Don't penalize healthy bicycle behavior
May 19, 2009 · 2:07 PM
In a recent letter to the editor, Mr. Bill Brayer announced a plan to fix the state’s budget deficit by taxing bicyclists! He proposes a $10 licensing fee for the 500,000 cyclists in the state, saying it could generate $5 million.
Brilliant? I wonder? Mr. Brayer’s $5 million would reduce our $5.7 billion budget deficit by less then 0.001 percent. That doesn’t seem like much. I have a counter proposal. Let’s give everyone in the state $10 towards buying a bicycle! That would stimulate the economy and encourage cycling. Look at the advantages: Reduced traffic volumes and road rage; reduced wear and tear of our roads and bridges and the need for their maintenance and repair; reductions in the oil, antifreeze, brake and power steering fluids, heavy metals, asbestos tailings and tire particles polluting Puget Sound; reduced air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. Talk about costly? Climate change will make the Iraq war costs look like peanuts.
But there are other good reasons to encourage cycling: Cyclists tend to be healthier and happier which equates to less time lost from work, increased productivity and reduced employer benefit costs. The taxpayer saves as well. With the large and growing number of people unable to afford, or with substandard health insurance, at least those who ride bikes will be less likely to need medical care and moreover, use the emergency room for their primary care. Our small, rural hospital lost more than $1 million last year due to this factor.
No, penalizing healthy behaviors is not a rational solution to any of our problems, encouraging them is. If we are to again thrive on this planet we must apply what we’ve learned and not cling to the antiquated ways of thinking that created the problems we now face.