Report suggests sales tax on new bikes to fund bike programs

Report suggests sales tax on new bikes to fund bike programs »Play Video
Bicyclists ride on the Hawthorne Bridge on Wednesday. A new Portland City Club report suggests a 4 percent statewide sales tax on every new bicycle sold as one way to help pay for bike programs.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A new report from Portland's City Club suggests a statewide sales tax on new bikes in Oregon as one way to pay for bike programs it says are underfunded.

The study says federal funding cutbacks leave bike programs underfunded. One solution the City Club suggests is a 4 percent sales tax on every new bicycle sold in the state.

"It seems like something that is actually feasible and possible to implement," said City Club committee member Craig Beebe. "And it would raise great money for education in schools, in particular, as well as more research on bicycling."

That research might include paying for more bicycle counters that monitor bike traffic. Each would cost about $20,000.

While some bicyclists question exactly what that sales tax money would pay for, others don't mind the idea.

"I think a sales tax for a bike purchase is a great idea," said bicyclist Scott Hurd. "I'm a regular bike commuter, and I do agree with (funding educational programs with the tax)."

But Portland's Bicycle Transportation Alliance says – slow down.

"How are we gonna collect it without a sales tax system in place?" asked Rob Sadowski of the BTA.

Setting up that system could be costly for bike shops, and creating that system from the ground up might eat up most of the money the tax generates.

Still, with no end to deadly collisions between bikes and other vehicles, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance agrees with the study's main conclusion.

"It calls on, overall, a change toward safety first," said Sadowski. "Not just for bicycles, but for all users – that all of us need to be looking at the way we educate drivers – that we educate bicyclists. That we educate everyone, and we’re real excited by that."

Another question: Should mountain bikes meant for trail riding be taxed just like road bikes?

The City Club will hold a cycling forum. It's this Friday at noon at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.