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A road project being debated in Vancouver, Washington has spurred an unfortunate comment from a member of that city’s City Council.
At issue is the MacArthur Blvd Safety Project, which would have put MacArthur Blvd on a “road diet,” reducing the existing four standard vehicle lanes to two and replacing them with on-street parking, a wider median and wider bike lanes. Last month, the City decided to not move forward with those plans. Instead, they plan to remove existing bike lane symbols and add sharrows instead.
The move upset some people in the community who care about cycling conditions.
This morning, The Columbian newspaper reported on how the situation came up at a Vancouver City Council meeting earlier this week. Below is an excerpt from their story which refers to Councilor Jeanne Stewart’s comments:
“Because bicycles don’t pay gas tax or license fees, Councilor Jeanne Stewart said she was uncomfortable giving lanes for vehicles to bikes.
“We’re reallocating that surface for someone who isn’t paying anything to anybody” she said.”
In response, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt reportedly countered Stewart’s comment:
Leavitt countered that he has a car and he also rides his bike.
Stewart’s comments are unfortunate because as many of you already now, the idea that a person riding a bike doesn’t pay for roads is just blatantly false. Seems like Ms. Stewart could use a basic lesson in road funding.
Stewart has been on City Council since 2001 and her term expires in 2013.
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What a *****, most people who bike also drive. Perhaps a comprehensive survey should be conducted, so that when this fallacy of bike people not paying road taxes is voiced, they can be spoon fed the information…
Jeanne E. Stewart
Hey Jeanne. I pay lots of taxes.
Income tax, property tax, sales tax, gas tax, taxes for my licenses and registration for my car.
I also ride my bike.
I want to ride my bike more and I want to have safer roads to ride them on.
I want you to do your job better. I’m rooting for you.
As a car driver, I know that I only contribute a small % of what the roads actually cost. The rest is subsidized by all road users- whether they drive or not.
Cyclists who don’t own a car pay almost all of the same taxes that I do and are unfairly taxed for the rest. Read this:
Would you like to go on a group ride with some friends and their kids?
You can connect with other voters. We all want safe roads to bike on.
Looking forward to your response (that I will gladly share at my neighborhood association meeting),
PS I read about what you said here:
and here is this one again:
Oddly her staunch opposition to any light rail funding could submarine the CRC. She was actually removed from the C-Tran board for not voting the will of the council on bus/train funding issues.
Interesting. I wonder how much it would cost to put the CRC under the river…
No more river traffic problems, and it would be one hell of a bike ride.
Not to mention how retrograde her perspective is. What are her transport funding choices going to look like when neither she nor any of her friends drive anymore, and thus no longer pay gasoline taxes? I suspect she might imagine that the world will end before she and her friends stop driving and paying gas taxes, but I can assure her that even she will get used to not having access to cheap gasoline to put in her car. Then what? How about some slightly more forward looking thinking, Ms. Stewart? How about acknowledging that Peak Oil is going to demand some NEW THINKING, some NEW IDEAS, some NEW FUNDING MECHANISMS?
She really needs to get her facts right, but liveing here in Vancouver I see this more than I like from her.
1) Bury head in sand
Elections: not an intelligence contest.
I just sent her an email. Her contact info is here: http://www.jeannestewart.org/contact.html
All city council and Mayor Leavitt’s contacts are here:
I just sent an email, and made a point to be polite and respectful. I want to be a good ambassador for cycling.
“Because bicycles don’t pay gas tax or license fees, Councilor Jeanne Stewart said she was uncomfortable giving lanes for vehicles to bikes.”
Cars, among other inanimate objects, don’t pay gas tax or license fees, either.
+5: best thing to say to the mindset ever.
People pay taxes not objects.
Tax revenue should be used to support the public not an object.
Best post I’ve read all year. Agreed 100%.
Very, very well said, David and q’Tzal. An excellent angle – can we get this on a T-shirt or something?
Go to it. Copyleft y`all!
What can be just as surprising is that people we appoint and/or elect to these positions basically don’t know much more [and sometiomes less] about where funding comes from and taxes go to than the average citizen. Hence, the statements similar to reported above.
Amen to that!!!!
And how many people in the of her constituents work in Portland, but live in Vancouver to avoid paying taxes!! She casts stones, yet lives in a glass house.
Because by working in Portland you don’t avoid paying taxes.
You actually pay more because you pay Oregon income taxes over and above the taxes you pay in Washington, that includes, sales tax, property tax, water bills, electric bills, vehicle licensing fees, etc, etc etc.
So Vancouver is not losing a cent on people working out of state.
Talk about getting the facts straight.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether or not I also drive. Most roads are built using property, sales (in states with a sales tax), and income taxes. Not the gasoline tax, which hardly makes a dent. Not the DMV fees, which only pay for the DMV (and I have a license anyway, so I do pay for that).
People who think that gas taxes pay for the roads much think roads (and their maintenance) are very cheap.
Jeanne Stewart is just plain wrong in in several ways about her assertion that “bikes don’t pay taxes,” but at the same time I wouldn’t say that gas and vehicle taxes “hardly make a dent.” Transalt.org estimates that 35% of US road and highway funds come from gas taxes, another 20% from license fees and 5% from tolls. It estimates that 40% comes from sources other than directly from motor vehicle taxes and fees. I’ll agree that current road funding isn’t fair, equitable nor in the best interest of the country or its cities or citizens, but if we’re looking for a reasonable way forward, let’s start with a reasonable assessment of where things stand and acknowledge that 60% is at least a dent.
Hmmm. Didn’t know that.
It’s true, though, that I still don’t use most of the most expensive roads (freeways), and that I put very little wear and tear on the roads I do use. So maybe I’ll stick with that angle instead?
And even for us Washingtonians who don’t have a state income tax, we still contribute to road funds that come from our Federal Income Tax, which come back to us in the form of loans, grants, and other funds for infrastructure. So basically, the automobile is a welfare recipient that we all pay for, whether we drive or not. Also, we all fund road projects in places where we don’t even drive.
Regardless of all the excellent and factual points above, the councilwoman’s perspective is based upon the general perception that cyclists (and particularly Portland cyclists) are free-loaders IN LIFE, not just through thier mode of transportation. Portlandia’s portrayal of the City’s “young retirees” is simply part and parcel of this stereotype.
When so many stories are told of Portland cycling culture living off PBR and coffee and washing dishes for pay, Politicians get to feed off this crap and make statements that, while clearly false, go over with little waves with her overall constituents. In fact, they are probably even heralded!
I appreciate the above commenters decision to remain polite when writing the councilwoman.
She doesn’t pay for Portland streets! We should ban her from driving here…. aw shucks. Nevermind, you can come use our roads. Let’s hug. I was never gonna bike to your unfriendly city anyway.
I also sent off a letter to Ms Stewart and the Mayor. I also attached a link in that letter about Denver’s Strategic Transportation Plan, and their concepts about “moving people.”
When I visited Denver a little over a year ago, I read about this plan in a local paper. Their idea is not to build more or wider roads, but to effectively and efficiently “move people.” Whether those people are in cars, on bikes, on foot, in a bus, or in a wheelchair.
So gasoline tax and DMV fees are going to pay for the CRC then?
That will pay for a new foot bridge, maybe one of those cool rope bridges we see in the movies.
The US PIRG researched this subject and released a report earlier this year. The truth is quite at odds with what Jeanne Stewart likely believes.
It is unfortunate that so many policy decisions are made without a true understanding of the issue.
I always like to imagine what life would be like if we had continued to designed streets around horse and buggy while requiring cars to use special lanes.
the link for the report:
The unfortunate thing is that most people believe they are getting “screwed” when it comes to the taxes they pay in the first place. From, “Hey, I don’t have kids! Why should I have to pay for schools?” to “I shouldn’t have to pay taxes on food stamps because I saw this one person buying Ben and Jerry’s with them once!” No matter how much common sense or how much information is thrown at them, they are stuck in this “I am paying more than everyone else” mindset.
This is no different. A tiny percentage of the roads that we bike on are paid for by gas taxes. But, watching them put a multi-use path (read: bike path) will send them through the roof since it is their tax dollars and it is something they won’t use.
So, please if you email Jeanne, please be nice. Understand that she has the beliefs of the average American.
The fact is that bike riders do not pay their fare share – if they pay anyhting they pay because they also have a car which must be licensed. Please educate those of us who think that you bike riders dont beleong on the street until you pay for part of the roads with proceeds and taxes coming strictly from bicycles that you ride. ( not the cars or trucks ).
i do not own a car. i pay property taxes through the rent on my apartment, and i pay “road” taxes through the prices of everything i buy. apart from licensing and registration fees, which barely cover the costs of administration, the only taxes i am not paying that a motorist pays are a few cents a gallon on gasoline, which does not begin to fund the costs of building and maintaining roads, let alone the external costs imposed on the rest of us by the widespread inappropriate use of the private automobile.
Well, da_rube, to continue flogging a tired old argument, I’ll be happy to pay my proportional share of bicycle specific taxes based on my vehicle’s weight and the wear and tear I inflict upon the roadway.
There is an error in your logic.
Public roads are paid for by taxes. There are taxes besides gasoline taxes. When I bought my car I paid taxes. When I earn income I pay taxes. When I pay my mortgage, I pay taxes. And so on in that fashion.
Perhaps I drive less than you, in which case I pay fewer gas taxes than you. That does not mean that I pay fewer overall taxes than you, nor does it mean that I pay fewer taxes which are eventually spent on public roadways.
And then there is the extremely important other side of the coin: the amount of public money I’m saving everyone (including you) by driving less.
If you would like references/resources backing my claims, please speak up as there are plenty of commenters here who could direct you better than I.
Search on this page for links to Transalt.org and USPirg.org to help educate yourself about how our roads are actually funded.
As pointed out in the comments above, roads are funded primarily by the General Fund, which is supported by income and property tax — everyone pays this.
Your perspective seems to suggest that you don’t support curb cuts for wheelchairs/the elderly because “they’re not paying for them!”. Is that the case?
In fact, car owners, not bike owners, are the ones who get a free ride — the cost of building things like interstate highways dwarf the costs of bike lanes. Do you really think that motorists are paying those costs through licensing fees and (negligibly low) gas taxes?
I have about $15K in new bike purchases (made over the last in my basement and garage right now. In my state that’s about $1200 in sales taxes and doesn’t count the parts and services I’ve paid taxes on.
But that’s only to answer your pointless question and say that even those who don’t own cars pay for the roads. To the point again, it also doesn’t count the sales, gas, registration, and property taxes on my four motor vehicles. Furthermore, having paid for the roads, we taxpayers do not give up our privilege to use them simply by choosing a bicycle for transportation upon those roads. That’s simply not how it works. And that’s why your question–hoping to parse the fungibility of tax dollars–is pointless.
I ride a bike so there’s more gas for you. You’re welcome.
Jonathan, Thanks for posting this.
I am not sure how many of the comments above reflect actually reading the article in the Columbian. It isn’t as bad as what I thought when I read the blog entry and Jeannie Harris’ comment. They are still considering a lane diet when they repave sometime in the future – 2012 is scheduled – but with budget who knows when that will happen.
I was involved in the process that lead to the planning meeting linked above, and I was at the meeting. It was thought at the time that they could justify the realignment when the street was restriped over the summer – which didn’t happen without any notice. Apparently they’ve changed their minds. I will admit that there was a very brief and abbreviated public process last spring and that was not without opposition. The council as a whole isn’t really being that unreasonable here.
Getting rid of the existing bike lanes is a GOOD thing. They are the worst bike lanes EVER. I will happily go back to taking the lane as I always did before they striped the bike lanes. Sharrows will be a help. Even though the speed limit is 35mph and the typical speed is 40, taking the lane is fine because traffic is not heavy and the 4 lanes are NOT NEEDED.
I will get active in the community and the neighborhood associations and hopefully we can be one step ahead in community building and planning for a new vision for the MacArthur corridor before the Council gets back around to this. There is a huge public right away along this stretch and 2 schools, a and a park. The area is well connected to other bike routes and is a heavily used bicycle corridor. It is a great opportunity to replace asphalt and cars with a linear park, walking paths and protected bike ways.
This is my neighborhood and their is a lot of potential for a fantastic biking and walking community to develop in this area. Come join me, the prices are right. 13 miles and 50 minutes commute the Pearl (Marshall and Broadway) 11 miles and 45 minutes commute to Hollywood area.
Paul in the ‘Couve –
Respectfully, those are far from the worst bike lanes even in Vancouver. They certainly aren’t perfect, and the way they roll off into the ditch has a scary psych-out effect, but they aren’t actually difficult to ride. If the reason we can’t have the design envisioned in the “road diet” plan is budgetary, why would we spend scarce money removing what’s already better than nothing? As I wrote to the mayor and council, removing them and asking bikes to take the lane in a 35mph zone means a merge from ‘bike lane’ to ‘take-a-lane’ and a gap in the most contiguous east-west bike route in Vancouver. I don’t think that will improve most rider’s comfort or safety nor improve driver’s acceptance of rider’s presence.
It’s not worth arguing about whether its the worst, but its certainly no major loss. Personally, I felt less safe in the bike lane and I’ve ridden MacArthur regularly for 14 years. Besides being sloped, full of debris and interrupted by steep drainage areas the lane placed me to extreme right on a very wide, lightly traveled road. Drivers turning onto MacArthur from side streets don’t look far enough to the right. Riding in the lane is actually safer.
The fact is that the bike lanes did NOTHING to improve “most riders” actual safety. People are still free to ride where the bike lane was and the lane strip will still be in the same place. The entirety of that ‘bike facility’ was 2 dozen bike lane symbols on the shoulder of a road. The police never once issued a ticket for people parked in the bike lane. It isn’t costing anything to remove the bike lane anyway. At his point it only exists in the memory of people who know it is there – the bike lane symbols have faded over the winter and are hardly noticeable. The extra $$$ will be for our new sharrows.
There’s still quite a bit of exaggeration in your post, and neither of us can say which design is actually safer (fortunately part of why we can’t say is because that stretch has been quite safe, anyway), so I guess it comes down to personal preference.
How do you feel about the proposal in the MacArthur Boulevard Visioning Study? (1 traffic lane, 1 bike lane, 1 parking lane)
Oh, doh…I already saw your “linear park” post. 🙂
I think the important part was that the city councilwoman believes that bikes are getting a free pass. To me, that was much more newsworthy than what happened to the street.
Sadly I think she was elected to reflect the ignorant views of her constituents.
Unless one is talking about a toll road, our normal system of roads here has no requirement for payment for use or access, so her implication that it would be necessary or reasonable is hearby dismissed.
That’s an unfortunate myth that Jeanne Stewart repeated. How can we best take this opportunity to engage her on the realities of roadway funding? We can overwhelm her with facts, or maybe we could invite her on a bike ride this summer? It sounds like she doesn’t know anyone who actually rides a bike to get around.. let’s change that!
it is also unfortunate that the only direct rebuttal she received (from the mayor) was the very weak “well, but, most of us also operate cars” argument.
Bicycles should be paying proportionally for the amount of infrastrucutre they use – bike paths and specific riding lanes should be specifically covered by bicyclists – start paying your share insted of making others cover your share for you.
Bicycles CAN NOT pay anything.
Bicyclists already subsidize motorist infrastructure, and sources for that which you can verify have already been posted in this thread.
Subsidize means “pay proportionally more.”
I sure hope the mentally disabled can get jobs to be for the benefits they get!
But really, try reading: http://www.grist.org/article/2010-09-27-why-an-additional-road-tax-for-bicyclists-would-be-unfair/
Bicyclists pay MORE than their share for roads.
So, da_rube, if I read you correctly, you would be OK with people riding bikes paying for all the bike stuff and people driving motor vehicles paying for all the motor vehicle stuff. And conversely, bikes don’t pay for motor vehicle stuff, and so on.
Now I haven’t really done the math here, but I don’t think you have either. So let”s do a sloppy run through. I’ll probably end up comparing apples to oranges and maybe an artichoke or two, but here goes.
A bit upline, Alan 1.0 states that the car specific stuff pays for about 60% of the roads, so the other taxes pay for 40%. Now just looking at the Metro area let’s say that about 10% of the population is riding bikes. So if we pull their share of that 40% out of the pot, that’s about 4% of the road dollars to be redirected exclusively to bicycle infrastructure. A recent story here on BP pointed out that all the Metro bike stuff, after some rounding off to minimize arguments, came in for less than three miles of freeway. I think that’s a fair bit under 4% of the road dollars spent.
I would want to look the numbers over pretty carefully before accepting the terms of my first paragraph, but on the surface it looks like a good deal for bikes. I think you would want to run the numbers carefully before extending such an offer.
So, when do I get my refund? Proportionally I would have to ride my bike for 22 years to do the same damage as a single trip by a Cadillac Escalade, and 3 years to do as much damage as a Smart FourTwo in a single trip. That’s if I load my bike to the max with myself and cargo for every trip I take (not possible unless I deliver as much to the grocery store as I take home). So, seriously? The gas tax would have to go to $2.60 per gallon (tax not price) just for gas tax to pay for maintenance not building a new road ever. Are you ready for $7/gal gas yet?
Uhhhh….I pay way more for my share of the roads than I actually use.
i do not want a sidepath. i only want you to quit pushing me off the roads that already exist.
I’m with you on the math. da_rube’s got kind of an ugly ‘everyone for himself’ ethic going, but let me add one tidbit.
It might be better to think of those folks who don’t have cars rather than those who ride bikes as the ‘other’ category here. In Multnomah Co. in the 2000 Census the percent of households that did not own any cars was 18%. A little known statistic I like to trot out.
As one of the approx. 50% of Americans that actually does owe and pay taxes, I would find this woman somewhat comical were she not also an elected official.
I love how random people are coming by and bitching that we don’t pay our “fair share” without reading, apparently, a single other comment made before them.
I would ask Ms Stewart if all taxpayers should continue to heavily subsidize driving, regardless of how they get around.
do they really pay *more* than their fair shair? No that’s a real exaggerationn.
I read your comments about road funding and the “road diet” and they are blatantly incorrect. I highly recommend not pushing an agenda based on misconceptions.
I pay lots of taxes, income tax, property tax, sales tax, gas tax, taxes for my licenses and registration for my car. A majority of cyclists also own cars. In fact, the median income of most cyclists is above the national and state average incomes, meaning that the “cycling” group pays more per capita for road funding than does the “average” citizen. Please consider this when making road funding decisions.
I ride my bike daily. I want to ride my bike more and I want to have safer roads to ride them on. The road diet is a “win-win” for everyone.
The bike/car proportionality thing aside, there’s still another factor at work here. That’s that there is no, and never has been, any kind of ‘quid pro quo’ in paying taxes. Example: I don’t have kids but my property taxes pay for schools. There’s no guarantee that your taxes are only going to pay for things you use and support. Your taxes pay for the broader good of the public and society, not just your narrow interests.
Give it up for Van-tucky, everyone! Didn’t you know that only private sector, non-union, Christian republicans pay taxes for roads?
The public right of way is the only place a person has a right to travel. Driving a vehicle is not a right, it is a privilege. Moving under your own power, whether on foot or by bicycle, is a right. Ergo, people who do not own or use a car have the same rights to be inside the public right of way as anyone else.
As has already been pointed out, roads are subsidized by taxes other than fuel taxes, and also by the non-users who pay those taxes. Drivers do not even come close to “paying their way.” Anyone who tells you otherwise is a lobbyist.
Bicycle facilities, as well as pedestrian facilities, were long neglected in TRANSPORTATION planning. Building “Complete Streets” that do not require the purchase of a vehicle, maintenance, insurance, etc., etc., (and massive subsidies) in order to simply move about is simply an effort to redress a wrong that has inflicted auto dependence, obesity, and a disconnected populace on our entire society.
Dang it, one more thing – For anybody that makes the argument “there are no bikes there, why should we put in bicycle lanes?”, just respond with this: “OK, but if there wasn’t a road there would not be any cars either.”
The land is the most valuable part of the roadway and it is typically not bought with gas tax money. It’s dedicated/extracted from adjacent property owners/developers. This dumb councilwoman needs to think before she talks. Glad she doesn’t represent me – I’d be embarrassed.
This is not the kind of thinking we need in office making decisions on behalf of the community, I believe Clark County, like most communities these days are “pro-bike,” and “family friendly biking.” I hope voters re-think who should be representing our communities in 2013. Keep the mayor! Time for Ms. Stewart to move on.
Having moved to Vancouver from SE 5 years or so one of the hardest things for me to deal with is the car culture. This is a town where few people ever get out of their cars and it shows. The old guard of Vancouver city politics are in my eyes out of touch to what can make this city a much more liveable place. There’s very little mind given to walkability and alternative transportation. Indeed there’s a huge movement here to keep light rail out of the city. It boggles my mind. I tip my hat to Vancouver cyclists, you have it rough up here.
I’ve got it good. My current Clark County commute is the best one I’ve had in all my 19 years living in the Portland Metro area. The intersection of HWY99 and 78th street is the only bad spot I have to deal with.
Boo to Jeanne Stewart!
Boo to da_rube!
Both could stand to do a bit of research with regards to the arguments in support of their positions.
As for MacArthur, I’m pretty much with Paul in the ‘couve. It wouldn’t bother be if they stopped repainting the bike lane stripes. I also think they should stop painting the striping to separate two automobile lanes also. I don’t think I’ve ever been down the road at rush hour but when I’ve been on it auto traffic has not been very dense. Without the bike lane striping the right lane would still be nice and wide and make me feel comfortable sharing it with a car.
There is something to be said for the marginalization one can feel when encouraged by bike lane markings to ride to the far right of a roadway. It’s especially bad on HWY 99. The right travel lane there is extremely wide but the bike lane markings keep one right against the curb. That’s a fairly unsafe place to travel with all the driveways on that road. I frequently ride to the left of the bike lane line where I’m more visible to drivers leaving parking lots.
TIME FOR ACTION to support cycling infrastructure in Vancouver.
The city is finally moving forward on resurfacing and striping MacArthur Blvd from Mill Plain to Leiser! There is going to be a public input process concerning the lane configuration. Last time we started this there was a fair showing of folks supporting lane diet and a really awesome bike lane. But there are many in the neighborhood. It would REALLY help to have representative from the broader cycling community to show up and speak for what is possible and how it will lead to revitalization of the neighborhood and increased desirability and even property values over time.
** Wed. Oct 24 at Marshall Elementary Media Center, 6400 MacArthur, 5:00 PM to 6:30 PM
*** Sat. Nov. 3, at River Maiden Coffee 602 North Devine Road, 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM
There are plenty in the neighborhood who have primary concern about not having to be delayed at the 4 way stop at Leiser and keeping cars from cutting through neighborhood streets to avoid that intersection. As is common, many people have trouble with the shift in thinking of how removing lanes and slowing speeds can IMPROVE traffic.
Of particular importance will be consideration of how bicycles are managed at the really complicated 4 way / 12 lane stop at Andresen and MacArthur and the off kilter and very busy 4 way 7 lane stop at Leiser and MacArthur. Reducing lanes if really important at Andresen and I think that there was mention of possible reducing lanes on Andresen as well. At Leiser the biggest issue will be the merging of straight East bound cyclist with a traffic lane of cars that around 50% are turning right on Leiser. This would be an excellent opportunity to actually even be ahead of Portland in designing a really effective and save intersection.
Here is a link to the City of Vancouver page for the project. Eventually it looks like they will have email notification.