The Province had a columnist write on a cycling issue today:
Cyclists should have safe routes but no free ride
Motorists pay taxes for road work and riders should, too Jon Ferry
It was the evening of Boxing Day, one of the worst times to be out and about. But I wasn't about to let a little snow stop me from testing the controversial suggestion that one way to help solve Metro Vancouver's transportation woes might be to make our roads more bicycle-friendly -- by taxing cyclists.
Except it wasn't really snow; it was freezing, sloppy soup. And we weren't in a heated motor vehicle. We were braving the elements outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, myself and four hearty cyclists out for a Critical Mass ride . . . one of those monthly protests that obstruct downtown streets and anger motorists, at least when hundreds of cyclists show up for them.
We chatted by the big Christmas tree and toasted absent riders. Then, at 6:15 p.m., the four were gone, pedalling hard up Howe Street. And I was left to ponder the mindset of the average Vancouver cyclist, not just those for whom it's an all-season, all-weather event.
Well, clearly many feel vulnerable on the roads. As New Westminster childcare worker Dennis Bibby, one of the Critical Mass riders, told me: "Right now, the bicyclists are just sort of sitting ducks."
Certainly, many motorists need to adjust their thinking toward cyclists.
Some bike riders, however, display a snotty, us-versus-them attitude toward car drivers -- which is likely to become even more divisive early next year as Vancouver city staff re-examine giving one or more lanes of the Burrard Street Bridge to cyclists.
It's a proposal that didn't find traction in the past. But in these eco-obsessed times, bicycling has become politically correct, and politicians have started pumping money into bicycling infrastructure.
Bicycling advocates, though, want more. And, strange as it may sound, I agree with them: The best way to discourage conflicts between cyclists and motorists is to provide bike routes that are safe, easy to use and don't block other traffic.
No, my beef with local cycling activists is not with their cause. It's that they tend to be all take and no give, and don't seem willing to pay for the privilege of riding on public roads, as motorists must do through a whole series of fees and levies.
My view is that it's time Victoria made cyclists fork over their fair share of road-related taxes -- starting with an annual licence fee of, say, $50 a year.
Bibby thinks it's too early to consider such a bike tax. It's under active discussion, though, in Portland and Seattle. And Seattle Times columnist James Vesely notes that we already license everything from dogs to boats: "Cyclists, known for their community spirit and exalted senses of self, should welcome this opportunity to help government support their activities."
Exalted senses of self? Yes, some Vancouver bicyclists do seem a bit high on themselves these days.
So taxing them might help bring them back down to Earth. Or at least it might earn them a measure of respect from a critical mass of tax-weary motorists.
I wrote a letter to the paper: (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Public roads are built on public land, for the public's use, and paid for with public funding.
Everybody pays for the roads whether used or not.
Not only do cyclists pay for the roads, they subsidize the health care sytem because cycling inherently improves health. Something motoring does not.
I commented on the website that maybe we should charge pedestrians to use the sidewalks too. They're pretty expensive!
I sent off another email to Jon (the writer)
here's his address if you want to too
A.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.
B. Household’s general taxes used for road related services. $300 each
C. Motorist user fees spent on local road (0.2¢ per mile) for Mike, $24 for Francis, $0
D. Total road system contribution (B + C) for Mike $324 for Francis, $300
E. Tax payment per mile of travel (B/A) for Mike, 3.2 cents for Francis, 10 cents
F. Roadway costs (cars = 5.6¢/ml, bicycles = 0.2¢/ml) for Mike, $560, for Francis, $48
Non-drivers pay almost the same as motorists for local roads but impose lower costs. As a result,
they tend to overpay their share of roadway cost