire bits out of my current bike lanes -- that would be great.

But if a registration fee would keep cyclists off the road, then it would be a bad thing. If they try to get something like this passed in Tennessee, I would fight it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with Clyde. Something that discourages bike riding is a bad thing. Additionally, there are some folks who ride their bicycles to work, etc. because they cannot afford cars and because we as a country tend not to have great bus/ mass transit systems. Where would those folks be?