OCTOBER 2015 ;e Costco Connection 21
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Are professional juries
a good idea?
Percentage reflects votes
received by September 17, 2015.
Results may reflect Debate being
picked up by blogs.
Elizabeth Murphy is communications director and
Ken McLeod is legal and policy specialist at The League
of American Bicyclists (
THE FEE argument is flawed.
pay for roads.
Taxpayers at all
levels subsidize highway construction and
maintenance to the tune of $69 billion per year.
An average American household bears an
annual financial burden of more than $1, 100 in
taxes and indirect costs from driving, regardless
of how much they drive.
Bicyclists don’t impose significant costs on
roads. Consider this: One car causes as much
damage to a road—resulting in the need for
maintenance—as 9,600 bicycles. You read that
Bicycle infrastructure provides benefits.
Bicycle lanes slightly narrow car lanes, becoming
effective traffic-calming devices and reducing
crash frequency and severity.
Research also suggests that $1 invested in
improving bicycle infrastructure is likely to
result in between $1 and $3 saved on private
and public health-care spending due to physical-inactivity-related diseases. This is based on a
study that synthesized three prior estimates
regarding health care savings associated with
increased physical activity.
In addition to the subsidies for every mile of
roadway, the average U.S. driver receives hun-
dreds to thousands of dollars in parking subsi-
dies every year due to free parking on public
streets and policies that do not allow market
prices for parking. The federal government gives
$3 billion annually in tax breaks to motorists for
company-paid parking. That figure is more than
three times the amount spent by the federal gov-
ernment on facilities that would make bicycling
and walking safer and more accessible.
Motor-vehicle-related fees are not enough to
cover the costs that cars impose on society. The
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
estimates that motor vehicle crashes result in
$836 billion in societal harm each year.
Research that has looked at other social
costs—such as congestion, operating costs and
travel time—associated with driving has esti-
mated that every driving trip generates $5.56
in costs to society per passenger, while every
bicycling trip generates $1.51 in benefits to
society per bicyclist, primarily thanks to better
health and productivity due to increased phys-
Any fair accounting shows that we subsidize
driving and under-invest in bicycling. A license
or user fee would only discourage bicycling and
reinforce the idea that the current transportation
policy is fair—which it undoubtedly is not. C
Brian J. Boquist is a state senator in Oregon and serves on the Fi-
nance & Revenue Committee (
IN 1990, the gas tax paid
most of the state government’s highway budget.
But today, in Oregon,
only 22 percent of that
budget comes from the
gas tax, while 14 percent
comes from vehicle registration. Nationwide, roads are in disrepair,
including bicycle infrastructure.
The OReGO program (
been created to switch to a road usage charge
instead of the gas tax. Other new usage fee systems are inevitable unless citizens want to ride
on a mud track. The notion that bicycle owners
already pay for road usage via their motor
vehicles is a red herring.
Passenger cars, light pickups, commercial
trucks, motorcycles and bicycles will have to pay
their own way in the future if they want to utilize the road system (what has been discussed is
a version of weight mile based on damage and
maintenance, i.e., bikes are a few dollars, then
cars more, then heavier vehicles more, etc).
However, reform of the transportation system
must protect each user class’s usage or license fee
for that category. Bicycle owner contributions
must pay for bicycle lanes, bike parking and bike
infrastructure—not for subsidizing other road
users. Modern computer modeling can pro-rate,
etc. In Oregon, we have regional committees of
state and local government that help determine
The present gas tax and license fee system
does not cover even half the costs of our failing
infrastructure. My constituents asked me to
introduce SB 177 and SB 551 to start the discussion on how to address the shortfalls in bicycle
access. Most of the opposing comments can be
summarized by an email I got, stating, “We are
setting up a recall on you, Senator Boquist, and
sending you back to the dairy farm.” There is no
recall. Meanwhile, the nice paved road to my
childhood dairy farm is now a muddy gravel
track in the winter, as the county can no longer
afford maintenance and simply put gravel right
over the top of the asphalt.
Bicycle commuters and avid riders need
to help state and local government craft a
future bicycle system and a way to pay for it. If
not, when the transportation crisis hits government, bicyclists will not like what they get,
as decisions will be made quickly to save and
pave those farm-to-market roads, and bicyclists will end up with an unmaintained
muddy gravel track. C
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