Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bike Taxes

There's not a whole lot of detail on this one, but apparently Assemblywoman Wilma Carter (D-Rialto) proposed a bill for this year's legislative session that would impose a $2 tax on the sale of new bicycles, with proceeds going to fund state parks and bicycle trail networks.

I've talked to many bicycle advocates, and a lot of them seem to have an almost visceral reaction against bicycle-specific taxes. This is most likely because one of the tired, repetitive arguments that auto drivers make against cyclists is that we don't pay gas taxes-- the "user fees" that motorists think fund all roads in the country ever. (Of course, they don't- they only fund highways, and not even all of those.) Drivers argue that, if they have to get licensed and registered and pay gas taxes to use the roads, cyclists should have to do the same thing. This is obviously a horrible argument, as cyclists do far less damage to roadways, and pose far less danger to other road users, but it's one that's made-- and I think it's behind an almost reflexive revulsion to bike taxes among cycling advocates.

Here's the thing: if I have to pay $2 more every time I buy a new bike, and in exchange I get state parks and trails... I'll pay the $2 with a smile on my face. Even the cheapest new bikes are at least $150, so the difference between paying $150 and $152 is pretty marginal. This holds even more true for higher-end bicycles-- you're not going to notice an extra $2 on your $1200 bike purchase. I'd also be fine with something like a dime-a-tube tax on bicycle tubes, dedicated to bicycle infrastructure. (This, of course, assumes that the cost of collecting such a tax wouldn't be more than the revenue it would bring in, and that isn't a given.) I mean, it would be nice if our cities, states and nation would divert some general fund money to bike infrastructure, but I'd rather pay $7.10 for a tube and ride on plentiful Class I and II bikeways than pay $7 and dodge parked cars.

Americans in general are terribly under-taxed. If it's a viable funding mechanism, we should embrace bike-specific taxes-- so long as they go to bike-specific expenditures.

No comments: