While citizens in Seattle launch their Streets for All campaign, a Vancouver resident is pushing a Take Back the Streets initiative which would prioritize city streets for motor vehicle use. According to The Vancouver Voice:
East Vancouver resident Mike Grosenbach is seeking help to start a “Take Back Our Streets” petition for an initiative prioritizing city streets for motor vehicle use. Key aspects of his draft initiative include requiring pedestrian and cyclists to yield right-of-way to motor vehicles at all times and prohibit converting on-street car parking to any non-car parking use.
Grosenbach goes on to vent his anger about cyclists–that they take up more than their share of road space and funding. He claims that bicyclists are “basically stealing everyone else’s right to the road.” Read Marcus Griffith’s full post.
Sound familiar? Feel like deja vu? Just as President Obama’s religious views (he’s Christian) and citizenship (US citizen) are regularly questioned, we as bike advocates must routinely defend our right to the road.
Bicycles are Vehicles
Bicycles are recognized as vehicles in Washington State, and have the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles on the road. This means that, with few exceptions, you and I have a right to travel by bike on our roads and, if necessary, take a lane of traffic for our safety. This also means that we are expected to stop at stop signs and red lights, yield to pedestrians, and ride with other traffic–not against it. You can find more information about laws related to biking on Washington Bikes website.
Everyone pays for Roads
This may come as a shock to the anti-bike crowd, but most bicyclists also own and/or drive motor vehicles. (We own a car in my household.) That means most cyclists are paying road fees too!
More shocking news: Americans pay for roads whether or not we own or drive vehicles! Registration fees, gas taxes, tolls and other user fees don’t cover the costs of building and maintaining roads, so we subsidize our roads with other funds. An analysis by Subsidyscope reveals that in 2007, road user fees and taxes covered only 51% of the costs. The other half is subsidized by non-user tax sources and borrowing through bond measures.
Most shocking: Bicyclists and pedestrians pay a disproportionately higher amount for our share of the road! According to Todd Litman’s report for the Victoria Transport Policy Institute:
On average, local and regional governments spend $300-$500 annually per automobile in general taxes on local roads and traffic services, averaging more than 6 cents per mile driven on local roads. Only 0.7 cents of this is paid through vehicle user charges, meaning that driving is subsidized through general taxes by about 5.6 cents per mile. Automobiles also impose other external costs, including parking subsidies, congestion and crash risk imposed on other road users, and environmental damages. Pedestrians and cyclists tend to impose lower costs than motor vehicles and bear an excessive share of these costs, particularly crash risks, because they are unprotected. A shift from driving to bicycling and walking reduces external costs, providing benefits to society, such as road and parking facility savings, reduced crash risk and congestion delay imposed on other users, and reduced environmental impacts. This indicates that non-drivers pay more than their share of transportation costs.
Please take the time to read the reports cited above so you understand the information. The next time someone tells you that cyclists don’t belong on the road or don’t pay their fair share, you will be equipped to respond objectively.
Now let’s take back our share of the streets.