Alexandria Moves Toward Registration And Taxing Bicycles

301px-Seal_of_Alexandria,_VA.svg220px-MichauxjunWe have previously discussed the counterproductive increases in taxes that have been implemented recently without consideration of their impact on behavior or revenue. France’s ridiculous 75 percent tax on the rich is an obvious example (now even the former French president is reportedly planning to flee the taxes for England). So is our high tax on corporations while Canada continues to lower its tax just next door. There are also reports of high earners like Tiger Woods leaving California and New York in the face of high increases. A smaller but even more moronic tax is being contemplated by Alexandria, Virginia where the city council is considering a law forcing people to register bikes so that they can be forced to pay a fee.

When most cities are trying to get people to ride bikes to reduce congestion and pollution, the Alexandria City Council will actually deter such beneficial conduct.

There is already a 25 cent registration fee on the books since 1963 but it has been wisely ignored. I can understand a voluntary registration program for theft but the tax or fee component is not a good idea. Indeed, I would not make this mandatory even as to the registration to add yet another permitting obligation on citizens.

Old Town resident Kathryn Papp had an argument in favor of the registration that only a bureaucrat would love: “Cars are registered and charged a fee. Motorcycles are registered and charged a fee. Almost every vehicle on the roadway is registered and charged a fee.” So why not bikes, scooters, and roller blades? It is a particularly bizarre argument from someone who seems to feel incomplete with the failure to require universal registration of personal items with an attendant fee. Why not just like Papp register her bikes and pay the fee?

I used to live in Old Towne as well as other parts of Alexandria. I loved my time there but the city was always a tax-heavy jurisdiction. Those taxes were often discussed by my neighbors as a reason to move out of the city. Yet, this proposal shows an almost stereotypically knee-jerk approach to taxes. The natural state for people like Papp and these council members is for things to be regulated and taxed. It even produces discomfort for people like Papp to have part of her life unregulated and untapped. Taxes are like some warm blanket of government companionship for the regulatory lonely.

This story struck a cord with me because it highlights the tendency — particularly of some liberal politicians — to treat taxes as if they occur in a vacuum with no behavioral response. People are rational actors and will conform their conduct to avoid costs or inconvenience. In this case, you have an activity which is universally viewed as beneficial to the city and the environment. The response is to now regulate and tax it. Truly bizarre.

Source: WAMU

69 thoughts on “Alexandria Moves Toward Registration And Taxing Bicycles

  1. Considering the benefits to the community including low carbon foot print, reduced pollution and adding to walkable neighborhoods, perhaps bikes should be subsidized.

    And what, exactly, is the benefit to the community for compulsory registration?

    Some might want to register their bikes, voluntarily, as an aid to recovery in case the bike is stolen.

    Registering and taxing bikes is not a progressive proposal – actually, the opposite.

    It would seem that this is a proposal that both the left and the right can unite against.

    Whether you want smaller, less intrusive government, or if you just understand that it is really, really dumb to tax behavior that should be encouraged, this is a proposal that deserves rejection – by everyone.

  2. Pete,

    I see your point….. But there is something inherently absurd to taxing all bicycles….. It’s just another bite for the state corporation to raise revenue…, if they are engage in profit…. Then by all means…..

  3. There has been similar argument regarding electric cars and the lack of contribution to revenue. They avoid gas taxes at the pump but they use the highway.

  4. Did you really mention “high corporate tax rate” after this last election season? The corporate tax rate is up there around 39% or so… After utilizing all the available loopholes, some of our larger corporations end up getting money from the US. Verizon for example. If there is a corporation out there that pays the full corporate tax rate, everyone in the finance dept should be fired.

  5. Our country has become Dante’s Inferno w/ different levels of tax hell depending on where you live. The more liberal, the deeper level.

  6. (If you drive a car ), I’ll tax the street,
    (If you try to sit ), I’ll tax your seat,
    (If you get too cold ), I’ll tax the heat,
    (If you take a walk ), I’ll tax your feet

  7. It seems like Alexandria will use the money for Capital Bikeshare, a desirable program. Biking to work is really catching on. DC does have the metro but the car traffic is awful so I see why improving biking conditions is advantageous. Copenhagen has bike lines as wide as auto lines. The US and its relationship with the car is changing and a lot of people prefer the bike to the car. I know my son does.

  8. Alexandria Egypt is a pirate territory. Dont go there and expect help from your own government or your embassy. Fly over and flush. What? You said Virginia not Egypt? Is that not the state where Eddie Cantor’s grandson is a Congressman? Next they will be taxing the beggar for ten percent of the take, or the aluminum can collector for ten percent of the cans, or the dog poop collector for ten percent of the dog poop. A guy in our marina uses a big shop vac to clean up our dog turds. He says that the job is quite “taxing”. I wonder what he means by that. Another time he told the Dock Master “that he could take the job and shove it.” Not “shovel” it. Some guy came around and gave out tickets for boat owners for not having license tags on their dinghys. We told him to go back to Alexandria. While he was out on the docks we peed on his tires.

  9. “This story struck a cord with me because it highlights the tendency — particularly of some liberal politicians — to treat taxes as if they occur in a vacuum with no behavioral response.”


    I must disagree with your statement above. Taxation such as this are not the result of “liberal” politics, but of the “no taxation” meme constructed by those such as Grover Norquist. Having made all politicians afraid to raise any income based taxes because it would be used against them, politicians of all political beliefs today use such taxes as this to raise needed revenues, that they are afraid to get by more equitable means.

    This is why you see the huge increases of traffic fines, parking violations, car registrations, tolls, express lanes, hotel taxes, etc., etc. etc. These taxes somehow aren’t viewed the same way as more equitable taxation, such as graduated income taxes, by those meme creators. The result is that the tax burden in all instances fall heavily upon the lower economic classes, while providing no burden to those with high incomes. I’m sure that Tiger Woods wouldn’t mind paying $6.50 driving in an express lane to the City and watch those with lesser incomes driving to work in traffic jams.

    As for this particular tax I think it is absurd. It would mean that every parent buying a bike for their child would have to register it.

  10. Pete – as a dedicated biker (an one time bike commuter till my job location changed) I’m with you. I don’t mind paying for bike paths & lanes etc.

    Jon Stokes – in the US corps like to whine about how high the rates are. They used to like to compare the US to Ireland (until their economy tanked worse than ours) where the rate is 15%. What they DON’T want to talk about is how the actual percentage paid in the US is the lowest in the industrialized world! They want to reduce the rate, keep all those lovely deductions and pay even less. Then they will whine about that also

  11. pete,
    you forgot the sidewalk. it is paved by taxes and we are not registered users. Although you do have a point, I am waiting to see when I get a tattooed numer on my arm. No joke intended.

    Here we have personal numbers. Essentially the first you say when contacting a service organ. Saves much search time,
    “Are you the joe doe on Madison or or was it Madsen Avenue or was it street?”

  12. … I think it is absurd. It would mean that every parent buying a bike for their child would have to register it. -Mike S.


  13. idealist, Bikers are at a disadvantage in the Dallas area. It is dangerous except on designated trails. Commuting to work is nearly impossible but the city does have plans to improve things. Austin is bike friendly. I had a flock of 50 or 60 cedar waxwings in an oak tree yesterday. They were the first I have seen since last April.

  14. This tax and registration of bicycles is ridiculous. They can insist on the registration and taxation bicycles but not GUNS.

    There is one point that is raised in this post with which I must respectfully take issue and that is the comment about corporate taxation in the US. Corporations in the US rarely if ever pay the corporate tax rate. In fact very few large corporations pay anything close to that tax rate and many pay no taxes at all. The same corporations,at the same time that they are avoiding paying their fair share, are raking in billions of taxpayer supported grants, contracts, benefits and tax brakes. The statistics in this issue are well known. I am usually in agreement with the Professor but on the issue of corporate taxation, I am not.

  15. So who’s going to pay for repairing the highways when every one drives a Prius or G.M. volt and no gas taxes are collected?

  16. Are they going to tax the general public wether a person drives or not? Like the T.S.A. being paid for by taxes from people that don’t fly or paying to keep criminals on death row alive when one believes in capital punishment.

  17. A guy I knew who was born and raised in Holland pointed out that Hitler had done some good in Europe: He repealed the bicycle tax.

    Be very careful!

  18. How about the politicians stops spending so much money? This is the fundamental problem (on the federal level certainly) It’s becoming more take, take, take by the gov’t from the citizens. It is either money or civil rights at the least.

    Whatever the scheme might be, either income tax, excise tax, or whatever shifting it around is just smoke and mirrors to please certain people into a tax regime that is less politically dangerous. Either way someone has to pay for the politicians pet projects and (secondly important to them)services needed by the citizens.

    What I really resent is that as soon as the pols raise one tax rate, often on the premise that revenues are low so the percentage needs to be raised, soon when the economy is doing better there is rarely seen a return back to the old tax rate percentage. Instead the pols spend more and we are back in the same position again; after, that is, the government fleeced the citizens out of more of their own money.

    And must everything under the sun be regulated and registered? Why not register our forks and knives? How about wheelchairs? There does come a point where you have to ask yourself must everything in our lives be controlled by the state? Whatever happend to individual liberty?

  19. They already have a voluntary national bike registration program. In case of theft, it makes it easier to get a bike back. Alexandria ,as many cities do, participates. Bikes aren’t cheap and they are often stolen.

  20. In California their changing free car pool lanes (two or more people per car) into fast track lanes which the rights to use are bought.

  21. Considering how crappy cyclists are treated by the pi…uh, “cops” and how governments refuse to protect cyclists with laws (existing or creating any), the idiots doing this should go suck on a tailpipe.

    No taxation without representation. Right now, there isn’t any for cyclists.

  22. swarthmore mom-
    casino money was to go to education.
    the devil is in the detail.
    once they receive, they distribute as they wish.

  23. Why Bike Theft Is So Hard to Stop

    by Eric Jaffe

    Sep 14, 2012


    “The big problem, writes Dhar, is that bike thieves essentially get a free pass. (Unless you stole this guy’s bike.) Whether you’re just trying to make a few bucks on the street, or piling dozens of bikes into a van to drive hundreds of miles to sell them, there’s little chance you’ll get caught in the act. You can even try to get caught stealing your own bike in front of a police station and not get caught. “For all practical purposes, stealing a bike is risk-free crime,” he writes.

    … [P]olice departments are reluctant to pull officers from robberies or murder investigations to hunt bike thieves. Even when they do, DAs rarely prosecute the thieves the police bring in.”

  24. I live in a very conservative little town and we’ve always registered our bikes. Every year one goes to the police department and buys a bike license for each bike owned. The fee is based on age, 15 years and under pay less than 16 years and older.

    We have well maintained bike lanes on every main road and, room permitting, on many side roads, and bike trails through all the parks.

    Courtesy to bike riders and courtesy by bike riders to pedestrians is part of the social culture and theft of bikes is very low … almost nonexistent.

    I can’t wait to tell all my conservative friends that they’re really liberals.

  25. Blousie, sounds like I should think of moving there. Is it warm😉


    And what P Smith said about cops not treating cyclists very well. Although it’s not the hugest problem in the world (except thatnot getting killed by motorists does rank petty high), it’d be great to have all cyclists ride reasonably, and for the cops to understand what reasonable means on a bike.

  26. SwM
    With the distance, latitudinally, ie N-S, assuming yours do too, then they travel far. Are they early this year? April might be on a return journey from Mexico.

    Well, all our ike lanes, are one way, on opposite sides of the street. So no BS from Cops like the stupid one north of Venice Beach. I assume you watched the vid.

    Dare I say I hope all is well there at your place?

    If it ain’t the corps screwing you, it is the politicos and the bureaucrats.

  27. Bruce,

    Keep talking, you are convincing us. But not what you think you are. (bow to gene:-) )

    How about the Army, when did you serve last?
    Or the justice system. Or the FDA, EPA, etc etc.

    It is all part of the common suspense systems. Suspense? When will they betray us due to Congressional pressure of lobby pressure. Most have. Or haven’t you noticed?

  28. Darren,

    RIGHT! Duuhhh, maybe so.

    You can be right , while they ARE dismantling our security systems from FDR’s New Deal. That is going on now. SS is under attack. The guaranteed income pensions are replaced by a gambling pot, that is your responsibilty to manage. Nor FDR but SS was. Something to be considered.
    :-) Didn’t know that you were a bagger. Same themes. The same government level as when the Boston Party was held?

  29. SWM, Id707 – Waxwings are just wonderful, and a treat to note their presence. As for migration one source says “abundant and easily recognized bird across much of North America, yet its migration patterns remain poorly understood. This is because across much of the country Cedar Waxwings are present year-round, making influxes of migrants hard to discern.. Another basically agrees ” flock movement is in a nomadic, unpredictable migration within general annual trends: waxwings are opportunistic feeders who move following the food supply. As they roam areas, they may stay in one place that provides a supply of berries and flowing water for a few days or a few weeks, then after they have been seen every day in great quantities, all of a sudden they just seem to disappear without warning.”

  30. I am curious, does Virginia (a state my former-resident son says would tax the air if they could) register and tax guns as severely as they desire to do bicycles?

  31. Blouise,

    Are you illusioning? What magic kingdom is yours? No bicycle thefts?
    I guess nobody locks their doors, nor even have keys. Just like HSThompson once claimed for the mountains of Colorado.

    I guess you don’t have envy, jealousy, adultery, fornication, tax cheating, etc. Watch out! They might designate you as national monument, and then come the terribly normal tourists..

    Not picking on you, but you are such a straightline deliverer.

  32. DonS and SwM,

    This is a repeat, but must show our independence and uniqueness..

    Our usually pop up whenever the autumn ripened red berry tree is in fruit and the locals have not cleaned out the cupboard.
    No many berries on my cottage lot so 2 day max visits.
    They have more distinct markings than yours, and their song if the recording someone sent to me via a vid on the blog (SwM?) of a group feeding in a berry-rich bush is any indication (breath); and sounds more like a group of small small silver bells. seldom competing songwise. I think they signal to say: “I am and you are, and we have it good together. Others are welcome to eat with us. Come share the meal.”

    Would that we humans would do this more often than at parties,, in our way of course.

  33. Do you know what you get when you combine a kindergarten grandchild with a grandparent? A grandparent dead from pneumonia.

    We had quaint customs in ancient times. We escorted them to the cliff, singing their praises while they could still hear them. Push them over. all spit one time over the cliff, and then we depart hurling the oaths they deserved to hear.

    Really, it is called ättestupa. But that is another tale. As is modern chistian burial ceremony in a village church.

  34. Anybody notice Turley has gone very “lite” recently? Hardly anything to get excited about. Now he is worried about a bike tax in VA and not one word about the efforts of the VA legislature to award 2016 to the rethuglicans. Something is very wrong here.

  35. Well, his feet began to smell about 6 months ago. He was unaccounted for lots. As his subjects got lite, we concluded that he had gone Obama, but the reverse. Sold himself to the same people as Obama, but got the job of playing Prof. Trivializer.

    He is like his idol, Obama. He will never admit that he is bought.

    So why did he do it? Well, I won’t say. A mystery with the “who did it” revealsed won’t sell.

    Tune in next week, we’re expecting a report from our surveillance group.

    See the End of the American dream on the Onion. Searching for the URL I overran my 5 freebies. I didn’t know that they were owned by the NTTimes. pay there. Don’t want to encourage this trend. Of course if they would eliminate ads from Google…..maybe.

  36. DonS,

    Nope, not warm at all. Whatever raff gets in Chicago moves east to us in a few days.

    About 30 years ago the Building Dept. hired a young intern to work the summer. He was in his final year towards getting a degree in city planning. He convinced the City Council that bike lanes and paths were going to be the wave of the future so they funded a plan and put him to work on it. He laid the whole thing out for existing streets, parks and future streets and parks. He wrote the legislation and a few months after he was back in school, the council tweaked it all and passed it.

    They built slowly but consistently and used bike licensing fees to fund it all. (I believe that later in the process they also qualified for some State and Federal funds.) Bike licensing fees pay for the maintenance and even bought a half dozen bikes that the cops carry on the back of their cruisers for patrolling parks. The cops also run a yearly bike safety program for youngsters … I think it’s a three day event on a bike coarse designed for that purpose.

    Sometimes government really does do its job well.

  37. Pete9999,

    Not to claim ownership, but I advanced RFI nanochips injection under the cover of chlld immunization or child checkups. (Only the law-abiding will be registered but that is a start.)
    With concealed RFI readers everywhere, they track you even if you are rebellious and don’t own a cell. The immunization nurses just smiled and agreed with me.

    I was proud at my first new bike at age 12, it was registered with a shiny police badge symbol around the steering pipe.
    We were so poor that mom had to buy it on time payments.
    Boo hoo!

  38. B,

    When an intern does the job for them, sells it, etc etc.

    Let’s give credit where credit is due.. Or are your pols and bureaucrats descendants of the FF?

    If so, make them run the country. No shirking here.

  39. Working Man,

    In our host’s defense, he’s been really swamped in litigation recently. I do know one of the guest bloggers is working on a column about the very subject you brought up for this weekend.

  40. Thanks GeneH. My faith is restored.

    The rule of politico buying still stands however.
    Once you’re bought, you must stay bought or nobody will trust you anymore.
    You can engage in salary negotiations however.

    Your answer does not address the issue. Why trivia when so much is needed on serious subjects. If overloaded, then one good blog a day will keep us well occupied. Or ask for help from the Guest Bloggers. We all know what overload is each XMAS!

    Just to differ in a civil fashion.

  41. Honey, you know how your older sister had to get a job to pay for the extra insurance on the car before she could drive it? Well, you’ll have to get a job so you can pay to register your bike before you ride it. See if Daddy will pay you to take out the trash. I’ll pay you a bit if you help me clear the table.

  42. A number of people have made comments to the effect that the issue of registration and tax on bikes is, if not totally trivial, not worth the attention of this blog.

    I would have to disagree. It seems to me that this issue touches on some of the most important and prominent problems of the day. It certainly goes to tax policy, the proper role of government, and how government should support approaches to deal with the environment and lifestyle of the community.

    Bicycles may not be a solution for the next hundred years. But when it comes to pollution and carbon, there are probably few other techniques that are as immediately available, low cost, and effective as policies that take people out of their automobiles and put them on bikes.

    Bicycles naturally lead to improved fitness. And fitness is probably the single most effective thing the individual can do to influence future health care cost. BTW, if you are concerned about taxes, the deficit and the size of government, then you should know that the single biggest driver of the deficit over the next 50 years or so just happens to be the growth in health care costs.

    Bicycles are at the very center of major issues of today.

    My point is that if we can talk thoughtfully and peacefully about bicycles then perhaps we can be more productive when we consider some of the other pressing problems of the day.

  43. Blousie, thanks for the run down on the bike path evolution. I live in a supposedly bike friendly place — we do have a bike path but it is too often crowded with joggers and walkers and strollers and dogs — but as an afterthought it is of course much harder to do bike lanes.

    Sorry it’s not warmer. We in SW Virginia are also frigid. My body is currently full of aches and pains so tolerating the cold, and the pains, is harder. At times like this the southern climes look pretty good.

  44. “Your answer does not address the issue.”

    Yeah. It does, id707. The busy man sets his own priorities and that is as it should be.

  45. Agreed, agreed.

    But shall we tell JT that we prefer speaking of graduated income taxes which are enforced.

    Monitor all rich persons intermational transactions (easy) and any signs of jumping ship will be greeted with immy confiscation of the estate.
    If Obama can take away lives without a trial, then certainly property is next on the list of executive imperialism..

  46. BFM

    All have at some time a kid who has a bike. But not all belong to the one percent. We can discuss from now until doomsday about that issue, and never get anywhere.
    If your oxe is not being gored, then no discussion issues.

  47. DonS,

    10AM local the temp is 10 degrees and clear.

    The bicycle net, exclusively for bicycles, on risk of crashes with peds, is a bone thrown at our green party. Active in both parliament and city council.
    If enough rally round their flag then good……

  48. GeneH,

    So nice that we differ.

    I address the waste of his time on trivial articles. and you defend his choice.
    Fair, we diagree and that is fine.

    Only fools think they win here.
    The only prize is to depart a wiser better informed man.

    Your position to judge JT is much better than mine. But a bit of hubris must be allowed, as times, to us all.

  49. GeneH,

    We are in full agreement that JT has, as all do, the right to decide over his priorities, etc.
    It is just that we chldren often suggest improvements to our parents, and vice versa. All part of loving, I think.

    I am not alone in fhat here. :-)

    Gone for now.

  50. [music] Tax, fax, bo bax, bannana fanna mo max
    Fee fi no tax

    If the first two letters are ever the same,
    ya drop them both and say the name,,,,,

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