Response to the Tribune Review’s Editorial

Myth: Cyclists Don’t Pay Taxes

It’s unfortunate that the Trib formed and published an opinion that perpetuates myths instead of simply Googling the question, “who pays for roads?” and then writing an informed editorial that actually educates the public on an important and often misunderstood issue. But here we are.

The answer is we all do. U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group write in their study called, you guessed it, “Who pays for roads?” “Today, general taxes paid by all taxpayers cover nearly as much of the cost of building and maintaining highways as the gas tax and other fees paid by drivers.” In fact, U.S. households bear on average an additional burden of more than $1,100 per year over and above user fees regardless of how much they drive.

Additional assumptions that the Trib makes:

  1. That cars and bikes are equally dangerous and damaging – In 2016, 37,461 people lost their lives on our roads, and approximately 4.5 million are injured. 99% of these fatalities and injuries involve a motor vehicle not a bicycle. Also, the idea that bicycles, which weigh an average of 200 pounds including the rider, inflict equal damage to our streets as a two ton car is laughable.
  2. That people who drive cars don’t also ride bikes – 93% of Bike Pittsburgh’s 3,000 members have a driver’s license and 88% own a car according to our most recent member survey.
  3. That bicycle riders don’t pay taxes or fees – I for one pay the following taxes and fees (and I’m hardly alone): Income, property, gas, sales, local service, and car registration fee.
  4. That bicycle riders are scofflaws – A 2017 study published in the Journal of Transportation and Land Use which surveyed nearly 18,000 people found among other things that nearly 100% of all road users break the law at equal rates, yet bicycle riders receive an unequal amount of scorn from the public.
  5. That government cannot plan for our future while also addressing problems in the presentShouldn’t we all hope that the government we pay taxes to can do both, and not just provide services and safety for those of us fortunate enough to afford a car?

PA is one of the few states that have taken action in the face of federal inaction on gas taxes. But even with Act 89 we still don’t have enough money to address all of our needs and create and execute a vision for a 21st century transportation future. Where’s this additional revenue going to come from? Clearly not just user fees.

Scott Bricker
Executive Director
Bike Pittsburgh


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