View Full Version : myth that cyclists don't pay their share for roads

organic brian
02-16-2006, 12:41 PM
Please let's not tolerate the myth that cyclists do not pay their share for roads. The reality is actually the opposite. Almost any cyclist, that is nearly everyone who is not homeless with no source of income, pays more for the local roads they usually ride on than motorists pay. Fuel taxes are dedicated mostly to highways, where you rarely find cyclists, and they do not even cover the full cost of highways. Local roads, sidewalks, infrastructure such as traffic signs and signals, that stuff is paid for by general taxes which everybody pays through their property tax (you pay through your landlord if you rent), sales tax (if in a sales tax state), and payroll tax. Because automobiles take so much more infrastructure than cycles, cyclists are actually subsidizing road infrastructure for motorists. Also, cycles wear the roads so much less, the wear is almost negligable.

The best info I've found is at vtpi.org, and though they are located in Canada there is a lot of info about Oregon that is applicable. The best document was:

In one example where a typical motorist and a typical cyclist were compared for their tax contributions (fuel taxes were included for motorist) and their road use, the motorist UNDERPAYED by $236 per year and the cyclist OVERPAYED by $252.

When the additional costs of driving gas-powered automobiles are considered, such as military support for fuel extraction and distribution, and the health costs to everyone due to pollution, the disparity becomes much greater.

Please spread this info far and wide, and feel free to add any details you have come up with. Are there other studies / sources of info that apply to Oregon?

02-16-2006, 02:23 PM
Good point, brian.

Just to clarify one thing, cities and counties do get a cut of the state gas tax and it is used, along with locally generated taxes for local streets and roads, plus other eligible uses like bike lanes and sidewalks, not just highways.

Not to undercut your basic premise, because I do agree with you. I believe that most local funding for roads comes from non-gas tax sources, but I'd probably want to confirm that before I hung my helmet on that, just for the sake of accuracy.

If you move beyond the tax discussion and look at what impacts on society automobiles have versus that of bicycles, the imbalance is laughable. Environmental impacts, quality of life impacts, land use impacts, public health impacts, etc. all favor the bike over the car.

Moving even further afield, there is the inherent inequity of the current imbalanced transportation system which essentially forces people to own an automobile.

02-16-2006, 06:48 PM
According to PDOT (I can scan the graph if people need), approximately 40% of local and state road costs are provided by auto user fees. The remaining 60% are paid for by a combination of grants, property taxes, PDC funds, and other sources.

organic brian
02-17-2006, 01:12 AM
If 40% of the cost of all transportation infrastructure (sidewalks, streets, roads, highways, signals, signs, overpasses, etc.) were covered by fuel taxes and user fees, either gas would cost at least five to eight bucks a gallon now, or it would cost thousands of dollars to register a vehicle or get a driver's license. What exactly is covered by this funding you're referring to? Do you have the breakdown of all the funding sources and what they pay for?

According to the vtpi.org doc, fuel taxes / user fees such as auto registration paid a very small fraction of the total cost of transportation infrastructure, though that info is mostly Canada-specific. The fuel tax money went almost entirely to highways, and even then approx. half the cost of highways was covered by other (non-user) sources.

Help! I spent a whole afternoon I-net searching, maybe someone can turn up Oregon-specific info that is detailed and complete.

02-17-2006, 10:57 AM
If 40% of the cost of all transportation infrastructure .........

Help! I spent a whole afternoon I-net searching, maybe someone can turn up Oregon-specific info that is detailed and complete.

Here's some info from PDOT. What you want may be in there. I did not read all of it.

Strategic Plan Report (http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=65166)

Financial Forecast (http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=94281)
NB: Appendix F. pg. 43--- Revenue sources

Revenue Sources (http://www.portlandonline.com/shared/cfm/image.cfm?id=95525)
(Not a lot related to bikes but has some gas tax info).

Hope This Helps,

Matt P.
02-23-2006, 02:35 PM
The original post said 40% of local and state - that's correct. Local and state funding for roads is supplemented by federal funding for transportation, which covers more than just highways. Federal funding usually makes up the lion's share of all transportation projects.

Maybe I shouldn't say "supplemented by", since federal funding is usually the largest share.

organic brian
04-26-2006, 10:57 AM
It's going to take me some time to go through all this... I've found out lots of sources for info in the very lengthy discussion on the Commissioner Sam blog about funding for bike infrastructure:


Some of the links in the discussion: