Revisiting the Idea of a Bicycle Tax

4253895321_a93721f16a.jpgThe city of Tucson has some nice-looking bicycle infrastructure. Now the City Council is looking at imposing bike registration fees, even though the system wouldn’t even pay for itself. (Photo: Steven Vance via Flickr)

Two different methods of making bicycle riders pay for roads came over the feed on the Streetsblog Network over the last day. 

First, Tucson Velo writes that the Tucson City Council is discussing a fee of $10 to register bicycles with the city, part of a much larger budget-balancing package. The council voted to take up the idea even though the city manager recommended against it — since it apparently would not even pay for itself. Council members won’t let that stop them from considering it.

But there’s bigger bicycle tax talk out there on the national level, as Jonathan Maus reports at Bike Portland:

2010 will be a year of major discussions about how to finance America’s transportation system. As the use of bicycles is taken more seriously and more money is spent on bike-centric facilities, calls for a revenue stream taken directly from people who ride bicycles — as opposed to the gas tax — are sure to grow louder.

One idea that seems to be growing in support is a bicycle excise tax that would be charged at the point of sale of new bikes and/or bike parts.

The idea is obviously popular with people who represent highway users, but I’ve noticed a growing number of high-profile bike advocates, politicians, and organizations express their support as well.

In a story in The Oregonian this week, City of Portland bike coordinator Roger Geller said, “There’s a symbolic value to cyclists paying.” Reporter Joseph Rose added that Geller, “likes the idea of a small excise tax on new bikes, tires or inner tubes.”…

Noted Portland bike lawyer Ray Thomas thinks the BTA and the League of American Bicyclists should make a bike tax a priority. “When bicyclists can point to tax they pay toward roads,” Thomas wrote in a comment on BikePortland in 2008, “… then we will have a real seat at the transportation table.”

The Bike Portland post has a monster comment thread that summarizes many of the arguments for and against the various types of taxes that might be levied on people who ride bicycles. This type of idea comes up on a regular basis (discussions from last spring can be found here and here), and it doesn’t seem to be going away. What do you think of the idea of an excise or other tax on bikes?

More from around the network: Let’s Go Ride a Bike has an open thread about how to buy a bike on a budget; head over and add your advice. Reimagine an Urban Paradise is looking for stories of bicycle love. And The Dirt reports on plans for freeway-capping parks in Los Angeles.