The Seattle Times reported last week about Washington State’s proposed transportation plan. In the proposal are the typical gas tax hikes and increased car tab fees (more details here). The increased taxes and fees would hopefully raise $10 billion dollars over 5 years to use towards highway improvements (many of which I think are needed).
The interesting aspect of this proposal is the inclusion of a $25 fee for any bicycle that sells for more than $500. This was apparently included in the proposal because there were people that ‘who complain that bicyclists don’t pay their fair share’. You know what, though? They’re right. Us cyclists don’t pay our fair share. I’ve never once had a tax imposed on me for riding my bicycle. I’ve also never been charged a fee for a bike tab.
But why should we? There aren’t any studies that I have found that support the fact that bicyclists wear roads down by cycling on them. I can’t see how bicycles would harm roads anyhow. The real reasons that roads get damaged are heavy trucks and cars and the weather. The other aspect to this is the fact that most of the roadways that are being pegged for improvements have hardly any cycling traffic on them. When was the last time that you saw a cyclist headed up I-90 over Snoqualmie pass? It’s a rare sight.
Setting aside my opinion as a cyclist, there is another voice being left out of this. Small bike shops are going to hurt because of this proposal. Sure, they could get creative and get around the new law by selling the bike in parts or by just not reporting sales correctly. But why put them through that? I think that it is unfair to try and come up with a measly $1 million dollars of a $10 billion proposal and put the bike shops in this corner.
I think that a tax on cyclists is not a bad idea, however. I would not mind paying some sort of a sales tax or bike tab fee if I knew that those funds being collected were going to improve the roads that I rode on. If those funds are going to go someplace else, let me ride tax free.