Tuesday, April 15, 2008

It's a Car, Car, Car World

Anyone see the letter to the editor in the Spokesman-Review this morning: the guy that wants adult bikes to be licensed and pay registration fees? He paid .50 cents when he was a kid. He's suggesting a $33 fee per bike. He also states that turning four lanes of traffic into two (as was done on a small section of 29th) creates more emissions and is therefore not green.

Argg. I'm positive that guy was at the last neighborhood meeting I talked at.

This is really a common line of thinking for drivers. I used to get angry with such perspectives, but now I just am trying to find a way to actually educate these folks in productive and respectful way. Often, it's just a different view of the world that cannot be reconciled. But sometimes, you run into thoughtful people that can stand back and look at the big picture a bit objectively.

Here's the flood of thoughts that come to mind as I read the letter this morning:

  • Most adult cyclists own cars; from a fiscal perspective, when a car-owning cyclist rides on the street, the cyclist is subsidizing car drivers.
  • I'm not familiar with a road in Spokane that has lost lanes and now results in gridlock, or even slowed traffic. The piece of 29th that lost two lanes is always moving. I live 3 blocks from this stretch of road and ride or cross this stretch nearly every day.
  • The cost of implementing and enforcing licensed bikes will far outweigh the fees collected in any scenario. Registering cars is more about identifying owners to cars, which can be deadly when used incorrectly and are also useful in the commission of crimes. Bikes rarely run down pedestrians or are used for get away vehicles.
  • In any case, I-695 basically stripped any excess revenue out of registration fees that may go to roads. If there's any thing at all left (doubt it) vehicle registration is one small part of taxes that help pay for roads; others include property tax, general tax revenues, and gas tax.
  • The physical impact a bike has on our road ways is negligible. So from the infrastructure impact perspective we have another subsidy: most adult cyclists own cars and homes and otherwise input taxes into the road system that their bike does not affect.
  • As for the cost of bike amenities; striping a lane cost money, but it's often in place of parking. How about instead of a bike lane, we charge for parking on all public streets? If you own a car, you should pay for parking it, especially if it's on a public right-of-way.

Many of these points are heresy to car drivers. We grow up in a society where driving a car and many of the costs associated with it are subsidized to the point of entitlement thinking.


Ken Paulman said...

You know, if you can keep that under 200 words, you could write a letter in response...

David Blaine said...

I cannot believe that this person's sentiment is conventional wisdom. It is not worth getting upset about fringe political theories. Anti-Bicycle transportation concepts are not widespread dogma despite the fact that the Secretary of Transportation suggested that the government should not be in the business of funding bike trails and bridges.
The irony is that the same person who is suggesting bike fees has probably voted for every anti tax measure put forward.

Anonymous said...

Based on the white land yacht Google Streets shows parked in Mr. Korkus's driveway, he's the last guy that should be making environmental complaints about two lane arterials.

Technically the lane reductions he's probably referring to are from 4 to 2+ a turn lane so "gridlock" is no more of an issue than it was with 4 lanes. And I would argue that 4 lane arterials encourage speeding- does he really want that in his neighborhood?

Hank Greer said...

Saw the letter. I searched for bike licensing and found that for most places the collected fees do not cover the cost of the program. However in the few places where it is used/enforced, it is very helpful for returning stolen bikes to their owners.

I wonder if they really enforce the ir rules in Marion, Iowa. Check out http://cityofmarion.org/code/chap77. Heaven forbid you should be caught with a worn out pedal tread.

Anonymous said...

Korkus' line of reasoning is deeply flawed for all the reasons John so eloquently mentioned. In a perfect world though I think bike registration fees aren't necessarily a bad idea. It shows that cycling community is willing to put it's money where it's mouth is--it also might boost the cycling community as a political force. But this will never happen here for a variety of reasons. Of course in a perfect world cyclists wouldn't be taxed for road wear and tear they don't contribute to or road enhancements they don't use! Or, in many cases, cyclists are forced to pay taxes to create road enhancements that endanger them.

Ken Paulman said...

I'm not sure where he got $33 from either. 50 cents in 1948 is equivalent to about $5 today.

John Speare said...

Ken: isn't $33 the amount car tabs are supposed to cost under i695?

Jon: I'm conflicted about cyclists paying a fee. If I didn't subsidize cars adn their infrastructure already, then I might be convinced that paying for street space would be fair. But we all pay so much for our car-only culture, that I feel like we are putting our money where our mouth is -- we're paying gobs of money for unsustainable SOV transportation infrastructure that barely recognizes and is downright hostile to other legal users of the roads.
Jason: great great comment/observation. It goes to show how empty most political discussion is. This guy is not attempting to win an argument that he feels really impacts his life in a meaningful way. He'll pull the "environmental" card out when it suits him. Ugh.

Michael said...

Dave Niewert wrote a great piece on this a while back.

I'd love to see a voluntary bike licensing system where bike are registered encase they are stolen and the fees help pay for bike racks. Businesses seem to not want to put them in so why not require them, but also pick up part of the tab?

I'm cracking up at Jason's first comment. A new and novel use for Google Streets.

Klay said...

Well said John and I'm will Ken - I'd like to see your response in the paper or on the SR blogs somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Great points. Don't forget as bike facilities improve and more people ride, that also takes cars off the road, helping congestion and improving air quality.

Granted on some roads a cyclist probably causes more congestion than a vehicle, but that is the exception rather than the rule, and is a result of poor planning and design.

bleckb said...

If you can't boil it down to 200 words for a letter, you've got your everyday cyclist column for next month, or maybe a guest editorial in the Spokesman.

I'd say the thing to keep in mind, either way, is that we'll never persuade folks like the letter writer. We have to target, for lack of a better term, the sensible center.

Ken Paulman said...

When you're driving, you constantly have to adjust for vehicles moving faster/slower than you are.

So when people think that bikes should be shunned from the roads because they move slower than traffic, I can't help but wonder what they think of buses or delivery trucks. Seems like most people have abundant patience for a slow-moving vehicle if it's bigger than they are...