Bikes vs. cars: Who pays their fair share?

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Bikes vs. cars: Who pays their fair share?.

This news article is a few days old now, but it is quite a fascinating read considering that Don Cayo, a business-centric write at the Vancouver Sun, is writing this piece.

It’s clear to him and Jerry Dobrovolny, the director of transportation at the City of Vancouver, that the cost of roads are paid mainly by property taxes.  Both the cyclist and driver pay the same property taxes, but the cyclist ends up subsidizing the driver because they are not using up the road in the same way.

Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Institute notes that car lanes in North America typically cost about five times more to build than bike lanes. When you put it all together and do the math, Litman reckons the city’s road network costs every taxpayer a few hundred dollars a year.

“So your archetypical cyclist who doesn’t own a car is paying a couple of hundred a year, but imposing far less cost on the local government. They’re cross-subsidizing motorists.”

And while it’s true that motorists, mainly through gas tax, do pay a higher percentage of the cost of provincial roads than of city streets, “Cyclists don’t ride much on provincial highways.”

So cyclists just don’t cost the city as much as drivers do.  I recently saw on my Facebook feed for CityCaucus that lots of people commenting there are very anti-bike lane.  The new Hornby Street bike lane is reported to cost $3.2 million.  But how much does it cost to build a new road lane of comparable length?  I think if we put aside all the emotions and knee-jerk reactions swirling about this debate and look at the numbers like Don Cayo has, then maybe we will come to the reasonable conclusion that cyclists cost our infrastructure and city taxes less in the long run.

Don, thanks for bringing this comparison to light.

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