Thursday, February 21, 2013

To Tax or to License? How Should Cyclists Pay Their "Fair Share"?

I posted this link on the Facebook page but I thought that a location here on the blog would be nice as this site sees far more traffic and could generate some decent discussion in the comments and enjoy a longer "shelf life".

There is some discussion here in the Pacific Northwest about taxing cyclists and bicycle commuters in order to raise revenue for road maintenance based on the argument that bicycle riders are not paying into the fund for road maintenance and are thereby using the infrastructure for free.

Here's the story on Washington State's proposal from local news channel, KGW:

Setting aside these points:

  • Most bicycle riders own cars too and pay for road maintenance each time they purchase gasoline just like the rest of motorists
  • Bicycles cause fractions of percentages of the damage to our highway and roadway infrastructure of a typical passenger vehicle
What do you think?

My feeling is that a tax structure would push purchases away from local businesses and toward areas that do not have/enforce the tax; i.e. out-of-state or internet purchases. We see this already in states with sales tax located next to states without. In the current economic environment where we all have become bigger "penny-pinchers", it does not take much for us to search out methods to save a few dollars; especially on larger purchases.

My alternative would be a testing and licensing process much like you see with automobiles. I think the population of bike commuters and cyclists has hit enough of a "critical mass" point that a testing and licensing process would not curb their use of the road. I would happily pay a licensing fee to be able to ride my road bike and I know I'd ace the test... :)

The trouble with taxing; as I stated above, is that it too often results in people trying to find a way around it rather than actually raising the amount of forecast revenue. (How many WA and ID residents drive to OR for big purchases?) Licensing fees are inescapable if you want to be an honest and responsible citizen and can carry penalties for those who do not.

So; let's open this up in the comments. What's your thought? What is your creative solution?

(And let's keep it respectable folks - I do moderate comments and am not afraid to delete ones that are profane, inflammatory or unjustifiably disrespectful. This is my website - "free speech" stops at the doorstep.)

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