Cyclists pay their share

Survey: Bicyclists more than cover transportation costs

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JAKE PARRISH/Press Tom Abell of Coeur d'Alene rides his bike on the Centennial Trail along Lake Coeur d'Alene Drive on Tuesday. According to a survey published by the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, ninety-six percent of those who ride a bicycle on Idaho roads also own a motor vehicle.

Advocates for non-motorized travel in Idaho say a recently completed survey helps debunk the idea that bicyclists contribute less than motorists to transportation funding.

The survey of 1,500 Gem State residents, organized by the Boise-based Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, found 96 percent of those who ride bicycles on Idaho roads also own motor vehicles.

“Most bicyclists own cars, therefore they pay registration and license fees, as well as fuel taxes,” alliance spokesman David Guiotto said in a press release. “But transportation budgets also receive revenue from property taxes. So anybody who lives under a roof pays — directly as a home-owner or indirectly as a renter — into our transportation system. Because bicycling causes significantly less road wear than driving does, it could be argued that bicyclists actually pay more than their share of transportation costs. ”

Monte McCully, trails coordinator for the city of Coeur d’Alene, sits on the Idaho Walk Bike Alliance’s board of directors. He said the results are significant because as cycling continues to increase in popularity nationwide, more and more bikes will be sharing roads with motor vehicles.

“People are starting to see bikes more often and this has led to the conversation about taxing people using bikes on our roadways,” McCully told The Press.

He said some people believe “active mode” travelers, cyclists and others who rely on other modes of human-powered transportation, have less right than motorists to use public roads. This is based, McCully said, on the assumption that non-motorized travel is less important than motorized travel, and the assumption that cyclists pay less than their fair share of roadway costs.

Those assumptions have been the subject of a substantial amount of research, he said, pointing to a 2013 study by Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, a think tank in British Columbia that often researches American transportation issues.

Litman’s research breaks out other costs created by automobiles, including congestion, crash risks, pollution exposure and other environmental damages. Those “external costs” also drive the need for separate accommodations for cyclists, like bike lanes which are created to protect cyclists from crashes with vehicles.

“It’s important for the public to be aware of these findings because it shows that active mode users already pay for roads and that the portion of the road tax that is set aside for bicycle facilities is, in fact, paid for by cyclists,” McCully said.

To review the Litman study, visit www.vtpi.org/whoserd.pdf.

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