Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Bring it on

This was in today's Advertiser:

Motorists, it seems, support the idea of separated cycling infrastructure but say cyclists should pay for it through registration fees. The inference is that motorists "pay" for "their" roads through car registration and petrol tax while cyclists get to use it all free of charge.

The fact is that most people who bike to work or the shops also own and pay for a car. It's just that while they are riding a bike, they are not using the car. But their registration is still paying for it. In fact then, they are subsidising other motorists not only by paying car registration on a car not being driven but by not taking up the space of yet another car on the road. You can fit about 12 bikes into the space taken by one car.

The Victorian Public Transport Users Association published an excellent article on this question using proper figures. They conclude that the smallest credible estimate for the total cost of the road system in Australia is $47 billion a year, of which $31 billion a year is collected in taxes and charges on motorists, leaving a 'road deficit' of at least $16 billion a year. That is funded from general revenue.

If motorists were charged the full cost of paying for roads, which they are not, I would have no problem with paying cyclists paying a registration fee. The question is how much?

The Cycling Promotion Fund suggests that cyclists in our capital cities save the Government $9.2 million in greenhouse gas emissions, $63.9 million in reduced congestion costs, and another $71.2 million in health costs. Rather than pay a registration fee, you would think good policy would require people receiving a tax break for riding a bike.

It should be remembered car registration includes third party insurance. That is not compulsory for cyclists. Nor should it be. Unlike cars, bicycles are not potentially lethal pieces of machinery. Also, if the argument is that cyclists should "pay their way", any registration fee should properly reflect the cost they impose on roads. Even if we ignore the benefits of cycling (as we ignore the costs of motoring like congestion, obesity, death, injury, etc), I am certain that even $10 a year will be overcharging.

But I would be more than happy to pay that if it meant that money was spent on proper infrastructure of the kind you find overseas.

I would happily pay $50 a year.

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