Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The cost of commuting by bicycle

David Neiwert has an interesting column in today's Post-Intelligencer defending bike commuters. What I found most interesting was his reference to a study on the relative costs of bikes vs. cars.
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.
It makes sense when you think about it. A car weighs upwards of 3 or 4 thousand pounds, whereas a bike, with person, only weighs 200-250 tops. Not to mention the external costs of air pollution, global climate change, and unfortunate Middle Eastern encounters, that are caused by cars.

Even if we ourselves don’t cycle, we benefit from others doing so. The recent accident near the University Bridge underscores the risks facing cyclists. One way we can better protect them is through more segregate lanes. Another is by simply being more careful when we drive. We all have an obligation to watch out for cyclists and give them a safe amount of room.

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