If you are an urban cyclist you have probably gotten into arguments with motor vehicle drivers now and then. It might have come up that the driver yells at you something like this: "You have no right to be on the road! You don't pay taxes! You don't pay insurance!" What do you yell back?

Well you just might want to yell back at them that you are paying extra just to give them the privilege of blowing exhaust in your face! In the paper, "Whose Roads?" Todd Litman explains that local roads are mostly paid out of general tax revenues of the city. Todd calculates that motorists impose a burden on the road system in excess of their share of taxes and user fees, while cyclists are overpaying in comparison of their minimal burden on the road system. A bit unfair isn't it?

Example (Source: Litman, Todd. Whose Roads? Victoria Transport Policy Institute): Two neighbours each pay $300 annually in local taxes that fund roads and traffic services. Mike Motorist drives 10,000 miles annually on local roads while Frances Footpower bicycles 3000 miles. The table below compares the costs they impose with what they pay in taxes.

Local Roadway Payments versus Costs
  Mike Frances
A. Annual local mileage 10,000 3000
B. Household's general taxes used for road related services $300 $300
C. Motorist User Fees used on local roads (0.24 cents per mile) $24 $0
D. Total road system contribution (B + C) $324 $300
E. Tax payment per mile traveled (B/A) 3.2 cents 10 cents
F. Roadway costs (cars = 5.6 cents/ml, bicycles = 0.16 cents/ml) $560 $48
Net (D-F) Underpays $236 Overpays $252

Other resources:

  1. Cyclists and the Road Tax
  2. Who Owns the Roads Anyway?
  3. Should Cyclists Pay to Use The Roads?