Car-Free Cyclists Give Back to the Road

Daily travel can take a toll on our transportation system, and learning to share the road with more car-free cyclists might be the key to reversing this damage.


| January 2014



Several bicycles parked along sidewalk

Car-free cyclists also pay taxes, which means they often pay more into the road system than they cost it.

Photo by Fotolia/samott

Author Elly Blue provides a surprising and compelling new perspective on the way we get around and on how we spend our money, as families and as a society. Bikenomics (Microcosm Publishing, 2013) starts with a look at the real transportation costs of families and individuals, and moves on to examine the current civic costs of our transportation system. This excerpt, from chapter 1, “The Free Rider Myth,” explains that car-free cyclists are not free-loading off of the transportation system, in fact, it’s quite the contrary.

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Share the Road

“Bikes don’t pay for the roads.” You see it again and again. It appears on editorial pages, in blog comments, and shouted from car windows, often accompanied by the accusation: “Freeloader!” or something ruder.

The bicycle freeloader myth is a strong and pervasive economic belief. It’s implied in rules that require cyclists to stay off certain roads, or ride in a manner that does not affect car traffic. And it’s enforced through media headlines, police standards, and the behavior and discourse of cycling advocates and detractors alike.

But is it true?

When you take a trip on a bicycle, you do not pay for gas, and thus you pay no gas tax. You do not stop and pay tolls (and you are generally not allowed on toll roads). You do not pay a license or registration fee, part of which goes toward paving, maintaining, and policing the roads you ride on. Most car insurance companies do not cover bicyclists, so often you do not pay for that either. And you do not pay for parking. No doubt this all seems terribly unfair.

robert
6/16/2015 12:52:07 AM

As a "Primary" "Bicyclist" MYSELF; "IT IS THE ASSHOLES" WHO; "DRIVE CARS" AND "THINKTHEY" OWN "MY ROAD" that "PISS ME" OFF the Most! I "Pay" MORE "For MY "ROAD" PER MILE "HAN THEY DO" AT LEAST; I "Try-to" "OBEY" THE "LAWS" That "THEY DON'T"! I "HAVE" AS MUCH "RIGHT-TO-MY-ROAD" AS "THEY-DO"! THAT "IS WHY" I "WEAR a HELMETY"! "I'M" SCARED-TO-DEATH-OF "ASSHOLES" WHO "THINK THEY "OWN" MY ROAD! I "OWN" MY ROAD TOO!


davidh
6/15/2015 11:35:56 AM

Sadly, bicycling in my town, North Brunswick, NJ, is not at all safe, except for a cruise around a few blocks in a residential neighborhood. Pedestrianism isn't much of an option, either. No attention is given to these modes of transportation. We need a cultural change.


griffen
2/28/2014 1:12:55 AM

Car is the most suitable and use for communication. It may be personal or professional. The number of car per head is more for why parking problem become a big headache for every country. Parking problem in public place become a big issue for our government. To avoid parking problem many parking place approved by government with this many reputed private organization help to solve this problem. Having a car is one of the nice feelings but maintain it quite difficult. http://www.euroautomotive.net/german-auto-repair-services.html is the primary responsible for all car owners. Thanks to thinking about normal parking problem and shows your interest to solve this.


bruce gar
2/10/2014 3:34:24 AM

This is really a very nice article . Bicycle riders are in profit, safe in each and every state , in each and every field. They don't have to fill up gas, petrol in the vehicles and cars. Hence, they are free from gas tax. They do not have to pay license , registration, driving license nothing related to car . Bicyclers have a good nice safe life. http://monacomotors.com/services.htm


rickriser
1/30/2014 2:34:18 PM

Great article, but not quite a new perspective. A US PIRG publication provided theses figures in 2011, and the Victoria Transport Policy Initiative has worked out the tax figures; their current document is dated 2013, but is an update, since I myself link to it in an editorial I wrote in March 2011, at http://sustainablecitynews.com/rr69.html. That document links to several other older studies on teh same subject. No quarrel with Ms. Blue's viewpoint at all, only to Utne's assertion that this information has not been available before. It has been widely available, but we as a culture have chosen not to see it. It's sad that Ms. Blue's book is a surprise to a publication as progressive as Utne, but that simply points out how limited is the windshield perspective that liberals as well as conservatives have grown up with.