Council Debate Over Sausalito Bicycle Tax Postponed to April

Growing tension over how, or even whether, Sausalito can accommodate the flood of summer tourists riding rented bicycles into the village spawned a plan by one city councilman to convert four auto parking spots to bike parking. Subsequently, there has been talk of a one-dollar tax on rental bikes to defray costs. But as the Tuesday Sausalito City Council session dragged late into the night, bikes were punted to the April 6 meeting.

The council will take up the potential conversion of four parking spots to bike parking near the ferry dock in April, said Councilman Mike Kelly.

Sausalito has seen the number of bike-riding tourists soar in recent years, most riding from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge and returning by ferry with their bikes in tow to San Francisco. The number of riders is expected to grow to 2,500 on peak days this summer, up from 1,500 daily last year.

As for the potential one-dollar tax to be imposed at the point of bike rental, that discussion "is still in the infant stage," according to Sausalito City Manager Adam Politzer. There has only been one meeting and "this is a negotiated activity. The council is not talking about imposing a fee."

To put the potential tax on rental bikes in perspective, the typical parking space might generate about $3,500 a year in fees and fines; the tax on rented bikes would generate that amount in two days. The charge would come at the point of rental, not at the parking site.

The proposed tax has pleased city merchants, but locals frustrated by bicycle traffic complain that rental bikes clog sidewalks and add to commute times for ferry riders camped out for hour-long waits as the bikes are off-loaded from the boats.

Last year the rental companies, ferry operators and city staff, along with the Marin County Bicycle Coalition (MCBC), worked to add ferries at non-commute times and racks for 420 bikes donated by the rental companies. But that didn’t appease critics. The council is likely to be split, 3-2, in favor of the added parking, but it’s unclear what will become of the one-dollar fee negotiation.

"Rental bike traffic has increased every year," said David Hoffman, MCBC spokesman. "We’re trying to accommodate all points of view and come up with a solution the city staff, bike rental companies and residents can live with. The problem is some in the city leadership and some local residents are not satisfied with the progress," he said.

Next month’s council discussion may also deal with recently added signs directing cyclists to bike parking, warning them not to park on sidewalks, and directing them to ride single file through town.

"The reality is cyclists will not be going away. This is a paradigm shift and it will be real and a significant portion of the city traffic. The city has to think about how to accommodate the new shift," Hoffman said.