Cyclists Subsidize Motorists

How much are we paying for the roads? If you are primarily a cyclist, too much, according to a paper from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute. They published a paper back in 2004 titled “Whose Roads?: Defining Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways,” which can be found here. It is an interesting read, if reading papers is your thing.

As the title implies, the paper argues that bicyclists and pedestrians not only deserve to be on the road, but that they “provide significant transportation benefits.” But, chances are, if you are reading this blog, you already know that. The part that really caught my attention though, is a chart that shows how much cyclists and pedestrians pay for roadway cost compared to what motorists pay.

From pg.10

Two neighbors each pay $300 annually in local taxes that fund roads and traffic services. Mike Motorist drives 10,000 miles annually on local roads, while Frances Footpower bicycles 3,000 miles. The table below compares the costs they impose with what they pay in taxes.




A. Annual local mileage



B. Household’s general taxes used for road related services.



C. Motorist user fees spent on local road (0.. ¢ per mile).



D. Total road system contribution (B + C)



E. Tax payment per mile of travel (B/A).

3.. ¢

1. ¢

F. Roadway costs (cars = 5.. ¢/ml, bicycles = 0.. ¢/ml)



Net (D – F)

Underpays $236

Overpays $252

(F. Roadway costs are estimates that are explained in the article.)

The paper does address the fact that we need roads for police, fire, ambulance, etc. It explains that roads and vehicular services need to be built up to accommodate the traffic levels. In other words, are roadways would not be as expensive if they were used for primarily for emergency services (and presumably freight delivery but I’m not as sure about that.)

While rising gas prices may help convince people to reduce their car usage, imagine how motorists would respond to higher user fees (typically gas taxes) to cover the true cost of using an automobile? I think people would think twice about all those car trips to work, the grocery store, the video store, etc. if the price at the pump accounted for the full cost to society.

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