Letter to the editor: Perpetuating myths about bikes & roads
It's unfortunate that the Trib formed and published an editorial that perpetuates myths instead of simply Googling the question “Who pays for roads?” and then writing an informed editorial that actually educates the public on an important and often misunderstood issue ( “Question PennDOT's free ride for cyclists” ). But here we are. The answer is we all do.
U.S. PIRG and Frontier Group write in their study called, you guessed it, “Who pays for roads?”: “Today, general taxes paid by all taxpayers cover nearly as much of the cost of building and maintaining highways as the gas tax and other fees paid by drivers.” In fact, U.S. households bear, on average, an additional burden of more than $1,100 per year over and above user fees, regardless of how much they drive.
Debunking additional myths perpetuated by the editorial:
1. That cars and bikes are equally dangerous and damaging: In 2016, 37,461 people lost their lives on our roads, and approximately 4.5 million were injured; 99 percent of these fatalities and injuries involved a motor vehicle, not a bicycle. Also, the idea that bicycles, which weigh an average of 200 pounds including the rider, inflict equal damage to our streets as a 2-ton car is laughable.
2. That people who drive cars don't also ride bikes: 93 percent of Bike Pittsburgh's 3,000 members have a driver's license and 88 percent own a car, according to our most recent member survey.
3. That bicycle riders don't pay taxes or fees: I for one pay the following taxes and fees (and I'm hardly alone) — income, property, gas, sales, local service and car registration.
4. That bicycle riders are scofflaws: A 2017 study published in the Journal of Transportation and Land Use, which surveyed nearly 18,000 people, found among other things that nearly 100 percent of all road users break the law at equal rates, yet bicycle riders receive an unequal amount of scorn from the public.
5. That government cannot plan for our future while also addressing problems in the present: Shouldn't we all hope that the government we pay taxes to can do both, and not just provide services and safety for those of us fortunate enough to afford a car?
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that have taken action in the face of federal inaction on gas taxes. But even with Act 89, we still don't have enough money to address all of our needs and create and execute a vision for a 21st-century transportation future. Where's this additional revenue going to come from? Clearly not just user fees.
The writer is executive director of Bike Pittsburgh ( bikepgh.org ).