Registration and tax fees for bikes a bad idea

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 22, 2014

In response to Rowan Commissioner Craig Pierce’s proposal that bicyclists using state highways and lanes designated for bicycles be required to pay property tax, registration fees and carry liability insurance:
First of all, according to, highway user taxes and fees make up just 32 percent of state and local expenses on roads. The rest is financed out of general revenues, including federal aid.
Secondly, there is a reason cyclists do not pay extra taxes and fees to use their bicycles. Some use them for transportation because they either can’t afford the costs associated with driving or, like me, use their bicycles for transportation because they are aware of the positive impact that doing so has on our environment and society at large. Then there are those who use their bicycles for recreation. These people usually have disposable income. These folks often choose where they want to live, work and spend money based on how bike friendly a particular area is.
Consider this. The United States makes up only 5 percent of the world population. Yet we make up 25 percent of the daily fuel consumption in the world. Because of this, more CO2 is emitted by the United States’ transportation sector than any other nation’s entire economy, except for China. In the U.S., cars are used for 75 percent of trips under one mile. If 20 percent of those living within 2 miles of school or work were to bike or walk instead, it would save millions of miles of driving per day. Over a year, that saved driving would prevent hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 and of other pollutants from being emitted. This, in turn, would provide cleaner air for us all to breathe reducing the number of respiratory related illness that now plague more adults and children than ever, in the our country’s history. Not to mention, those who choose to ride are less likely to be obese and have illnesses that are related to obesity and poor cardiovascular circulation. With all of this factored in, the overwhelming cost of health care our country is now burdened with would be greatly reduced.
Those who choose to drive cars exclusively do not pay much more, in taxes, than cyclists who choose to cycle exclusively. The last time I checked, the drivers pay in about $324 a year while those cycling pay an average of $300 a year. The biggest difference is the cost, imposed on society, by each of these groups. Motorists drive an average of 10,000 miles a year costing society over $3,360 per driver while the cyclist commutes an average of 3,000 miles and only imposes a $36 a year cost on society. In other words, the cyclist is subsidizing the drivers by over $3,000 a year … and you are proposing that we continue to pay more? Let’s just say you were successful in getting this sort of law implemented. Those cyclists who can afford nice bikes and the minimal taxes and fees that would be required would pay it. Then they are going to come out in hordes and claim their road space by riding three wide and 50 deep in the middle of the road wherever they please, whether there is a bike lane or not … and expect no one to say a word about it. The ones that will suffer are the ones who depend on their bikes for transportation and ride to save money.
The Legislature is aware of these facts. Therefore, your efforts are a complete waste of time and tax-payer dollars. You would be better off lobbying for golf carts to be exempt from taxes and registrations. Like bicycles, they are safer for the environment and pose less of a threat on the roads and to the environment than gas-powered vehicles. I, for one, would support you on that idea.
I also want to extend thanks to Commissioners Caskey, Mitchell, Barber and Sides for not fully supporting this idea and for raising questions regarding those who depend on bicycles as their only option for commuting.
Eric Phillips operates Skinny Wheels Bike Shop in Salisbury.
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