One argument that seems to pop up with the anti-bike crowd is that cyclists don’t pay their fair share of the costs associated with road maintenance and construction. While intuition should tell you that the costs of cyclists on our roadways is minimal, due to the small amount of wear that bicycles cause on our roads, many use it as an excuse for not supporting projects for bicycle related infrastructure (bikeways, signs, trails, lanes, etc).
As it turns out, cyclists not only pay their fair share: they often subsidize cars.
From the article:
Trier, like a lot of misinformed folks, seems to believe the only road taxes we pay are motor vehicle licensing fees and fuel taxes. But the truth is that those fees largely pay for state and federal highways, and even then only a portion of them. The rest of the costs of those roadways are borne by all taxpayers generally, including bicyclists, through local, property and sales taxes. Local roads, where you find most cyclists, are another story altogether.
Indeed, most bicyclists in fact also own cars, so they’re also paying the licensing fees and gas taxes as well. But by using their bikes in place of cars, the wear and tear (and subsequent maintenance costs) they inflict is exponentially less than that caused by cars and trucks.
A 1995 study titled “Whose Roads?” by cycling advocate Todd Litman laid all this out in detail. The study estimated that automobile users pay an average of 2.3 cents per mile in user fees, including fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, while they actually impose 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs. Who pays the difference? It’s picked up by general taxes and property assessments. So while bicyclists pay an equal share of those taxes, they impose costs averaging only 0.2 cents per mile in road service costs.
The amount bicyclists overpay leaps out when you look at the costs of local roads, the roads cyclists use most. Litman found that only a third of the funds for their construction and maintenance comes from vehicle user charges; local property, income and sales taxes pay the rest. Automobile user fees contribute only about 1 cent per mile toward the costs of local roads but simultaneously impose costs more than six times that amount.
Beyond that, cyclists reduce pollution, reduce traffic congestion, and lower healthcare costs by living healthier lifestyles.
So, we should all feel entitled to safer streets that make room for us. We’re paying for it!
You can read the full column by David Neiwert here.
Here is a PDF of the traffic study this is taken from.