Last week Democrats in the Washington state legislature introduced a $10 billion transportation package with a number of revenue elements. According to the Seattle Times, the proposal increased the gas tax by 10 cents every five years until it reached nearly half a buck per gallon, created a “car-tab tax” for .7 percent of a car’s value, and a $25 sales fee on bicycles that cost more than $500. The latter item was included as “a nod to motorists who complain that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share.”
As one might expect, the reaction from bicycle bloggers was swift and sharp, with Streetsblog calling the bike tax “pointless.” A number of strong counter-arguments were raised in the discussion. In explaining why the tax “simply makes no sense,” the Seattle Bike Blog pointed to a study showing that riding actually saves local governments money. Cyclelicious noted the disproportionate nature of a bike tax compared to the excise tax on new vehicles purchases.
There are any number of reasons why a bike tax makes for poor public policy. For starters, the idea that bike riders don’t pay for the road is rather hollow. The vast majority of riders also own cars, after all, and riding creates negligible wear and tear on the road. Bike infrastructure costs public money, especially if it’s done right, but the bike tax wouldn’t even pay for much of it — with the state’s proposal expected to bring in only a reported $1 million over a decade.
The list doesn’t end there. Small business owners stand to suffer from a tax on expensive bikes, as casual riders might be compelled to buy cheaper models at big retailers, or to purchase a bike on Craigslist and avoid the tax entirely. Implementing the new tax might end up costing more than it brings in. Last, but not least, there’s the fear that permitting even a small tax would open the floodgates for more to come.
Still, with all that said, there is an inherent value to a bike tax like the one proposed in Washington as an important starting point in an inevitable discussion about sharing road costs. For decades a $4 excise tax in Colorado Springs has helped the city leverage federal matching grants. Congressman Earl Blumenauer, a major proponent of livable cities, has said the riding community would be “better off” with a small
To read the whole story, visit here: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/02/why-bike-tax-might-not-be-pointless-after-all/4828/
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