Freakonomics Ponders the Freeloading Cyclist

294841_0dbb37e404.jpgWho’s next? Photo: wodaking/Flickr

The New York Times’ Freakonomics blog
has picked up on proposed legislation from Wayne Krieger, an Oregon
representative who wants every bike owner in the state aged 18 and
older to pay a $54 registration fee every two years. "[B]ikes have used
the roads in this state forever and have never
contributed a penny," says Krieger. "The only people that pay into the
system are those
people who buy motor vehicle licenses and registration fees."

As one might suspect, asking Krieger to further explain the rationale for his bill, as Bike Portland did,
reveals his motives to be rooted as much in suspicion of cyclists in
general as in any desire for bike riders to pay their "fair share."
Sample quote: "If a person is operating a bike and they are the one
that causes an
accident, do they have insurance to cover your costs and medical
expenses? Not all of those people have any type of insurance at all."

Freakonomics guys, in the link below, point to a study showing "the
improved fitness the use of non-motorized transport provides," even as
they ask:

Considering the enormous benefits
of investments in bicycle infrastructure, can even a tax-hating
bicyclist concede his point, at a registration cost of just over 7
cents a day?

So cycling should be taxed because it makes people healthier? Freakonomics, indeed.

  • KateNonymous

    That assumes, of course, that no cyclists own cars. And what about the freeloading bus rider, or the freeloading pedestrian, taking advantage of those fabulous sidewalks?

  • This is ridiculous. I’d be very surprised if it passed.

  • it’s stupid. in california a significant portion of road maintenance is funded by property taxes. renters, homeowners… all pay this.

    unless this bill is directly aimed towards the popular “squatter bicyclist” rampant in this country – it’s a red herring.

  • What a nutball.

  • As Kate pointed out in the first comment, many, if not most, cyclists also own cars, which means we already pay vehicle licensing fees as well as gas taxes. So taxing all cyclists would mean taxing such people twice, while providing no additional service or benefit. It would also provide a disincentive to ride, at a time when most communities are trying to encourage cycling to reduce the number of cars on the road.

    Also, I can’t speak for any other state, but here in California, car insurance covers the driver, not the vehicle. So anyone who has car insurance is covered no matter what type of vehicle they happen to be operating at the time – even, yes, a bicycle. I learned that the hard way when I was hit by a driver who didn’t appear to have insurance; State Farm paid 100% of my medical expenses under the uninsured motorist portion of my policy.

  • angle

    Why does this irrational accusation come up again and again?

    If anything, cyclists have been paying WAY more of their fair share for roadway infrastructure. Almost all of it is specifically designed for automobiles and the wear and tear that bicycles inflict on streets is almost negligible.

  • There is something equally idiotic about this scheme: a big chunk of the money that pays for roads comes from sales tax and general fund money.

    What that means is this: if you buy anything and pay sales tax on it, you are paying for the roads to be paved and the buses to run late at night; if you pay taxes to the City, County, State, or federal government (as most folks do) your general tax dollars go to pay for the roads.

    If anything, the freeloading motorist ought to be the focus of such an attack – as they come nowhere near paying for the negative consequences of their modal choice with car fees and gas taxes. Freakonomics, and the Oregon legislator who came up with this scheme, need to put down the Paxil and see what is really going on with transportation dollars.


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