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.

  • In the other thread, our lovable JohnB states…


    If a buck changes your mind about visiting Sausalito, I imagine they don’t want you there.”

    That’s 10% of the total cost of renting a bike. JohnB seems to think that’s worth fading. Then clearly JohnB thinks it should be “fine and dandy” to extend parking meter hours nightly from 6-9 PM in San Francisco’s commercial districts. If $6 in parking changes your mind about visiting San Francisco, I imagine the businesses don’t want them here.

    Our bill at Firefly last night was $125 including tip, because I wasn’t drinking. If we had driven to Noe Valley and had to park in a metered spot, that would be less than 5% of our total bill.

  • JohnB

    A 10% tax is about what the sales tax is on transactions in CA. It doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.

    I never said extending parking meter hours in SF is a good idea. In fact I think it’s a terrible idea. I just think that a parcel tax or even higher sales tax is an even worse idea, and so would choose the meter extensions over a tax.

    All of which is irrelevant to how Sausalito elects to manage its crowds of cyclists. That’s their decision. But since this tax only affects rental bikes and not those who bike across the bridge or on the ferry, it will probably affect people who arrive by car more.

  • Nick

    You know this issue points to the need to accomodate more cyclists. There needs to be better signage at the point where cyclists exit the bridge path. There also needs to be traffic calming on that main road that leads into town. And there needs to be more on street bike parking to accomodate bike traffic. And how about some sidewalks while we’re at it.

    I imagine that closing the Headlands for road construction this summer is going to make this even more of a pressing issue. I’ll visit soon myself. Nothing like crossing a cold bridge and then having a hot cup of coffee in town.

  • So is there no sales tax on rental of a bike?

  • =v= If I keep my Blazing Saddles/Bike And Roll handlebar bag out of sight, how is Sausalito to determine whether I’m riding a rental? Especially if I got it at Sports Basement (where used rental bikes are resold)?

    Also, what if my vehicle is a U-Haul, a rental car, a car “share” car, or a bike “share” bike? Oh, the humanity!

  • JohnB


    You said 10% is an unreasonable rate for a tax.

    I pointed out that sales tax is also 10%. and in fact the top rate of income tax is also 10%. I guess a nice round number like that is easy to compute.


    I assume this is a tax on bikes rented in Sausalito, which would be easy to collect. It doesn’t seem to affect those who arrive by bike, whether you won it or have rented it in Sf.


    I think Sausalito is trying to manage the bike numbers the same way they manage the cars numbers – through pricing. They’d probably love to find a way of charging those who bike there but it’s not practicable. But if the place gets totally overrun, they’ll have to do something.

  • Alexei

    I can’t imagine a dollar of tax will do much to reduce the traffic. On the other hand, if the revenue is used to justify converting some parking spaces, that could certainly help with the crowding. If they could install some uphill bike lanes on Alexander Ave. it might help with traffic there (downhill is not so necessary for obvious reasons).

  • Reminder to everyone here to keep it civil. You can refer to our moderation policy if you like to see what will get edited

  • I don’t see how this is going to help Sausalito with their bike problem. How many of these “problem” people rent from inside the city of Sausalito? Now if they charging the bike rental company some X amount per bike that comes into Sausalito, I could see that – though I have no clue how they would count that.

    But really, this is nothing a little infrastructure couldn’t handle. Why is there a turn lane all the way down Bridgeway? Get rid of that and split the different for a bike lane on either side. If you slowed down traffic during peak times to 15mph and put in a couple stop signs then you would space traffic enough to not need that turn lane. Then put a bike corral in the ferry parking lot. No reason to wait an hour at either side to unload bikes, now you can suck even more money out of the tourists, making up more then enough in sales taxes and putting the money into local business’s hands. You know, just like Palin wants.

  • I just google street view down Bridgeway. A couple cars are using the middle turn lane for parking.

    If I lived up there, I’d write and ask for that to be removed. A bike lane would keep the cars moving and the bikes off the sidewalks.

  • Pam

    @john murphy. any sales taxes paid by bike renters would be a state tax. This issue is over a fee specifically for Sausalito to recoup lost income from 4 parking spots, the cost of bike signs, like Ride Single File, No Parking on Sidewalk, etc. One question is equity. The charge would be WHEN they rent the bike in SF, whether or not they ride to Sausalito and park. And a $1 fee on each bike would recoup for the city in two days what it takes a year to get from cars parking in the same space. pam

  • ZA


    Part of the Alexander Ave challenge is that final leg is GGNRA property, not Sausalito’s.

    Otherwise I agree, fees should be tied to facility improvements, directly & indirectly, for those people paying it.

    The next best route around parts of Bridgeway, is the more climb-intensive Filbert/Girard/Harrison/Atwood/3rd/Main/2nd/South – and I have no idea what residents in that area think about additional traffic through there. I suppose more could be done with Marinship Way and Harbor to spread visitors out more, but Sausalito’s attractions are pretty focused, with a ferry right there.

  • JohnB


    Surely not. Sausalito cannot tax bikes rented in SF just because they ride them into Sausalito. No way to collect or enforce that. No jurisdiction.

    And why would it matter whether the riders rented or owned their bikes if that was the case? You could charge a toll to enter Sausalito, I guess. But only for bikes? Better to just charge for parking bikes if that is your aim.

    No, this is surely a tax on bikes that are rented in Sausalito.

    And as I keep saying, that is mainly a tax on those who drive to Sausalito and then rent a bike. And everyone here likes taxes on drivers, right?

  • Omri

    “A 10% tax is about what the sales tax is on transactions in CA. It doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.”

    What’s unreasonable is Sausalito charging it for rentals that range way beyond Sausalito. Should Tiburon add another 10%? How about San Francisco itself? how about Mill Valley? And Muir Woods? The market for these bike rentals comes from attractions that are outside Sausalito itself, and Sausalito should not get to lay a tax like that without everyone else having a say in what affects their communities. I get that Sausalito’s residents are well off and don’t much care for tourism. And that at the end of the day, the bikes piling up to wait for the ferries can cause inconvenience to the residents. But if they want to charge a dollar a visitor, they should offer something of value in exchange.

    By the time a tourist is in downtown Sausalito, it’s the end of the day, and he’s ready to ditch the bike. The ability to do that would be a win for everyone. Tourist is on his own. Ferry is less crowded. Bike is stowed where it can be fetched. Town gets money.

  • JohnB


    I think this might just be the 11th time today I have explained this to someone but, since it’s a quiet day, I’ll indulge you.

    Sausalito is entitled to raise local taxes on transactions within its City limits.

    If Tiburon is your destination, chances are you’ll take the ferry to Larkspur instead and avoid the unacceptably large tax of a dollar on your bike.

    You know, if Sausalito was advocating an extra dollar tax on car parking everyone here would be cheering. Different, you say? The principle is the same.

    Plus if you take your own bike, the charge is zero, zilch, nothing, nada.

    They have a right to raise this tax. And notice the part where all the revenue will go back to create bike parking etc.

    This is a tempest in a teacup. If you don’t like it, don’t rent a bike in Sausalito. It’s their decision.

  • sjbrown

    If they want to recover the parking revenue for the annexed car parking, why not just put a coin box next to the bike parking saying “Bike parking provided by the city of Sausilito, please deposit $1/hr”. Treat people civilly and the honor system works.

  • Alexei

    I can’t imagine the proposed tax would apply to bike shops in SF. I don’t think Sausalito has any jurisdiction there. Presumably there are a fair number of bikes rented in Sausalito which will be affected.

    That is a decent idea, to arrange for bike shops to pick up bikes in Sausalito. Question is who pays for it.

    If bikes are a big problem on the ferry, it’s probably time to add a fee for them. I’m not a fan of the idea, being a biker, but it’s not unreasonable.

  • Alexei

    If you can fit a dozen bikes onto one car-parking spot, shouldn’t the rate be about 1/12 of the car parking rate?

  • JohnB


    Yes if the ultimate aim here is to derive revenue from cyclists and/or discourage excessive bike traffic then some type of charging is the way to do it.

    But only a small percent of bikes in Sausalito are rented there so this tax idea won’t hit the rest. For that you’d need to add a fee on the ferry and bridge for a bike, charge for parking a bike in the town, or even have some type of toll for entry/exit into the town

    I don’t think a bike parking place should be only 1/12 of the fee for a car since each spot has still to be collected on, monitored and policed, and so on.

    But maybe a quarter of what cars pay?

    And you’d probably only need to do this on week-ends.

  • Pam

    @John B — As I said in the post and in the story, it is not a proposal by Sausalito to “impose” a tax on rental bikes, it is a negotiation with bike rental companies to add a charge. But this is all very early talking stage and no formal proposal has been presented yet. Sausalito’s city council can’t “impose” the fee they can only negotiate the fee with the companies to be added to the cost of the rentals. – pam

  • Pam, I thought that was the case. I know Sausalito has worked with the companies in the past and they (the companies) have been very helpful. Why doesn’t Sausalito just ask them to help out with infrastructure a bit more? Then the companies can have a say in what will make Sausalito a better biking experience – the things I listed above.

    And if those numbers – losing the parking spots would mean $3,500 for the year and the bikes will bring that back in two days – doesn’t speak volumes, I don’t know what will.

  • Right. A fair value for the tax would be sufficient to recover the lost cost from parking and no more: 0.58 cents. Okay, so there’s transaction fees: double that.

  • Apparently you are more than welcome – in fact Sausalito will PAY you to come ride your bike there if your name is Lance Armstrong

    I will be letting the Mayor of Sausalito know that a backlash from her community against tourist cyclists will be considered by me an statement that her city wants no future part of the Amgen Tour and that I expect them to no longer apply to be a host city. And should they apply, I’ll organize a signature drive to let the Amgen Tour understand how Sausalito views cyclists.

  • Sausalito has a real problem with bicyclists running red lights, but (for the most part) they’re not the rental tourists. They’re the ones who wear spandex and think that they’re in a velodrome. As a mountain biker, this reminds me of the over-testosteroned jerks who ruined Mount Tam for everyone else by screaming by granny on her morning walk, leaving her covered with dust and outrage.

    These same spandex-coverd yuppie jerks are going to cause problems for bicyclists coming through Sausalito.

    @John Murphy, the mayor of Sausalito is a man. 🙂

  • Those damn elections always screwing up my rants…

    “Mayor Amy Belser” must be no more.

    Note that the king of the Spandex covered yuppie jerks just called out Tony Kornheiser for stating that “Cyclists should be run down” on National radio.

  • @John Murphy: Amy hasn’t been mayor for quite some time. We’ve had Jonathan Leone as mayor for two terms now, and another gentleman before him.

    And I would hardly call Lance a yuppie jerk, though he is often spandex-coated. He’s a pro, and (from the few times I’ve met him) seems to be a rather nice guy. (Unlike, for example, Kornheiser.)

  • Posted in 2009…

    “The City of Sausalito is thrilled to be hosting the Amgen Tour of California bike race for the fourth consecutive year, partnering with the Golden Gate Bridge District and the City of San Francisco in what will be an historic Stage Two of this internationally acclaimed sporting event. Join us President’s Day Weekend as the cyclists depart Sausalito and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge for the very first time. We welcome all visitors to our scenic waterfront community and promise you an unforgettable experience. ”

    —Mayor Amy Belser

  • I stand corrected. Apparently Leone was elected in 2009. It feels like he’s been here forever. 🙂 Sausalito’s mayor usually changes every year, so I guess Amy got a chance at the podium. It’s hard to keep track of ’em all.

  • And I’m betting if you were out for lunch with any of the cyclists riding through Sausalito you’d have the exact same opinion as you have of Lance. And most of them are “pros” at something, just not cycling. Some of them work at Twitter, and let Lance tweet, he lets them ride bikes.

    And you may refer to…
    Lance by clicking the video for “Austin”

  • @John: Sorry if my remarks were misconstrued. I wasn’t referring to all of the bicyclists coming through Sausalito, I was referring to those who run red lights or nearly run down pedestrians on crosswalks. (I saw one just Monday run a red light in front of Poggio, swerve to avoid hitting a pedestrian crossing legally, and then yell over his shoulder “Get out of the $@#*$ street!”) I doubt I would enjoy sitting down for lunch with that person.

  • @Ron – this is the internet after all, where an “anecdote” can become “typical” in 140 keystrokes. If you check the current top article on this website, it has a picture of a pretty bad car wreck. There’s a decent chance one of those drivers ran a stop light, but nobody is casting aspersions on anyone but the person who ran the stop light. Why cyclists “in general” don’t get the same benefit of the doubt is beyond me. At least your anecdotal cyclist avoided that pedestrian, which is more than we can say for the driver on 19th.

  • @John Not sure I get your point. Can we agree that running red lights is bad, be it by cars or bicycles? The potential for damage is greater with cars, but in either case there is a potential for damage, and in most cases to the bicyclist.

  • =v= Whether or not running red lights is bad is not relevant to the question of Sausalito taxing rental bikes, and thus not really germane to the discussion.

  • “Sausalito has a real problem with bicyclists running red lights”

    My point is that I consider this an exaggeration, to the detriment of everyone who isn’t causing a problem. “Running red lights bad” and “I saw a couple of cyclists running red lights” quickly becomes “cyclists bad”, and it shouldn’t.


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