You’ve heard of the gas tax — but a bike tax? If new legislation in Oregon passes, the northwestern state could be the first to implement such a fee — and cyclists, as well as shop owners, have mixed feelings about it.
The tax would be part of a proposed $8 billion transportation spending package, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reports. It was crafted, in part, by Senator Lee Beyer (D-Springfield) and would add anywhere from 3 to 5 percent to the cost of a new bike. As the law is currently envisioned, it would only apply to adult bikes that cost over $500 and the funds would go toward building and maintaining better infrastructure, including off-street bike paths.
Beyer told OPB that it was crafted in response to a “common refrain among lawmakers and the public.”
“They felt that bicycles ought to contribute to the system, bicycle owners ought to contribute to the system, irrespective of the fact that most of them also own a car,” he said.
The station also spoke with a cyclist and employees at a shop in downtown Eugene. The cyclist and one employee talked about the need for better bike infrastructure, and said they would be willing to pay a little bit extra to fund it. That wasn’t the opinion of Mark Lipchick, the shop’s mechanic.
“It’s gonna hurt bike shops’ sales,” he said. “It’s gonna put businesses out of business that are mom and pop bicycle shops. A lot of people are going to be out of work, as a result. It’s really kind of silly.”
The larger $8.2 billion transportation funding bill would also raise the gas tax, up vehicle title and registration fees, increase tolls and impose a payroll tax to help fund public transportation. The Statesman Journal has a thorough breakdown of bill’s provisions. It would bring in roughly $509.1 million in 2018, and increase to $1.1 billion in 2027.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.