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Bicyclists don't tear up the roadbed the way a car or truck will. On that issue we'll agree with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, which has just launched a campaign in the Portland area making the case that bikers actually pay more than their fair share of road costs.


It's clear that when it comes to such things as roadbed damage, bikers' impact is minimal, at best. In fact, says the BTA, studies, including one from the University of California at Berkeley, show it would take something like 9,600 bikers to do the damage inflicted by a single car.

Moreover, BTA argues in an article in The Oregonian, bikers actually pay more than their fair share for road damage. That assumes, however, that BTA's estimate that 89 percent of them also own cars and pay fees and gas taxes as a result is accurate. The Oregon Department of Transportation argues that even if the figure is correct, the statement misses the point. The state constitution requires that gas taxes go to highway maintenance.

There's more to the story than road damage, however.

In Bend, as one example, efforts to accommodate bikers have meant creation of new intersections, reduction in traffic lanes and, in particularly busy areas, separating bikers from moving cars by putting parking spaces between them.

That latter isn't particularly expensive, surely. But major intersection changes like the one at Riverside Boulevard and Galveston Avenue don't come free. And in some communities loss of a traffic lane on one street may lead to expansion of a different road to accommodate drivers who have shifted elsewhere.

No one expects bikers to pick up the full cost of such things nor should they. Society doesn't work like that — we all chip in with taxes to pay for what our communities need.

That's why a bill that died in the 2013 Legislature is worth another look. Sponsored by Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood, it would have imposed a $10 registration fee on new bikes for a new Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund to be managed by the state.

George's bill may not have been perfect. And, in fact, there may be a better way to include bikers in covering the cost of building and maintaining roadways safe and usable by all. The bill does offer a jumping off point, however, for a discussion well worth having.

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