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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0 thoughts on “Cyclists Subsidize Motorists”

  1. rick says:

    A major portion of the cost of gasloline here in Canada is government tax. Since I no longer own a car I happily don’t give any tax dollars collected from fuel. Directly that is. Of course they get it from me in other ways.

    The city I live in spent $250 million on roads in 2007 and has budgeted $400 million for 2008 (city population is 1 million). The money comes directly from property tax they collect. It’s absolutely absurd. then they announce out of the other side of their mouths that there is not enough $$$ to upgrade our public transit system.

    Our federal government put a program into place where gas guzzler vehicles have a $1000 surcharge added to the price, normal cars did not receive the surcharge and people that purchased cars that get better than average mileage got a $1000 rebate. What did I receive for not even driving a car? You guessed it.

    “Cyclists Subsidize Motorists”? BIG Time

  2. Alan Braggins says:

    > (and presumably freight delivery but I’m not as sure about that)

    There’s an argument that building roads that can handle freight delivery should be paid for by the freight companies (and, eventually, the people buying the delivered goods), not by taxpayers in general. Especially if effectively subsidised road freight is competing against unsubsidised rail freight.

  3. JiMCi says:

    Cyclists subsidize motorists… what about truckers?

    “One legal 80,000 pound GVW tractor-trailer truck does as much damage to road pavement as 9,600 cars. (Highway Research Board, NAS, 1962).”

    “Overweight trucks chronically underpay their fair share of taxes and user fees for the repair of U.S. roads and bridges. By damaging roads, large trucks further degrade highway safety. (U.S. DOT, 1997).”

    I wonder how many (million) bikes are required to damage the roads as much as one single truck does?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi there, I dont know if I am writing in a proper board but I have got a problem with activation, link i receive in email is not working…

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