12 March 2009

An Open Letter To Representative Krieger

Dear Representative Krieger:

I've been accused recently of being a wacky old curmudgeon for something I recently posted in my blog expressing my feelings about your new proposal to the Oregon State Legislature. You can read that if you would like, but I doubt it would give you any great insights or change your mind. I did, however, find one of your remarks to Bicycle Portland recently to be particularly telling:

"Talk about a time when you need some revenue for transportation...bikes have used the roads in this state forever and have never contributed a penny. The only people that pay into the system are those people who buy motor vehicle licenses and registration fees."

Your logic here, sir, is flawed. Every citizen, regardless of their mode of transportation, pays into the sytem. Here are just a few examples.

When I leave my house and walk to the grocery store, spend $100 in purchases of food and other essentials, I am paying a price for those goods. In order for those goods to be manufactured, tranported to a warehouse, picked up and transported from the warehouse to the grocery store, there was a price to pay for shipping. It costs roughly $6,000 in freight charges to move a truck load of fresh produce from California to New York. Of that, a substantial portion pays for gasoline and other highway taxes. Further, each employee of the grocery store had to get to work. Most of them drove. Their salaries are paid by the grocery store, who adds the cost of those salaries into the cost of goods sold. Those salaries paid for the automobiles those employees drove to work. By my purchase of goods, I, too, paid for the construction and maintenance of those roads. I paid for this whether I owned a car, drove a car, rode a bicycle, rode the bus, or flew.
When I walk down the street, I am not paying registration fees, have not paid a license or otherwise "contributed to the system." By your logic, every citizen, in order to pay a fair share, should be registered to walk across the street. After all, they ARE using the street and have been using those streets forever without contributing a penny.
Oregon, like every other state, receives federal highway dollars. If they did NOT receive these funds and had to pay for all of their road projects themselves, there would be far less resources to maintain state, county and city streets and roads. Every citizen who holds a job pays into the federal tax system. A portion of those tax dollar go to fund Oregon's highways, regardless of whether that taxpayer drives, rides a bike, rides the train, flies, walks or hitchhikes.
While some cyclists don't own cars, the majority of us do. You would have to be blind to miss the numbers of automobiles (including low-mpg RV's) driving down the highways with bicycles mounted on them. Each one of those automobiles driving down the road with bicycles on them has paid for registration, licenses and paid their fair share of gas and other taxes.

I was fortunate enough to have grown up in Oregon, living all of my childhood years in The Dalles, Portland, Cannon Beach and Waldport, and part of my adult life in Eugene and Portland. Though I have not lived in my home state for several years, I continue to have a lot of family in the state and many, many friends. I visit my home state often, and frequently ride my bicycle there. On OUR roads.

As an aside, here in the State of Washington, we can proudly claim that my local bicycle club, Redmond Cycling Club, was the leading single contributor to the Washington National Park Fund over the past two calendar years, contributing thousands of much needed dollars to restore Mt. Rainier National Park after severe flooding. There are countless other projects across this great nation of ours, including Oregon, that cyclists pay directly into. By doing so we help to free up other much needed local resources, making it possible to fund direct improvements to all of our social infrastructure, including bicycle improvements which make our roads safer for bicyclists and motorists alike.

Here is my commitment to you, sir. I promise to stand in opposition to this bill both vocally and financially. Additionally, I promise to double my contributions this year to the following causes:

Washington National Park Fund
Rails to Trails
League of American Cyclists
Cascade Bicycle Club

Each of these organizations (save the WNPF) is heavily involved in bicycle advocacy, community education and funding of projects to make for better cycling communities. Thank you for making me a better citizen. I, and many of my fellow cyclists, really do want to pay our fair share. We simply don't do it the same way as you. I hope that over the next few months as this issue is debated in the greater community, you will gain some insights into this that help you, also, to become a better citizen.

Very truly yours,

Donald Boothby
Seattle, WA