Being stuck in traffic gives you time to think about things such as: “If I was on my bike now, I wouldn’t have to sit here.” And that means legislators working on a transportation tax package are at least partly on the wrong track.
One of the things they are considering is a tiny little tax on bicyclists, a 1 per cent sales tax on bikes. It’s ridiculous from a revenue standpoint. If you buy a $600 bike — entry level but still good enough to last a very long time — you pay a one-time tax of six bucks for maybe 20 years of riding. Big deal.
But from the standpoint of sensible transportation policy, the state should do the opposite. Instead of taxing bikes, even just a symbolic or nuisance amount, the state should seek to boost bike transportation every way it can. And that should include finding a way to give people an incentive big enough to get them on a bike for their routine, short little trips.
Look at that photo above. Some of those vehicles, such as the laundry truck in the left-hand lane, have to be there as part of work. But if some of the others could be replaced by bikes, think of how much more room there would be on the road. The result: No congestion. Far less fuel consumption, with fewer motors idling while going nowhere. Less wear on the pavement too. And most important, less time wasted sitting still. (And in the long run, no need to replace the Ellsworth Street Bridge.)
What would it take to get people living in and around Oregon towns to use bikes for their routine comings and goings? Climate change might help, but only if we end up with weather like the south of France, and that may take centuries.
While we’re waiting, how about a far more determined program to increase bike safety with dedicated lanes and other facilities? How about tax breaks recognizing that for everybody riding a bike instead of driving a car, society can save money on parking lots and roads? (hh)