One Oregon lawmaker thinks so. Rep. Wayne Krieger has proposed a law requiring Oregon bike riders to pay $54 every two years for a bike registration - the same price as a car's registration, according to the Oregon DMV. In an interview, Krieger said, "Bikes have used the roads in this state forever and have never contributed a penny. The only people that pay into the system are those people who buy motor vehicle licenses and registration fees." At the same time, bikes unquestionably put less stress on our roads, so some are speaking out that the registration fees are unfair. Oregon has a high percentage of bicycle commuters.
Here are a few ways of looking at the proposal:
Zach Frechette, of GOOD, thinks that the bike tax will discourage people from being bike commuters, especially if they already own cars. "I subscribe to the idea that we should tax things we want less of, not more of...We want more bike riders. Lots more (they’re super-effecient, in case you hadn’t heard). And we want fewer cars on the road (they’re not great for the environment). It seems obvious, then, that the burden of improving bike infrastructure should be placed on motorists."
The Oregon Economics Blog believes the idea is unfair, since bikers do other motorists a favor by decreasing congestion and emissions. "Perhaps the stupidest public policy idea I have ever heard of is the proposed bike tax...The negative externalities associated with bike riding: virtually none. Minimal wear and tear on roads, sometimes a slight slowdown in traffic and a extra line of paint for a bike lane. Positive externalities associated with bike riding: lots. Reduced congestion and emissions from those that bike in lieu of taking a car, and better health and fitness of riders reducing the toll on the public health system. Public economic teaches us that to get an efficient amount of economic activity that has externalities you have to get the price to reflect the true cost of the activity. In this case the true cost is less than the price of a bike."
The minds at Freakonomics, though, don't seem opposed to the idea, because the funds would go towards improving bike lanes and safety. "Considering the enormous benefits of investments in bicycle infrastructure, can even a tax-hating bicyclist concede his point, at a registration cost of just over 7 cents a day?" -- http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/02/are-bicyclists-free-riders/
Some bloggers have problems with the logistics of the proposal, which would cause bike-owning motorists and anyone who has multiple bikes to pay extra:
"A cyclist may have one bike for commuting, one for mountain biking, one for road racing and one for cyclecross...The fees quickly add up to $216 for every two years, or $9 per month for one person. Then add the spouse or domestic partner who shares the same interests and that could cost up to $432 every two years for two people in a household." -- Bryan Dorr
"Remember that most bike riders are already automobile owners. We (and I include myself in that group) already are taxed and pay fees to have the roads to begin with." --Real Oregon Reality
The AP reports that the proposal is on hold. Still, what do you think - do bikers have the same obligations and responsibilities as motorists?