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The Pacific Northwest's foolish attack on bicycles

March 08, 2013|By Karin Klein
  • While Los Angeles tries to draw more cyclists to its streets with green lanes, other states are looking to tax them.
While Los Angeles tries to draw more cyclists to its streets with green lanes,… (Los Angeles Times )

What is it with Oregon and Washington state, those places that supposedly have it so much more environmentally together than car-obsessed California? Both states are entertaining proposals to levy a fee on bicycles. Small, admittedly, but isn’t one of the ideas behind taxes supposed to be to encourage actions that help society as a whole? You know, like more non-motorized bicycle use?

In Washington, Times reporter Matt Pearce writes, the state might levy a $10-per-bike registration fee similar to the annual car registration fee. And in Oregon, they’re talking about a $25 “sales fee” on bicycles costing $500 or more, making it part of a larger transportation bill. The idea in that case is that the bill includes road improvements for bikes, so why not make the bicyclists pay?

Well, for one thing, most bikes -- not just the expensive ones (except for the mountain variety) -- use the streets, so if we’re going down that road, so to speak, why not charge all of them? But the question shouldn’t be what bikes cost -- it’s what they save. The air pollution you don’t have to clean up (except for the loony legislator who suggested the increased carbon dioxide put out by the heavier breathing of aerobic exercise is a form of global warming), the potholes you don’t have to fill because the light weight of bikes is easier on street surfaces, the roads and other amenities you don’t have to build to accommodate increased traffic. And by the way, where’s the associated fee for shoes from all those pedestrians who need walkways? You can practically envision a slogan switch from "Just do it" to "Just pay it."

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I haven’t ridden a bike in years, though I keep swearing that the beach cruiser in the garage is going to get a workout any month -- as soon as I can wipe it off thoroughly enough to determine what color is under the grime. But there's no way around it: Bicycles and their riders are better for society than cars -- except, of course, when they pretend that stoplights and stop signs do not apply to them.

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