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Bicycle tax a bad idea

First, a shout-out to Ald. Pat Dowell:

We understand and respect why you have proposed a $25 annual tax on bicycles in Chicago. Better that as a way to raise money to run the city, you argue, than a hike in the city’s cable TV tax. For many older, handicapped and low-income Chicagoans, confined to their homes or unable to afford a movie or concert more than once in a blue moon, cable TV is their primary diversion, even their main connection to the world.

Nice to see an alderman sticking up for the little guy.

But that bike tax? Bad idea. It would never work, nor would we want it to. As a city, we should be encouraging more people to use bikes instead of cars, not discouraging them. Bikes are better for the environment and our health and do far less tax-eating damage to our roads.

As a practical matter, bikes would have to be registered to collect the tax, and that would require an expensive new bureaucracy. Dowell’s companion suggestion — requiring bike riders to pass a safety education course — would jack up costs even more. Imposing and enforcing the tax likely would cost more money than the tax would bring in.

Police have enough to do without spending time ticketing bike riders for failing to have a registration sticker. The cops would have no way of knowing if an unregistered bike locked up at a bike stand is owned by a city resident or suburbanite. And you can bet most officers would ignore the whole business.

Many or most bike riders, for that matter, would ignore the law, too. Who’s going to stop them?

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