With new legislatures and a new Congress in session, it’s a fine season to review some of the myths and truths of transportation funding and bicycle advocacy.
Myth: Roads are paid for via user fees, so bicyclists are getting free rides on the streets paid for by motorists.
Fact: Not so much. Gas tax is paid on all sorts of vehicles NOT used on roads (ATVs, boats, lawnmowers). And roads actually aren’t paid for entirely from tolls, gas taxes, vehicle licensing, etc., anyway. A report released in January by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) demonstrates that gas taxes cover barely half the costs of building and maintaining roads. As well, gas taxes are often paid on fuel used to travel local roads, whereas the tax money is used to pay for state and federal projects.
Myth: Cyclists are determined to force everyone out of cars.
Fact: Okay, sure. There are some militant all-bike, all-the-time folks who only exist via bicycles. Most of them, however, will grant a place and a purpose for autos. Accusations that cyclists and policies facilitating cycling are an attempt to force motorists out of their cars – such as the statement made by Brooklyn (NYC) Borough President Marty Markowitz in his 2010 State of the Borough address that “They are trying to stigmatize car owners and get them to abandon their cars” is really not the case.
Many cyclists own cars. The purpose of creating Complete Streets and policies that encourage transportation alternatives such as transit, walking, and cycling options, are just that: To create options. In many places, current urban architecture is such as to limit options.
Myth: Cyclists don’t pay their share in taxes.
Fact: Per Bicycling Retailer figures, over 46% of cyclists belong to households with an income of over $75,000/year. Median household income in the US is significantly lower, at $50,233/year.
Myth: Bikes are for kids!
Fact: Bicycle mode-share for commuting is 8% in the Twin Cities. These aren’t just kids. These are degreed professionals. Nationally, walking and bicycling make up 10% of all trips, but only receive a tiny fraction of the money that goes to transportation projects.
Myth: Building transit, bikeways, and pedestrian access aids doesn’t create jobs.
Fact: While I have questioned using a single study that claims that such projects actually create MORE jobs than road construction as a universal truth, come ON. Do you think asphalt pours itself? Clearly, such projects do promote employment.
Got any other myths that tick you off? Comment below!