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The Great Bike Debate

I got an email today from the GreatCity organization urging a “call to action!” They want a special fund set up for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Their ideas for locking in the funds are the following;


  1. Increasing Parking Meter Fees by $.50 ($3.3 million annually)
  2. Increase the Commercial Parking Tax from 10% to 12.5% ($5 million annually)
  3. Form a Transportation Benefit District ($10 million annually)
  4. Increase parking tickets by $3 ($1 million annually)
  5. Revenue from Red-light cameras ($5 million annually)
  6. TOTAL Potential Funding: $24.3 million

Here’s my question. Why is GreatCity focusing all its’ efforts on taxing and increasing fees for drivers? Is this really the only revenue option? Wouldn’t it be a fair option to set up a licensing department for bicyclists? If they’re obeying the laws of the road, shouldn’t they have to pass a test to show a level of knowledge just like the drivers of cars?

I firmly believe that the city needs to expand bike lanes and pedestrian projects as a priority. The conditions in which bicyclists have to traverse this city is downright dangerous and should be improved – now. However, I don’t think it’s a healthy solution to just tax and fine the drivers alone. I would propose two solutions;


  1. Bike registration and riders pass – $50 a year. (this’ll never happen)
  2. Bike Support Vanity License Plates – $200 fee, but you get a fancy “look at me I support cyclists plate”.

Knowing how much people love to show their support for a cause here in this “great city”, I’m sure people would be buying the Cycling vanity plates hand over fist. I’d get one myself. I believe this would go a long way in solving a problem through voluntary public involvement as opposed to government imposing yet another ridiculous tax.


7 Comments on "The Great Bike Debate"

  1. One way I looked at this was environmental impact. All of the fees/taxes listed above feel like excise taxes for driving instead of walking or biking. While unfair, it would make sense. Being green is clearly at the core of Great City’s motives.

  2. I get so tired of the Great City folks and their “calls to action” every 5 minutes. They can see the writing on the wall with the head tax being repealed this fall, so instead of letting councilmembers figure out how to replace that funding, they are pushing funding sources in line with their agenda. You are right that they would never support a bicycle registration program. This organization (co-founded by mayoral candidate Mike McGinn) doesn’t even think you should wear a helmet while cycling…

  3. The vanity plates are a great idea. This voluntary effort harms no one during this great recession and provides a great benefit to bicycle enthusiasts!

    What does anyone think of Jane Jacob’s views on “Master Plans”?

  4. BedlamCoffee | August 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm |

    Hey I know, how bout we give tickets to bicycle riders who run red lights, or don’t wear helmets…based on the fact that only 1 in 10 stops at red that could raise millions, AND save lives…

  5. I would just like to say that I wrote the helmet article and it was in no way a reflection of Great City’s views or opinions. It was a personal opinion to get a debate started. Great City as an organization fully supports helmet use.

  6. Bike registration has been tested out in various parts of the country and has been discontinued on the basis that the net profit is minimal due to the added cost of processing and enforcement of the registry.

    Similarly construction and repair costs of new roads is not entirely covered by gas taxes and thus cyclists already pay more than their fair share through other taxes which are used on roads.

    A cyclists impact on roads (damage caused, capacity needed, enforcement, etc) is insignificant compared to vehicles. If a cyclist were charged $50 for registration then to be fair, vehicle registration would have to be increased significantly as well.

    The CBC’s solutions discourage driving and encouraging cycling. The financial savings to the community from health and safety benefits would be much more than the added taxes to drivers.

    The solutions presented by CBC are a market-model solution. That is, these costs are currently heavily subsidized and increasing them would be the economically sound solution.

    I agree that cyclists should be required to follow traffic laws and should be justly punished for failing to do so. But again, I do not support helmet laws as they are a person choice and fundamentally misplace safety efforts.

  7. Josh, thanks for your well thought out response and engaging the debate here. I don’t think there’s been a solution that’s been proposed which is fair for all parties. However, open debate such as this moves us closer to a resolution. Obviously, safer environments for cyclists are desperately needed. (especially in light of today’s tragic story).

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