Outer Rim Bicycles, Portland, Oregon. www.outerrimbicycles.com
Despite the drizzle, Oregon is a bike-friendly state. Three Oregon cities made Bicycling Magazine’s 2016 list of the 50 most bike-friendly cities — Portland (#3), Eugene (#18), and Salem (#47) — and they’re not the only ones embracing two-wheel travel. Bicycling and other modes of “active transportation” are also encouraged by city planners in smaller cities like Baker City, Corvallis, and Roseburg.
The benefits are obvious: When more people hop on person-powered two-wheelers, fewer cars clog the roads. Biking is good exercise, leading to a fitter populace, and it has a light carbon footprint. In fact, aside from the chafing (and, arguably, the outfits), there are few downsides to biking. That’s why many people, particularly cyclists, were confused when Oregon recently revealed its intention to tax bikes.
In mid-July, the Oregon Legislature approved a $15 excise tax on the retail sale of bikes with “wheels of at least 26 inches in diameter and a retail sales price of $200 or more” (HB 2017). In a state that lacks and has consistently opposed a general sales tax, this is big news.
A tax on bike sales
The Oregon bike tax is part of a $5.3 billion transportation package. Revenue generated by the $15 tax will help fund infrastructure favored by bicyclists, such as bike lanes, as well as pedestrian projects.
Some bike proponents are outraged, calling this more evidence of the ongoing battle between cyclists and drivers. Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland says the tax could be motivated by a desire on the part of some motorists to “get back at those damn bicyclists.” It is, he said, “like a culture war kind of thing.”