Yes, Bicycle Riders Should Pay Their Fair Share

 

Bicycles and cars on Cleveland Avenue in St Paul

Bicycles and cars on Cleveland Avenue in St Paul. Both should pay their fair share (and cars should stay in their lane lest they kill someone).

A reader recently wrote to our local paper suggesting that bicycle riders should pay for their share of the roads they use. I quite agree. I think all users should pay their fair share.

I’m a strong believer in personal responsibility and that we should each pay for what we use. This makes for better decision making and creates much more efficient use of scarce resources than when the costs of using these resources are not tied to our choices.

Historically we paid for our roads with taxes on gasoline. In theory the amount of gas you used was roughly equivalent to the wear and tear you placed on the road system. In reality it was extremely rough but it sort of worked.

As the costs to build and maintain our roads and bridges have increased, gas tax revenue has not. This largely due to increased fuel economy and the tax being a fixed amount per gallon instead of tied to inflation. Politicians were afraid to increase the gas tax appropriately, so either maintenance was foregone or the gap was filled with easier to vote on general funds.

Today, less than half of the costs to build, maintain, and operate our road system are paid for from such user fees, with the bulk coming from general tax revenue — mostly property taxes.

This will only get worse. Electric cars use no gasoline and so do not contribute to this part of road costs. Not a problem today, with Battery Electric Vehicle’s (BEV’s) accounting for just over 1% of US auto sales. However, by 2025 BEV’s are expected to comprise between 25% and 100% of US auto sales.

Roads in the US are in generally worse shape than those elsewhere. We not only need a more fair system to pay for them but we need to invest more in maintenance.

I don’t think this long rough strip nor the jolting cross cracks every 10 feet are from overweight bicycle riders. Roads in the US are in generally worse shape than those elsewhere. We not only need a more fair system to pay for them but we need to invest more in maintenance.

It’s not working nor is it a fair system. Let’s look at a system that will be much more fair based on actual road use and imposed risk.

Road Costs

The costs to build, maintain, and operate our road system need to be covered and should reflect use as accurately as possible. Someone who drives an electric car fueled from solar should pay their fair share. Today they do not. Fortunately technology allows us to charge accurately based on usage — a Wheelage Fee.

Three factors influence the cost that a person and their vehicle (or just a vehicle when autonomous delivery vehicles arrive) cause; weight, speed, and size[1].

Weight is approximately $0.005 (1/2 cent) per thousand pounds per mile. In other words, if you drive a 2,000 pound car for 1 mile you’ll cause about 1 cent of damage. This cost is not linear though as a 2,000 pound car actually causes $0.022 of damage, a bit more than twice as much as a 1,000 pound car. A 28,000 pound school bus doesn’t cause $0.14 of damage but $4.31 of damage for each mile[2].

costpermile01

 

Next is Size. The larger your vehicle the more space it requires to drive and queue at junctions. This cost is about 1/5 cent per foot of length for a single lane vehicle.

Finally we have Speed. The $0.005 (1/2 cent) above is based on a speed of 10 MPH. At 20 MPH you’ll cause about $0.006 cents per mile; at 30, about $0.007 and so on.

Let’s put it all together.

There is a base cost of things like signs and signals that has nothing to do with what vehicle you operate. This is about 1 cent per mile. Assuming you have a 3,000 pound car then your weight cost is about $0.05 per mile. Your car is 15’ long so 15/5 cents is $0.03. This gives us a base rate of $0.09 per mile.

At an average speed of 30 MPH (a speed factor of 1.3) times $0.09 gives us $0.12 per mile or $1.20 for a 10 mile journey.

It should be noted that this is quite small compared to the $0.45 to $1.30 per mile that AAA says our car costs us directly (fuel, tires, oil, maintenance, etc.).

We can do this for a bicycle rider as well. Weight cost is $0.001 per mile plus size of 1/15 cent per foot (bicycles require 1/3 as much lane width as cars) times 5 feet gives us 5/15 = $0.0033 per mile. There is no speed element or fixed base cost with bicycles so we’ve got $0.0053 per mile or $0.05 for a 10 mile journey.

A pedestrian costs about 2 cents for that 10 mile journey (and the cost of a pint after walking 10 miles).

Imposed Risk

People driving cars impose a high risk on those around them, particularly on roads that are poorly engineered (which is the case for most US roads and why we have the highest road fatality rates of all developed countries).

A transportation system comprised only of people walking and riding bicycles would have a fatality rate very near zero. Nearly every bicycle rider and pedestrian fatality in the US is caused by someone driving a car. People choosing to drive cars are imposing this risk on others.

Each year US drivers kill between 5,000 and 6,000 people walking and riding bicycles. Minnesota drivers kill about 50 each year and injure, often seriously and permanently, another 1,800. There is a high cost of choosing to drive.

Drivers impose considerable risk on bicycle riders. This imposed risk is much less in The Netherlands and other countries than in the US.

Drivers impose considerable risk on bicycle riders (and people walking). This imposed risk is much less in The Netherlands and other countries than in the US.

I’ll not attempt to put a cost on a life or a lifetime of a disability. We can though determine what it will cost to create protection to reduce the risk that drivers pose — about $0.06 per mile traveled. And since we know that greater speeds pose greater risk then we’ll adjust it for speed as above.

Imposed Risk will be charged for each mile driven on roads that are not up to CROW standards. It will not be charged for driving on streets and roads that are up to CROW standards or for driving on limited access highways.

If you drive 2 miles at 30 MPH on roads that are below spec then you’ll pay $0.08 per mile or $0.16 for that trip.

As more roads are brought up to spec this cost will fall off and eventually be zero for most drivers and trips.

And there you have it. Exactly what the newspaper writer asked for and what we should put in place.

——-

[1] Number of axles, tires, tire design and tire sizes have an impact as well.

[2] $4.31 per mile damage to our streets, plus costs of fuel and maintenance and paying drivers and other transportation staff (about 5-10% of most school systems budget), extremely high levels of air pollution near schools from idling buses (and cars), decreased activity for students resulting in lower academic performance, greater obesity, and higher healthcare costs. Are school buses really a good idea? BTW, there are no school buses in The Netherlands who have among the healthiest population of all developed countries.


Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

, , , , , , ,

57 Responses to Yes, Bicycle Riders Should Pay Their Fair Share

  1. Jeremy October 24, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Outstanding summary!

  2. SSP October 24, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    Nice post. Is the cost of bicycle infrastructure fully recoverable under these calculations? I always assume the weather, not wear and tear, is what requires bike lane repairs.

    As for imposed risk, isn’t this included in the operating costs paid by cars and trucks through our liability and no-fault insurance requirements, insurance not required by bicycles?

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 24, 2016 at 11:54 am #

      Nice post. Is the cost of bicycle infrastructure fully recoverable under these calculations? I always assume the weather, not wear and tear, is what requires bike lane repairs.

      Yes. And perhaps not. I think you are correct that with bikeways the weather likely plays a greater destructive role than bicycle riders. Even so, if properly constructed a bikeway in Minnesota may last two to three times as long as a typical roadway. Then come the questions of how many bicycle riders there are to collect fees from and if the cost to collect the fees makes the collecting not very worthwhile.

      And then… Well designed protected bikeways that encourage people to ride bicycles instead of drive have a number of benefits such as reducing motor traffic which not only reduces the costs of wear & tear and how often people must put up with construction but also reduces the congestion that drivers have to deal with. For a driver what is the value of bicycle riders being on separate bikeways instead of going 13 MPH in the lane ahead?

      Riding improves people’s health which reduces healthcare costs something many of us are dealing with. As Governor Dayton said “The affordable care act isn’t very affordable.”

      Adam mentioned externalities below — more bicycling and fewer cars reduces air, water, and noise pollution in our neighborhoods and makes them overall more comfortable and enjoyable.

  3. Walker Angell
    Walker Angell October 24, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    As for imposed risk, isn’t this included in the operating costs paid by cars and trucks through our liability and no-fault insurance requirements, insurance not required by bicycles?

    If you believe that drivers in the US killing 5,000 to 6,000 people walking or riding bicycles each year (rates 5 to 20 times higher than other developed countries) and seriously and often permanently injuring several hundred thousand more is OK then yes, insurance covers the costs.

  4. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke October 24, 2016 at 10:42 am #

    The op-ed article that Walker refers to is only available online in bastardized format here: http://tcsidewalks.blogspot.com/2016/10/reading-highland-villager-op-ed-extra-11.html

    • MrH October 25, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

      But also, it’s in one form or another in every paper I’ve ever read.

  5. Adam Miller
    Adam Miller October 24, 2016 at 11:13 am #

    This leaves out externalities, which are very important to this discussion and are further damning to driving.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 24, 2016 at 11:39 am #

      Yes! (I wish we had upvoting like on disqus).

  6. Jackie Williams October 24, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

    If the cars would stop parking & driving in the bike lanes, they will not need so much repair.

    • GlowBoy October 24, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

      Good point Jackie. I live in Diamond Lake, near where the Portland Avenue bike lanes curve around Pearl Park and the lake. Well over 50% of drivers cut into the bike lane on the inside of these curves.

      Also, since Minnesota law has drivers pulling into the bike lane prior to making a right turn (something about MN I’m still adjusting to), we need to make sure cyclists aren’t considered responsible for the deterioration of bike lanes in those areas.

      • Serafina Scheel
        Serafina Scheel October 24, 2016 at 5:24 pm #

        You’re right. Delivery trucks and cars regularly drive through bike lanes when parking as well as turning. Snow removal and street-cleaning vehicles hopefully clear them as well. On-street lanes simply aren’t exclusive to bikes.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell October 24, 2016 at 6:10 pm #

          The door zone bike lanes (DZBL’s) on Snelling and elsewhere often become unusable after the first or second snow. One (of many) major advantage of proper protected bike lanes that don’t have cars driving through them nor being directly next to cars and the splush wake that they throw.

          If there’s a lot of snow that doesn’t get cleared to the curb then cars inch farther and farther out into the bike lane.

        • Adam Miller
          Adam Miller October 25, 2016 at 9:48 am #

          I fairly regularly see buses driving in the bike lane (Hennepin Ave downtown and 42nd St come to mind) where they have to cross it to make stops. Some drivers just don’t bother to get out of it.

          On 42nd, cars drive in the lane a ton too. Drivers seem to want to shy away from the center line and so they just cruise on down the street with their right side wheels in the center of the bike lane. Same thing happens regularly on 54th where the dashed bike lane maybe gives them permission?

          • Walker Angell
            Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 11:10 am #

            Are these buffered at all? Similar problem on the new bike lanes (shoulders w/ symbols) on Edgerton. I’ve asked Ramsey Cty about adding a 12-18″ buffer (travel lanes are already 12′ so loosing a foot or so shouldn’t cause too much angst). It would seem like drivers would be a bit more cautious about crossing a buffer than a single white line.

            • Adam Miller
              Adam Miller October 25, 2016 at 11:17 am #

              Hennepin is, southwest of 13th. The others are not.

              • Walker Angell
                Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 11:44 am #

                Does that seem to make any difference? In cars driving in to the bike lane or in the amount of road debris in the bike lane?

  7. GlowBoy October 24, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    That’s one way of looking at it – charging people for the absolute cost of providing transportation facilities. If so, I’d be happy to pay my 2 cents (for every 4 miles ridden).

    Or maybe we should assume a big chunk of the cost will be paid out of the general fund (as is the case) and charge people for the relative cost of providing the services these use. Then, since bicycle facilities are less expensive per user (even though there are fewer users) than automotive facilities, do I get a refund? 😉

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 24, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

      I’m a fairly big proponent of people paying absolute costs as much as possible. When we feel the cost directly I think we make better decisions. If I know that driving my truck will cost me $x per mile (because that’s what it costs in reality) I may make a very different decision than if it effectively costs me $0 per mile as it does today. Instead of numerous short trips I may try to be more efficient or I may ride my bicycle or carpool. I

      If I’m a business delivering to numerous stores I may decide to partner with others so instead of five of us sending five trucks out to pretty much the same places we might be able to do the same thing with two trucks. Or someone might offer a consolidation service that does this for numerous businesses.

      • Drew October 28, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

        The problem with paying absolute costs directly is that it would disproportionally affect the poor. Likewise for the disabled, who may not have to option to bike, and who are often also poor. I like the idea of disincentivizing behavior, but solutions should be sensitive to social inequity.

        I like this article as a thought experiment, and for the point it makes, but I’m not sure it should be considered a policy proposal.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell October 29, 2016 at 7:57 am #

          Completely separate issue. By this logic cars and food and housing and everything else should all cost the same. We should never pay more for better, faster, cheaper or more of something — we should not be responsible for our decisions and the impact that they have.

          But wait, there’s more…

          Let’s start with the poor. A transportation system that requires that all users pay equitably for what they use (E.G., what I have proposed above) will quite quickly shift towards much more walking, bicycling, and transit for nearly all users. This will actually disproportionally BENEFIT the poor and those with disabilities. They will gain much better and more affordable transportation options than what they have today. Walking or riding a bicycle or mobility scooter to work or the grocery will be much easier and safer than it is today. Eventually the same will likely happen with transit.

          Sometimes the best solution is to eliminate barriers rather than help people over them.

          Specific to folks with disabilities. At least from a road/street standpoint The Netherlands, thanks to more equitable treatment of various modes of transportation, is overwhelmingly the best place for people with most types of disabilities. And even more important than the transportation itself is that enabling folks with disabilities to safely move about via active transportation very significantly improves their mental and physical health.

          More: http://streets.mn/2015/05/06/enabling-the-disabled-a-view-from-the-uk/

          The solution is NOT to make it easier or more equitable for people with disabilities or strained finances to drive cars but to provide a solution that is better for all.

          • Adron Hall November 1, 2016 at 10:50 am #

            I keep saying this too Walker. re: poor being hurt by paying market rates.

            But it also doesn’t help when the poor are subsidized into a economically and environmentally unsound transport mode (cars) as they are now. For the sake of the planet, for the sake of sustainability, some people ought to be priced out of automobiles and we should zone and design better instead. That absurdity of designing place around cars and then subsidizing people to become auto-dependent is insane, and ends up hurting the poor as much or dramatically more than NOT doing it. :-/

            • Walker Angell
              Walker Angell November 1, 2016 at 11:07 am #

              Yes. And this applies in so many ways. An estimated 40-50% of our healthcare costs are due to lack of activity and people being overweight. Investment in infra that would allow and encourage more active transportation would have a huge impact on this. We need to introduce the left hand to the right hand perhaps… 🙂

              • Bill Lindeke
                Bill Lindeke November 1, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

                Can you provide a link to that data point? I might use it for a future piece!

    • Rosa October 27, 2016 at 7:07 am #

      Can we get some sort of fee for non-city drivers driving on city roads? I am really sick of people who choose their homes partly for low property taxes then commuting on city streets that I pay for and yelling at me to get out of “their” road and claiming I pay no taxes.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 27, 2016 at 8:23 am #

        That’s pretty much what this is. 🙂

      • Adron Hall November 1, 2016 at 11:14 am #

        OMG this. I …

        Oh man I can’t even start, spot on Rosa. Spot on!

        • Rosa November 1, 2016 at 10:38 pm #

          Not only am I having to turn left off Park/Portland during rush hour every day these days, my husband’s coworkers have been complaining a lot about the HORRORS of all the cross streets that have stoplights on Hwy 55 in South Minneapolis. God forbid the PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE should get to cross their commuter road. I am about done with them. Let them park on the outskirts and take the bus.

      • Bill Lindeke
        Bill Lindeke November 1, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

        I think the right approach is to simply design roads that do not facilitate “through” traffic from cities outside of the core. This is pretty easy to do if we make the decision to do so. Unfortunately, our county and state transportation departments see it as their mandate to encourage through traffic at the expense of local mobility.

  8. Loren October 25, 2016 at 12:00 am #

    Highways have been paid for with gas tax, but most city streets are paid for from the general fund of the city, in other words, property and sales taxes.

  9. Sean October 25, 2016 at 8:56 am #

    It would be a tangent but I question the below:

    “People driving cars impose a high risk on those around them, particularly on roads that are poorly engineered (which is the case for most US roads and why we have the highest road fatality rates of all developed countries).”

    Not that I know much about how roads are engineered in other countries vs. the US, but my uneducated guess would be that it’s more about our culture and driver behavior, which is to a great extent promoted by the degree of privilege we put on the automobile and the amount of time our separated-use development patterns keep us in cars (i.e., we always drive in a hurry and/or we spend so much time in our cars we become too cavalier about a very dangerous activity).

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 9:46 am #

      Sean, there’s a fundamental difference in how road design is approached. An engineer in The Netherlands (or most EU countries) says that drivers will not do very well at obeying rules and so they must design the roads to enforce safety.

      US engineers say that if only everyone obeyed the rules we’d have fewer fatalities.

      For example, EU roads are intentionally designed with narrow traffic lanes and sharp turns that cause drivers to drive somewhat slowly but more importantly to pay close attention to what they are doing. US roads are designed with wide lanes + wide shoulders + wide clearance zones and wide radius turns that encourage faster speeds and tell drivers that it’s safe not to pay attention.

      The Netherlands led the way with protected bikeways. Other countries are following. We’re way behind on this. Perhaps worse is that we’re installing painted bike lanes and door zone bike lanes that places like The Netherlands determined were unsafe several decades ago.

      • Jackie Williams October 25, 2016 at 10:21 am #

        here in the US they seem to take a road designed for 1 lane of traffic and add a lane, throw in parking on each side and then add bike lanes. There is not much room for anyone on many of these streets in the Metro. It still blows my mind that bikes have to share their lane with buses and turning cars. it defeats the whole purpose.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 11:41 am #

      Great comment Sean. To add a bit more to my earlier reply… Drivers are largely the same in both (I walk, ride, and drive in the US and EU a fair bit every year). Drivers in The Netherlands will drive and park in the bike lanes just like those Adam mentioned above. This is the secondary reason (safety is first) that painted bike lanes are often no longer used there.

      I think the biggest difference I notice is that drivers outside the US never drive in the left lane on motorways unless they are passing someone.

      I say largely above because though they are similar they are also a bit more law abiding. They are more likely to stop at a stop sign for instance. I think much of this can be chalked up to our effectively encouraging disobedience with things that don’t make sense to average people — like way too many stop signs at places where a yield or roundabout would be better.

      • Adron Hall November 1, 2016 at 11:19 am #

        It is indeed a combination of all those things stated. Enforcement, design (a lot of better design), and by respect a very different culture. At face value it’s not even immediately noticeable until one drives a while or rides with a driver in Europe. I like to call it the “aggressive safety precision” of Europeans. They are indeed, because of these things dramatically safer but also have better driving conditions and are better drivers all around (re: see F1, Rally, etc – it’d be a slaughter if they joined Nascar).

        But yeah, we are in essence the same humans, we just aren’t held nor do we hold ourselves to even a low bar standard compared to Europeans when it comes to driving.

  10. Michael Brooks October 25, 2016 at 9:30 am #

    Including bikes in the Wheelage tax structure takes an argument off the table for motorized drivers who say bikes have no right to the road. It also positions bicyclists more visibily as drivers. We are part of the total transportation mix and need to be accounted for when roads are touched. The age old idea of skin in the game, that we are sharing our part of the load based on the formula used for cars and trucks, deems that for our contribution those who govern and make decisions about transportation need to consider bicyclists in infrastructure, education and enforcement as equal to motorized drivers. I think it is a good idea if there is representation in the transportation plan and Met Council and DOT management and Legislative leaders publicly sign on to protect the rights of bicyclists and design for all users of the transportation system

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 11:17 am #

      Interestingly, I think most bicycle riders actually over pay today. My buddy Tony lives a couple of blocks from the guy who wrote the original article. Tony and his wife ride bicycles for almost all of their transportation. Yet they pay the same for the property tax portion of roads as the writer who drives a car and causes much greater damage — to the roads and potentially to someone walking or riding a bicycle if he hits them.

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 11:26 am #

        Here’s Tony riding to work with Lucy (I think this was her first time).

        Tony, Lucy, and a bakfeits. Happiness.

        I wonder what the cost is of this mode vs someone driving a 3000 lb car 45 MPH?

  11. John Kittson October 25, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    “Next is Size. The larger your vehicle the more space it requires to drive and queue at junctions. This cost is about 1/5 cent per foot of length for a single lane vehicle.”

    Width? These new bike-friendly roadway widths are in no way accounted for with this 1/5c per ft. theoretical value. Taking up width and denying usage for other purposes has a very certain cost, and it is not accounted for here. Typical roadway widths that include bike lanes are 12′ wider. If not for the bike lanes, the gas tax contributors (cars) would be able to have increased capacity, available parking, or a reduction in width. For a 36′ roadway you’re looking at a 50% increase in impervious surface and required asphalt – which also has an environmental cost. Heck, even routine maintenance is being ignored. That additional width of street (or offstreet path) has to be cleared of leaves, snow, and ice.

    I realize the purpose of this article is not to actually pay the fair share – but even for the proponents this has to be too obvious to ignore. At a bare minimum the price should be something along the lines of total initial capital costs divided by usable life + maintenance costs per year spread among all of the bike lane/path users.

    Aside, please include sources for these costs. They feel pulled out of a hat.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

      Ummm, this actually is for people to pay their fair share. There is certainly some tweaking of numbers and formulas that would be needed but I think the structure and numbers are fairly close. That said, a change from a 1/2 cent base per 1,000 lbs to 1/4 cent would have a fairly dramatic affect.

      The numbers were derived based on construction, maintenance, and operating costs from MNDOT, USDOT, CALTRANS, Ramsey County MN, City of Shoreview MN, City of Mountain Brook AL, and City of Portland OR. Weight distribution was based on http://archive.gao.gov/f0302/109884.pdf and a hardcopy report from the MN LRRB.

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

      Effectively a 5′ wide vehicle has the same space impact as an 8′ wide vehicle? They both take up a full lane? Even if you have half width vehicles unless two of them happen to be together they will take up the same space when queuing at a traffic signal?

      What is a bike friendly roadway width?

    • Drew Levitt October 26, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

      Agreed, this is an interesting analysis but I would have liked to see each cost item specifically sourced.

      Also, is it not the case that the societal cost of taking up roadway space varies dramatically based on time and location? If I’m out in the middle of nowhere, or on a nearly empty urban street in the middle of the night, I’m not competing meaningfully for scarce space the way I am if I’m downtown during rush hour. This is the standard justification for congestion pricing (which I strongly support).

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

        Agree. I would like to have included much more detail, however… This is a non-profit blog post not a $50,000 research report. Time and resources are quite limited and I think many readers eyes might glaze over with too much detail.

        That said, I (and others I think) would appreciate discussion on both the structure and the specific numbers. Here in these comments or here: http://forum.streets.mn

        And speaking of non-profit. It costs a fair bit to keep this blog up and running. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated. http://streets.mn/membership/

      • Walker Angell
        Walker Angell October 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

        Good point about congestion charging. For those not familiar, many cities do this today but largely based on geography. They define a congestion zone and then charge vehicles to enter the zone. This has generally worked well though there have been calls in London and elsewhere to increase the charge for trucks and to increase the size of the zone.

        A Wheelage Fee system using transponders (provided through approved private companies, not government) should be able to do this on a more effective and granular level by charging for the use of specific resources at specific times. I don’t think what I outlined above should be time based, but it would likely be good to layer an addition congestion charge on top. Between 6am and 10am weekday mornings each mile within the metro would cost an additional $0.20 for motor vehicles.

    • Dominic October 27, 2016 at 2:51 am #

      I think what’s making that calculation look so funny is the assumptions you’re making about that ‘other’ width. There are few situations where a roadway in a metro area can actually Be widened. It’s very rare for a bike lane to cost extra impervious surface. In terms of road space and the fact that that 12 feet is a two way, that capacity actually relieves much more traffic from the car section than it creates a bottleneck. Obviously if it’s perpetually unused that’s moot, but if the route is properly designed total passenger capacity is higher. I’ll grant you only the parking point. But i’d counter that putting in bollards and bike racks provides much more parking spaces per person per area. So doing, actually enables increased bike path use, which again relieves the automobile lanes further. I’ll source those claims when i have time. But those studies are out there.

      Also your “bare minimum” assumes bike path traffic at a constant.
      I wouldn’t have thought so, but as I’ve seen it happen in front of my eyes “If you build it, they will come” is more true of bike paths than anything I know of. It’s hard to get accurate numbers on cycling because it has a very casual relation with its self.

  12. Bob October 25, 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    Something is not clear to me. First you say “There is a base cost of things like signs and signals that has nothing to do with what vehicle you operate. This is about 1 cent per mile.”

    Then you say “There is no speed element or fixed base cost with bicycles so we’ve got $0.0053 per mile”.

    So which is it? Don’t the bikes contribute to the cost of “signs and signals that has nothing to do with what vehicle you operate”?

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 25, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

      Bikes contribute to signs but not to signals. Signals are only necessary because of cars. Even with signs bicycles require many fewer of them. We could add something like a $0.0001 per mile to cover signs and such required for bicycles but I think we’re effectively talking about a rounding error.

      • Rosa October 27, 2016 at 7:13 am #

        I’m not sure you can assume that bikes don’t require signals – I think we’re hitting a point where bike and pedestrian volume might require signals independently of cars. This summer, with downtown construction, I nearly got creamed by other cyclists a couple times (people ignoring red lights because there were no cars, when I was trying to go through an intersection with a green) and there are places near train stations that would need them for pedestrians. The east end of the Franklin bridge probably would need some too.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell October 27, 2016 at 8:39 am #

          I’m basing that on The Netherlands who have 15-20 times the bicycle and pedestrian traffic as we have. Anywhere you take cars out of the equation there is usually no need of signals so long as bikeways are designed properly. Bicycle riders and pedestrians are both able to negotiate conflicts among themselves, cars often cannot. In The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and elsewhere you will occasionally see a bicycle rider have to stop and put a foot down in the middle of a mass of people but that is not a big deal.

          I think what you experienced is the result of poor design—trying to fit bicycle riders in to a system designed for motor traffic. This, along with our creating too many unnecessary regulations (too many stop signs for instance) has created an environment that encourages law breaking.

          More: http://streets.mn/2013/09/10/a-wink-and-a-nod-teaching-our-kids-to-be-criminals-part-i/

          There is law breaking too in The Netherlands but it is of a more ‘respectful sort’. You will occasionally see bicycle riders run red lights but not very often because their signal cycles are much shorter and those that do are usually fairly cautious that their doing so does not negatively impact others. They do not have nearly so many unnecessary regulatory bits as we do in the US so what they do have is given more weight by users.

        • Walker Angell
          Walker Angell October 27, 2016 at 9:13 am #

          Rosa, I hoped to find a good bit of video of a dutch bicycle junction but failed. Here is the best I could find and it is not very good (from https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/rush-hour-in-the-dark/):

          • Jitensha Oni November 1, 2016 at 6:14 am #

            • Walker Angell
              Walker Angell November 1, 2016 at 10:26 am #

              Thanks for posting this. A great example of how well bicycle riders can maneuver and of the value of simultaneous green junctions. Imagine if that many cars tried to go through that space!

  13. Rosa October 27, 2016 at 10:37 pm #

    thanks!

    I am not sure Americans, in general, are as able to be nice to each other as these Dutch people. Even just judging by our walking behavior. But I hope you’re right about design being the difference, not inherent national character.

  14. Drew October 28, 2016 at 11:56 am #

    I wish you would have expanded your estimated costs over time. When trying to nudge people’s behavior, big numbers get their attention.

    In your “putting it all together” paragraph, you could have compared a 10-mile commute to work over the course of a year by car or by bike. Assuming you don’t commute 3 weeks a year because of vacation/sick/holiday time, then you take 490 trips (2 trips/day x 5 days/week x 49 weeks/year). Multiply that by your estimates, and you could show that just for your work commute for the year, you should be on the hook for $588.00 if you drive, versus $24.50 if you ride a bike.

  15. Clive Durdle October 28, 2016 at 2:35 pm #

    http://www.cycling-embassy.dk/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Collection-of-Cycle-Concepts-2012.pdf

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the cost comparisons in this 🙂

    • Walker Angell
      Walker Angell October 31, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      That’s a long document but seems to also have a lot of good information. I’ve not the time to read it through in detail at the moment but want to later when I’ve a bit more time. Thanks for passing it on BTW.

      Based on my cursory read there is one thing that really stands out to me. Denmark is very concerned that the modal share of bicycling is not growing and is in fact declining. Their approach to this seems to be focused on; 1) programs to encourage people to choose bicycling for more of their transportation, and 2) minor improvements to infrastructure.

      In my opinion they’ve got these backwards and need more than the minor infrastructure improvements they’re calling for. Denmark is much less safe feeling and fear inducing to ride around than almost anywhere in The Netherlands. Kind of like Portland is plateaued at about 6% modal share since 2008 (http://streets.mn/2016/10/11/bicycling-portland/), Denmark have, I believe, similarly reached the limits of their infrastructure.

      This limit is not so much capacity as it is types of riders. They’ve attracted all of the people who are comfortable riding on the type of infrastructure they’ve developed. Too many Danes though are not comfortable with the amount of interaction and conflict with motor vehicles that is currently required. Many of these would likely choose to ride on bikeways built to Dutch CROW standards but not on those built to Danish standards.

      More later when I get some time.

  16. Brian hunter October 29, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    I and all my other cycling buddies drive cars so we already pay our fair share.

  17. keenplanner October 31, 2016 at 11:25 am #

    The gas tax is not the only funder of road projects. It’s far inadequate, which is why so many roads are in disrepair. Many projects are paid for with federal and state grants, which means anyone who pays taxes is paying for the transportation network.
    Fortunately, with each new transport spending bill, a bit more money is allocated for active transportation and transit, but it’s still tilted toward road construction and maintenance.