Time for a Bicycle Tax?

Progressive “paradise” Oregon has imposed — get this — a bicycle tax.

House Bill 2017, a massive transportation package, includes an “excise tax of $15 … on each sale at retail in this state of a taxable bicycle.” The tax falls on bikes sold for more than $200.

Predictably, velo fanatics are livid, with one decrying taxation of “the healthiest, most inexpensive, most environmentally friendly, most efficient and most economically sustainable form of transportation ever devised by the human species.”

But there’s a strong case to be made that similar to the taxes that drivers pay on motor fuels, bicyclists should be made to contribute to the infrastructure that facilitates their preferred form of travel. A few years ago, “avid cyclist” Tony Nitti observed: “As city governments are pressed to provide safe bike lanes and bike-sharing programs in hopes of reducing gridlock and placating resident cycling enthusiasts, costs devoted to a once-secondary class of transportation are rising dramatically.”

Throw in the fact that bicycle accidents are “costing billions of dollars a year,” and it’s not entirely unreasonable to ask riders to pay their “fair share.”

While New Mexico isn’t rated terribly well by the League of American Bicyclists, Albuquerque “promotes healthy and responsible bicycling,” with “more than 400 miles of bike paths and trails.” The Duke City dutifully adopted a “Complete Streets” ordinance in 2015, to “help high traffic areas be more inclusive of all forms of urban transportation, reducing congestion while making streets safer.” Santa Fe has “bicycle paths and trails for all types of riders … located in and around the city.” Las Cruces “has more than 65 miles of in-road bicycle lanes, shared-use lanes and bicycle routes,” as well as “about 15 miles of paved and natural surface trails.” It “currently holds a ‘bronze’ status as a Bicycle Friendly Community.”

The Tax Foundation notes that right now, “only the city of Colorado Springs imposes a bike tax.” But as long as the small number of people who travel by bicycle press for more subsidies geared toward their method of movement, a tax on two-wheelers is something for local governments in New Mexico to consider. It’s only fair, right?

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8 Replies to “Time for a Bicycle Tax?”

  1. This comment perpetuates the fallacy that bicycle riders don’t contribute to paying for road infrastructure since they don’t pay gasoline taxes. In fact, road infrastructure currently is less than 50% funded by gasoline taxes while the remainder is paid for out of revenues from other tax sources that few people can escape. A detailed analysis is given in this article:


    1. For years, the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole has been debunking the myth that roads/highways receive significant subsidies. This is a good explanation.

      What about cyclists who drive very little, or not at all? What is their contribution to gasoline taxes?

      1. O’Toole’s analysis is certainly compelling and probably more accurate than the Tax Foundation’s type of analysis noted in the link I provided. One could argue that car use has much higher externalities (pollution, working time lost to congestion, etc.) than bicycle use, the costs of which aren’t covered by any existing user fees.

        Then the questing is whether the local taxes (primarily property and sales) that are hard to avoid, even for bicyclists, that are used for local road construction and maintenance would be sufficient to cover the much lower road usage costs of bicyclists.

        At any rate, I personally wouldn’t mind paying a bicycle tax just so that I wouldn’t be accused of being a “free rider” when I’m on a bicycle.

        1. Voluntarily pay a new tax, so that people won’t say nasty things about me?

          You and I are very different people, William!

          One bicycle “externality” (that’s always dangerous territory to wander into, since it’s a very subjective concept) that interests me is the rising number of deaths/injuries. It boggles my mind that people would get on a bicycle in a fairly dense, urbanized environment. Google “bicyclist killed” and you’ll always find fresh results. The societal costs, in lost lives, loved ones’ grief, hospital bills, etc. must be considerable. But I do think to some bicyclists, a group that leans consistently to the far left, virtue-signaling their low “carbon footprint” is more important than their physical safety. Simply amazes me.

          That’s why I favor dedicated, SEPARATED paths for bicycles. But those aren’t cost-free, which is why a tax is worth consideration.

          Drivers and cyclists don’t get along, and really, they can’t. Roads were designed for cars. Shoving a wholly different type of transportation into a system designed for a single class of vehicles is a serious mistake.

          We’ll see how this plays out in the years to come. Either way, stay safe out there!

  2. If more people rode bicycles, accident rates would go down considerably. Additionally, cyclists don’t take up much space, don’t damage roads, don’t pollute, etc. In the Netherlands, where most people cycle, helmets are not required and almost no one wears them; but there are far fewer accidents there than are in the U.S. Demanding a bike tax is ludicrous since sales tax, gas for our cars that we use occasionally, and other taxes are already in place. It is so odd to see such disdain for cyclists in this state. Our family of cyclists (and people who also walk everywhere) will never understand it.

  3. I had been an avid bicyclist in other areas of the country and I have all but given up riding here because it’s too dangerous. A friend was killed in Albuquerque by a cyclist who was high on meth and reached down to pick up a cigarette she dropped-and ran right into him. That driver was one of the very few people to hit a cyclist who actually went to jail for her actions. By the way, Matt Trujillo was one of the most safety conscious cyclists I have ever met and he did use separated bike paths when he could.

    Dowd, I support your idea of dedicated bike paths away from streets and taxes on bikes to build and maintain them. It’s just too dangerous riding on the streets in this area. We are not the Netherlands and we are not likely to give up our cars any time soon.

    By the way, those Share the Road signs seem to imply that the bicyclist is supposed to yield to the cars on the road, not vice versa.

  4. The majority of cyclists are much healthier than the general population, so they put less of a strain on our health system, which is yet another way that cyclists save the community money. Additionally, our family has found that just as many cyclists are conservative leaning as they are left leaning.
    Dedicated bike lanes should only be put in areas where traffic is congested. Currently, our idiotic county money controllers are putting in dedicated bike lanes (at the cost of millions) in areas that see almost no traffic (Eubank, going north from Paseo).

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