The costs of bicycles on the roads vs the costs of motor vehicles

I keep reading in the comments sections of the articles I link to that bicycles don’t pay for the roads by gas taxes and registration, and most mention insurance even though insurance doesn’t pay anything for roads, it’s just another “tax” that must be paid to use a car.

So what would a fair share of the costs of road use be? Well, there was an Australian study that said the damage done to a road surface was proportional to the 4th power of the heaviest axle loading. So, I calculated the axle weights of 3 modes of transportation, a fat guy on a heavy bicycle, a Hummer H2, and a semi at legal maximum weight. To simplify things I assumed that the load was equally distributed on all the axles of the vehicles, a methodology that severely underrates the damages done by the semi. Then I divided the Hummer and the semi tractor ratings by the bicycle rating to come up with an equivalence rating in bicycles. You ready?

A semi does the same damage as 160 million bicycles ridden by really fat people, and a H2 does the same damage as 5000 fat guys on bicycles. So a fair tax system would have to charge 5000 times as much for an H2 as a bicycle, and 160 million times as much for a semi.

How would you create a fair tax system that included bicycles with that knowledge? If you charged $1.00 for the bicycle (less than the cost of the physical materials to show compliance with the taxes) then you would have to charge semi owners $160,000,000.00 per vehicle, and the H2 owner $5000.00. Now I can see a charge per load for the semi plus a yearly charge for the bare tractor, as the damage done is dependent on the load, but the H2 has a similar load variability but because it is a private vehicle it doesn’t get weighed before every load, but is likely to not get driven very often anywhere near max GVW of 8000 pounds. And the bicycle rating was a 300 pound rider on a 50 pound bike, also not a common situation.

And this is only discussing the damage done to the road surface by the vehicles, with nothing about the damage done to the environment, or other road users. To put that in perspective there were 3000 people killed in Australia by motor vehicles last year, but since 1999 there have been only 2 people killed by getting hit by bicycles. for a ratio of roughly 15,000 to one. Similar results are to be found by checking the results for the US but I don’t have those numbers at my fingers from recent articles in my blog.

So, what’s fair?

Billed @$.02, Opus

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2 responses to “The costs of bicycles on the roads vs the costs of motor vehicles

  1. Pingback: Summer’s here and the time is right for riding in the streets* « BikingInLA

  2. Pingback: Wellington St Separated Bike Path | Why We Want Separated Bicycle Infrastructure

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