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Should Bike Riders Be Taxed?


So thinks Oregon representative Wayne Krieger, who has proposed a law requiring cyclists to register their bikes at a cost of $54 every two years. In his words: "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." The folks over at the Freakonomics blog seem to think the premise is valid, wondering if even a "tax-hating bicyclist" could argue with the logic of paying the proposed $0.07 a day to build new bike infrastructure. To them I say: how quaintly old-fashioned.I subscribe to the idea that we should tax things we want less of, not more of. I stole that idea from Hendrik Hertzberg's well-argued New Yorker comment, in which he suggests "scrapping the payroll tax altogether and replacing the lost revenue with a package of levies on things that, unlike jobs, we want less rather than more of-things like pollution, carbon emissions, oil imports, inefficient use of energy and natural resources, and excessive consumption." I think the same rules should apply here.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. This would have the dual effect of discouraging driving and encouraging cycling. Krieger's law is the opposite of that. So while $54 every two years is a teensy-tiny sum, if it discourages even a single person from trading in four wheels for two, it seems like a mistake. Krieger says "If a small fee discourages something, I would suggest they probably aren't very ardent to the cause to start with." To him I say: go soak your head.Photo by Flickr user Hans Hamburger.
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