Photo by earcos / Flickr
Sitting at a red light, a car driver yells out his window “Excuse me, is this the bicycle lane?”. The cyclist passively shrugs and slowly rolls his bike closer to the curb. The light turns green and the driver stomps on the gas pedal flying past the cyclist with less than a foot in between.
Many drivers feel that cyclists have no right to use the roads because drivers pay for the roads through fuel taxes and license fees. This couldn’t be further from the truth and reminds me of a modern-era tobacco industry-like outright fabrication.
Last week a National Post bigot columnist wrote a grossly ignorant and irresponsible article suggesting that cyclists should be licensed and taxed.
“But bike riders pay nothing, even though the cost of urban bicycle infrastructure, operating risks and potential liabilities are mounting. Bikers are getting a free ride that all non-bikers are paying for.”
It is sad that a journalist working for a national newspaper with 200,000+ daily circulation would make such a claim. At best it’s sheer ignorance; at worst it’s a contrived lie – both leaving Terence Corcoran absent of any sort of journalistic conduct.
The truth is, cyclists pay more than their fair share for roads. In fact, in many cases cyclists are actually subsidizing the cost of roads for drivers. Imagine that Terence, cyclists are subsidizing the cost of the roads for you – not to mention cyclists take up less space, reduce gridlock and don’t pollute.
But telling this to Terence would be fruitless. This is the same writer who made the outrageous claim that cyclists should be held accountable for the carbon emissions that they output from their breath while cycling. If this was an attempt at humour, Mr. Corcoran failed miserably.
“And then there’s the carbon footprint. When car drivers cruise Yonge Street on Saturday night, their metabolisms are more or less flat-lined. They just sit there, burning up little energy personally but paying for the cost of their automobile’s carbon footprint via taxes and fees. Bike riders grinding up the same route burn up a lot more carbohydrates, which their bodies convert into carbon dioxide and exhale, adding to their carbon footprint. The volumes are small, but it all adds up, and bicyclists don’t pay.”
Let’s get back to the topic on hand since this dense National Post columnist doesn’t deserve any more of our time.
A 2004 study by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute found that cyclists and pedestrians are subsidizing drivers:
“Since bicycling and walking impose lower roadway costs than motorized modes,
people who rely primarily on nonmotorized modes tend to overpay their fair
share of roadway costs and subsidize motorists.”
Let’s look at how roads are funded. It is true that drivers support a substantial amount of the funding for highways. The Victoria study found that about 60% of highway funding comes from fuel taxes and vehicle taxes and 40% comes from general taxes and bonds. But more than 90% of cycling and walking happens not on highways, but on local roads – so the highway argument is inconsequential.
When we look at local roads, the study found that “in 2002, $27.9 billion dollars were spent on U.S. local roads, of which only $3.1 billion was from user fees.” The other $24.8 billion dollars were paid for by general taxes, of which cyclists, pedestrians and drivers all pay.
Cyclists and pedestrians pay income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes (directly if owners and indirectly if renters) and other taxes that contribute to local roads – all while automobiles are putting substantially more wear-and-tear on these roads, driving the costs even higher.
If anyone should be outraged it should be those who don’t drive but pay into the vast funds that subsidize drivers.
Instead of spreading lies, those in the media should be encouraging what they know in their heart to be the better way.
While sitting at the red light, with a streetcar directly to my left – another cyclist sits between me and the streetcar. The driver of a car behind us sticks his head out the window and says to the cyclist to my left, “is this the bike lane?”. The cyclist grudgingly rolls his bike to the curb without responding to the driver.
I turn my head to the left and say, “Excuse me, is this the asshole lane?”
- Motorists Prime Beneficiaries Of Socialism (Aug 2011)
- The World Has Changed. So Can You. (April 2011)
- Bicycle Transportation Should Be Taken Seriously (March 2012)
- Bicycle Infrastructure Ignorance (Jan 2011)
- Bicycle Infrastructure Is Good For Business (May 2011)
- Motorists Against Bicycle Infrastructure (Oct 2010)