Why not a tax on bicycles?

Maryland is faced with major fiscal issues that are restricting its ability to repair and expand its aging highway infrastructure. At the urging of Gov. Martin O'Malley, the Maryland legislature recently passed an increase in the state gasoline tax to address this problem ("Md. Senate approves increase in gas tax," March 30).

But while the governor has always been creative in finding new ways to pay for his road projects and social programs, I believe he has overlooked one possible source of revenue: The licensing and taxing of bicycles.

Think about it. With upward of 4 million bicycles in Maryland and more being added each year, a street use tax or licensing fee for bikes could generate much-needed revenues for our highways. Further, by licensing all bicycle riders, the state could lead the nation in solving a potential safety issue by creating a system that guaranteed cyclists were properly trained in the rules of the road.

By instituting a fee of only $10 per bicycle registration, plus a $10 licensing fee, Maryland could raise up to $65 million in additional annual revenue. Bicycles, after all, not only share the roads with cars, but in many cases have dedicated lanes and their own paths on trails built at taxpayer expense.

By instituting this new and innovative revenue stream, Maryland and Mr. O'Malley could also lead the nation in creating a safer environment for our children.

I'm sure President Obama would endorse this initiative. My only concern, slightly tongue-in-cheek, is that the president will also lay claim to what seems to be Maryland's motto: "If you can dream it, we can tax it!"

Steven J. Schaefer, Lutherville

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