In Salem, Representative Wayne Krieger (R-Gold Beach) has introduced legislation that Oregon bicyclists say is a case study in Car Head, the tendency to see the world through a windshield especially when it comes to bikes. But in some ways, Representative Krieger’s proposal, House Bill 3008, actually seems like a good thing, elevating the bicycle to the same status as any other vehicle on the road. The bill establishes a bicycle registration system in Oregon that would require each bicycle to be registered just like a car.
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The fee for registering a bike in Oregon would be $54 with fines for not having proper registration ($25) and for altering a bicycle’s serial number ($90). Each bike would get a little reflective sticker just like cars do. The fines and fees are deposited into a new bicycle transportation fund that is dedicated to “pay for development and maintenance of bicycle lanes, bicycle paths and other bicycle related transportation improvement projects.”
But bike advocates are outraged, partially because they believe the law would discourage people from riding. To them, registration feels like a tax that could discourage people from bicycling, maybe even prompting more people to drive. They also dislike the bill because they believe the sponsor has an anti-bike motivation.
Based on some of Representative Krieger’s comments there’s some good evidence that he isn’t out to promote bicycling.
When asked whether the bill would discourage bike riding Representative Krieger said, “If a small fee discourages something, I would suggest they probably aren’t very ardent to the cause to start with. I think there are very few people who would stop biking because of the fee.”
It’s hard to imagine many politicians making a statement like that about driving a car—and its part of the reason bike advocates don’t trust where this bill is coming from.
There are two key issues with this ongoing debate. First, increasing the price (and headache) of using a bicycle will likely discourage some people from riding and impede others from starting to ride. If promoting bicycling is a policy objective then this bill is probably unhelpful.
Second, many bicyclists would say that bikes already have enough legal standing on the road without a registration system. What’s missing is broad cultural recognition among drivers that bikes should be treated with the same respect as another car. The best way to improve bicycling’s cultural standing is to making significant policy changes that protect and empower bicyclists on the road rather than imposing registration requirements.
It’s this last point that truly annoys cyclists. There are manyother policy changes that would improve safety and make it easier to ride. Get those done first, and maybe registration might make sense.
It’s hard to tell whether registration will discourage biking in the short term, or if over the long term registration will shift cultural norms to give bicyclists the respect they want from drivers.
Some jurisdictions have already opted for registration, including Honolulu where it is mandatory; but I haven’t caught up with any studies about whether the registration policy has made a difference in bicycling rate. (It may be worth a field trip to find out.)
Do the benefits of elevating the bicycle’s status outweigh the downsides of imposing fees and headaches? Are there other things we should do first before we require registration? Will there ever be a time when bikes should be registered? How will we know? Weigh in, in the comments section!
First, the initial fee is $54, but it also has to be renewed every 2 years at that same rate. This is the same rate as a “<a href='http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/fees/vehicle.shtml#Regular_Vehicle_Registration__not_including_plate_fee_'>passenger vehicle,” even though bicycles would not cause the same rate of damage to biky lanes/paths as cars do.On one hand, I would be happy to pay a tax if they gave me something for it. Maybe bike paths along all highways, and bike lanes on all city streets. However, how would this impact the low income and homeless people for whom a bike is the only means of transportation?Overall, I think this is a bad idea in it’s current form. If there was a tax/fee for bicycles, it should be implemented with a specific timeline for the creation of the bike lanes and paths throughout the state and the fee should not be the same as a car, and more than the fee for a motorcycle.
One good reason for bicycle registration is to establish ownership of your bike. Then if your bike is ever lost or stolen, when it’s recovered it can be traced back to you through its registration number.The University of Oregon already requires that students register their bikes because there is so much bike-theft around campus. When I registered my bike years ago, I felt such huge relief knowing that my one-and-only transportation vehicle was traceable back to me, should I ever lose it!So, I have no problem with this new bill requiring that all bicycles in Oregon be registered. However, the registration fee of $54 sure sounds steep!
Would this really elevate the status of bikes on the road? I doubt it – more important, imo, would be the possibility of getting back a stolen bike. I’d be interested to hear how effective the bike registration at the University of Oregon is at preventing/returning stolen bikes. I’d be more than happy to pay a fee if I knew it was guaranteed to be used for bike improvements. But Chris Leblanc has a good point about low income, bike-dependent people. $50 isn’t that bad – but it adds up if you have to pay it every other year! After not too long that’s a new bike down the tube!
This sounds like nothing more than an attempt to make cyclists pay their “fair share” and possibly make misbehaving cyclists more identifiable. I find it interesting that it only costs $30 to register a motorcycle in Oregon for two years. Not sure why a bicycle would require an extra $24 to process the paperwork. Seems pretty obvious that this is anti-cyclist in it’s intent.Oregon cycling advocates could simply say, fine, we’ll agree to the fee (at the lower Motorcycle rate, mind you!) IF you give us <insert your=’None’ wish=’None’ list=’None’ here=’None’>. Idaho stop law, vulnerable user law, anti-cyclist harassment law, etc… But that’s just me.
I have no deep opposition to licensing bicycles, and I can see the slight political gain that might come from bike registration. It would legitimize and sanction cycling, I suppose, to a certain degree. Still, registering bicycles seems like an exceptionally low priority for public action.The fee probably won’t cover anything but the costs of administering the program. If there’s anything left over, it won’t be enough to pay for much bike infrastructure. It might pay for stolen-bike recovery efforts or a little bit of extra bike-safety outreach for kids.Furthermore, cyclists already do pay their way. They mostly ride on city streets. City streets are mostly paid for from local property taxes. And people who ride bikes contribute property taxes just like any other group of people.And all of us who want to ensure that authorities can return stolen bikes to us when recovered need only register their bike(s) on one of the online services that provide this service. The service, furthermore, is national, not local. So one registration lasts the life of bicycle, wherever it goes in its country. The argument for registration as theft insurance seems strained to me.
Wow! Thanks, Alan, for the info about national bike registration!Here’s a link for the National Bike Registry, “the only true national database.”There’s a registration fee ranging from $10 to $25, which lasts from 10 to 30 years.Good to know that my bike can be nationally identifiable!
What about children’s bikes? Are they included? What about the paperwork hassle for anyone seeking to give away/trade etc… an old bike, or acquire someone else’s old bike? Scrapping bikes for parts, etc… Many families, where members might have multiple kinds of bikes (road and mountain bikes), whose kids might have a bike or two, would end up paying a lot more than $54, it seems.
The National Bike Registry is a joke, pure and simple. It may be national, but ONLY if the police/sheriff department where you live participates in it. In the entire state of Montana, where I live, there are only 6 participating agencies and I live more than 100 miles from the nearest one.
I see an CarHead educational opportunity here in registering bicycles. It would go like this: Sure we’d love to register our bikes, since they are vehicles entitled to their full share of the road and of the Rules of the Road…but we want the fee you charge us to be in proportion to the total public costs in Oregon of one bicycle compared to those of one car.My guess is that the bicycle fee would drop from $54 to $5.40.
I agree with Fred Bass. Let’s agree to a reasonable fee, and then get on with the real debate: the relative costs (all costs) of cars and bicycles to society. Failure to pay anything is a silly but potent symbolic issue to some, and we should just get over it so that we have stronger standing on the cost issue. $54 dollars is ridiculous, not reasonable.
Just so people know, Fred Bass is a former city councillor in Vancouver, BC, and a pretty good one. He was one of the few COPE councillors elected in the years when the NPA dominated Vancouver city council. I say this only to outline his relevant background. The man has experience on issues such as this.One of the *major* problems I have with this is the fact that as a cyclist a *sizable* portion of the tax revenue I pay in various ways already pays for cars. Road infrastructure receives substantial funding from governments at all levels.While I applaud the idea of *dedicating* more funds to cycling, and in fact have been demanding it in Vancouver for some time the notion that cyclists should pay directly to create that fund is ridiculous in a world where drivers do not.Stop using general revenues to fund car infrastructure and raise fees to levels that would be required and the true cost of car ownership would rise to levels that few could afford.$54 every two years is a heinous tax on cycling. I’d be willing to pay $5.40 (or even $10) but I have little faith that that money would stay dedicated to cycling projects or that governments would use the fund in effective way.
I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, paying a (to me) substantial fee would help break down the argument I hear so often from drivers which is “it’s my road because my gas taxes pay for it” (ignoring that gas taxes don’t come close to paying for the construction and maintenance of roadways).On the other hand, I think the government should be in the business taxing the “bads” (consumption, carbon, tobacco) instead of “goods”. We subsidize education and parks because we want more of them, not less, and the same attitude should hold for cycling. Bikes don’t degrade roadways the same way motor vehicles do, don’t require nearly the amount of space for parking, don’t require fossil fuels (and everything their procurement entails) like cars do, and lastly have a comparatively tiny carbon footprint. Isn’t that worthy of subsidy?I also agree with Fred Bass–“relative impact” is a smart way to frame the issue, and I think would lead to solutions both sides could live with.Skot—I agree in principle with the idea that general revenues should not be used to pay for car infrastructure, but if such a system could be instituted I suspect it would lead to attitudes of ownership and entitlement to the roads by driver that would be even worse than what we see now. This would in turn lead to more hostility toward cyclists, and ultimately be harmful policy for those of us interested in promoting cycling.
Yay, David Yaden, good to hear from you! (I’m assuming you’re this “David Yaden,” since a Google search brings up several people under that same name…)Between Alan Durning’s Car Head insights and David Yaden’s expertise in organizing people for positive social change, it sounds like we here in Oregon are in good hands for creating momentum on this Bright Green issue.Lead the way, Sightline!
Oh, and Fred Bass, too!(Thanks, Skot Nelson, for letting us Americans know who he is.):-)
Oh, and Sylvia Callida, and everybody else who’s commented thus far, too. Great inputs!!(As an “Agreeable Nebraskan” transplanted to the Northwest, I just had to include everybody. Especially since it’s true! 🙂
Perhaps, if the goal is to raise money from cyclists to pay for cycling initiatives cities should look at providing services for cyclists that cost.I’d pay for secure bike parking if it meant I didn’t have to carry a 3 pound lock:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcSD5MsQuVoand it would prevent my pedals from getting stolen (which is the only form of bike theft I’ve been subject too…they took my PEDALS man.)Systems like this use a smart card to ensure that the original owner gets their bike back. If cities were to install such things and charge an annual fee, I’d happily pay. A _commitment_ needs to be made to such things in order to hit critical mass. Installing one only benefits a few…put one outside every community centre and public pool in Vancouver, add a small monthly fee to my swim charges and I’d GLADLY pay it.Just a thought that they could be more creative than another tax. Taxation without services is as repressive as taxation without representation.
> if such a system could be instituted I suspect it would lead to attitudes > of ownership and entitlement to the roads by driver that would be even > worse than what we see nowThis is a very good point.
I am a motorist and a cyclist and am completely opposed to this tax. A huge proportion of Oregonians are sedentary and obese. Talk about major public health and economic issues! To disincentivize a clean form of transportation that also improves health is misdirected to the point of being absurd.
Imagine you are a couple with four bikes between you (not an uncommon scenario at all.) That’s $216 every other year to register them, even though in terms of person-mile usage, road space, and road wear they are the equivalent of one car at most. The bill is just wrongheaded in so many ways. If Rep. Krieger commuted by bike in an urban setting, he wouldn’t be proposing this law. And in fact if he commuted by car in say, Portland, he wouldn’t be proposing it either, because he’d see the hordes of bikes crossing the Hawthorne Bridge and realize (with gratefulness to the riders) how congested it would be if all those people were driving cars like he.
I think adding bike amenities, paid for by cyclists, is a great idea—they add visibility to bikes without baiting drivers by taking any of “their” funding.
Washington DC tried a scheme similar to this one and the police used the law as an excuse to impound bicycles from kids that looked “counter culture” who didn’t register their bikes. The local courts overturned the law requiring registration after people complained and an official review of how well the law was working, which it was not.With government budgets experiencing severe shortfalls, it is funny to see a politician trying to create a new bureaucracy. I believe the heart of the matter lies in the fact that motorists dislike being inconvenienced. Because cyclists inconvenience motorists and motorists can’t do much about it, a systematic way to limit cycling is to impose bureaucratic and financial costs on the activity. Same as you would do for smoking or polluting. I believe this is a bad law and thinly veiled attempt to discourage cycling.
In 1962 I registered my new 10 speed bike at the local police station. They placed a sticker on my bike. It wasn’t mandatory. They took down the bikes serial number. I remember it was to identify me as the owner if it was ever stolen.
A smart fellow put a great letter in the Oregonian on this, ending with something like: “So, yes we should make bikes pay the same taxes as other vehicles that use the roads. I suggest $1 a pound.”Funny, the clamor for bike taxes turned into crickets instantly!
If they want to charge cyclists a registration fee, then will they charge pedestrians a fee as well for the use of the sidewalks?