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Oregon Considers Bike Registration Bill

Published March 18, 2009

PORTLAND, OR (BRAIN)—Lawmakers in the state of Oregon earlier this month introduced a bill that seeks to levy bike licensing and registration fees, which would be used to pay for development and maintenance of bike lanes, paths and other bicycle-related transportation improvements.

But local retailers don't seem too concerned about the bill.

“I don’t think it’s going anywhere,” said Jay Graves, owner of the Bike Gallery with six stores in the Portland area, during the Bike Summit last week. “It’s silly. The mechanism to collect money would cost too much.”

David Guettler, owner of Portland’s River City Bicycles, concurred. “One of the girls that works here, her mom is a state rep and she says ‘no way.’ It’s beyond a long shot,” Guettler said. “The fact is, [the state] is scrambling for money just like everybody else. I don't blame lawmakers for trying to examine every possible source of revenue, but if they had done their homework, they wouldn’t have brought it up. That has been tried in so many different communities through the years. It never works.”

Nonetheless, the measure has caused quite a stir among the residents of the bicycle-friendly state, according to Karl Rohde, government relations and public affairs director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA), a nonprofit with more than 5,000 members in Oregon and Washington. The bill’s sponsors have fielded several concerned e-mails and phone calls since its introduction, he said at the recent Summit.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Esquivel and Kriegel, got its first reading in the house on March 5 and was referred to the speaker’s desk. On March 10, the speaker referred it to the House Transportation Committee with a subsequent referral to Ways and Means.

“The word I have is that the chair of House Transportation does not intend to schedule it for a hearing, so it is dead,” Rohde said. “But we'll continue to monitor it though, in case it comes back from the dead.”

For its part, the BTA opposes the bill stating that net revenue would not contribute significantly to the construction and maintenance of roads and ancillary facilities, and the cost of registration would discourage bicycling.

“Bicyclists already pay their fair share of road costs through other taxes,” Rohde said. “But the bill does bring up the issue of where funds for transportation come from. They don't’ come from just gas tax or registration fees. Property taxes and a variety of other fees that are levied without respect to the mode of transportation used by the taxpayer provide the balance of the road construction and maintenance funds.”

—Lynette Carpiet

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