Grist: Why an additional road tax for bicyclists would be unfair

Photo by Flickr user BikeJunkie

Should cyclists pay a road tax?  Elly Blue responds to a recent Portland ad campaign

Check out this article in Grist explaining the cost per mile of bicycling versus driving, and how if you ride a bike, you are actually helping subsidize the cost of roads.   Cities — and taxpayers — can’t afford not to invest in bicycling.

Elly Blue, the author, will be in Pittsburgh tonight to speak at the Carnegie Library in Oakland on the Bikestravaganza: Off the Chainring Tour.  The tour is a traveling road show of bicycle talk, movies, zines, and transportation activism and advocacy from Portland, OR.

  • Wednesday, September 29
  • Carnegie Library Main, Oakland
  • 6:00pm – 7:30pm

Stick around for a ride and after party at OTB Bicycle Cafe in the Southside

Full details here

by Elly Blue for GRIST Magazine
27 Sep 2010 11:00 AM

“Should cyclists pay a road tax?”

That was printed on the side of one of Portland, Ore.’s MAX light rail trains as it sailed back and forth across the region for six months in 2009.

The question was designed to provoke, and it did. “We already do!” I would grumble every time I saw it.

It’s true. And, fair being fair, we overpay.

Say you own a car. You’re shelling out an average of $9,519 this year, according to the American Automobile Association (most other estimates are higher). Some of those costs — a percentage of gas, registration, licensing, and tolls — go directly to pay for roads. And it hurts. You doubtless feel every penny.

The cost of road maintenance is averaged at 5.6 cents per mile per motor vehicle. Add the so-called external costs of parking (10 cents), crashes (8 cents), congestion (4 cents), and land costs and that’s another 28 cents per mile! Meanwhile, for slower, lighter, smaller bicycles, the externalities add up to one meager cent per mile.

The thing is, that money only pays for freeways and highways. Or it mostly pays for them — a hefty chunk of change for these incredibly expensive, high maintenance thoroughfares still comes from the general fund.

Local roads, where you most likely do the bulk of your daily bicycling, are a different story. The cost of building, maintaining, and managing traffic on these local roads adds up to about 6 cents per mile for each motor vehicle. The cost contributed to these roads by the drivers of these motor vehicles through direct user fees? 0.7 cents per mile. The rest comes out of the general tax fund.
Read the rest of this article on Grist

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