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Eugene bike shop owner worries about proposed tax on sales

A proposed transportation package at the Capitol would impose a five-percent tax on new bicycles. Photo by Audrey Weil.

EUGENE, Ore. -- Drivers say it's about time.

Cyclists say it's not fair.

A proposed transportation package at the Capitol would impose a 5 percent tax on new bicycles.

"It's not like we're the pharmaceutical industry or the beer and wine business where billions of dollars are flowing in and out of the state," said Matt Ritzow at Bicycle Way of Life in Eugene.

He said 5 percent is too much for an industry that already sees small profit margins.

"It really represents probably half of our net profit on a bicycle sale," he said.

The average bike at his shop is $500 to $700.

Some of them cost thousands, so that 5 percent could add up.

"I'm sure that at the end of the day it would have to be passed on to the consumer because there really isn't a way to absorb that on our end," Ritzow said.

Lawmakers say it's money to fix ailing roads and bridges, ease traffic congestion in some of the worst spots, and expand infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists.

"They should pay for part of the road if they're going to use it. Otherwise get on the sidewalk," driver Bill McDermott said as he filled his car with gas.

Several drivers are all for it.

"They use the same roads as we do as far as automotive vehicles. I would say they don't pay the same registration tax and everything that we do for automotive vehicles so I kind of agree with it," driver Drew Batcheller said.

But others say they're already paying the taxes associated with their car, so why be taxed again for their bike?

"A lot of us who ride bikes also drive vehicles and we take care of the traffic costs you know," driver and cyclist Ray Trowbridge said.

Ritzow said cyclists are just an easy target, and the revenue to the state isn't worth the harm to the industry.

"There's probably a more fair way to bring that revenue in since it will be very small from a five percent tax on bikes." he said.

He suggests greater increases to the motor-vehicle associated taxes instead.

Ritzow said he and others in the bicycle industry are signing petitions and writing letters to their representatives hoping to stop this tax from going into effect.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are working to draft a formal proposal in the next several weeks.

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