Another bad idea

There are bad ideas, and then there are bad ideas.

What comes next, however, is a proposal in the state Legislature from Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, to require a registration system for bicycles similar to the system that already exists for automobiles.

Under Krieger's proposal, the fee to register a bike would be $54, plus another $1 to cover additional bikes a person owns. It would cost you $5 to transfer the license to a new owner if you sell your bike at a garage sale. The Oregon Department of Transportation would maintain a database of bikes and their owners.

What was he thinking? Krieger is quoted in The Oregonian newspaper as saying, "We need to be thinking of how (cyclists) can help fund more of what they want."

Krieger's argument is not well-thought out at best, and hopelessly myopic at worst. Most people who own bikes also happen to own cars, so they have paid registration and other fees used to maintain the state's roads. Every time they ride their bikes instead of driving their cars, they save the state money by inflicting less wear and tear on roads. There are many other benefits, financial and otherwise, but the one just cited goes to the heart of Krieger's illogic.

Whether a person rides a bike as a form of money-saving transportation or for recreation or for the health benefits — or a combination of all these reasons — matters little. The state certainly should not levy a tax that would discourage people from riding.

Furthermore, the state loses credibility because of laws that are virtually unenforceable, and this one would certainly fall into this category. When citizens see those around them ignoring the law, they are tempted to do the same — and it's a safe bet a lot of people would ignore a law to register bicycles. Eventually, this willingness to ignore the law erodes the state's legitimacy. Laws should serve a clear purpose and have the general support of those who fund the government with their tax money. This law would have neither.

Fortunately, there is little chance Krieger's proposal will even make it out of committee. It's been sent to the House Transportation Committee, where it received a frosty welcome from its chairwoman, Rep. Terry Beyer, D-Springfield.

Once it's buried there, let's hope no one digs it up.

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