Footing the Bill: How Cyclists Pay Their Share of the Road by Owen C. Franklin

It's time to set the story straight. While some motorists feel like gracious hosts when they share the road with a cyclist, it is a myth that motor vehicle drivers are paying for everyone else's transportation. Drivers seem to buy a sense of road-entitlement with their vehicle registration fees and fuel taxes, and may see cyclists as getting a free ride.

The truth is, drivers don't even pay their own ways. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Transportation, every gallon of gas purchased represents only about 20 to 25 percent of the true cost of driving. If you add in maintenance costs for highways, the cost of providing free parking, emergency services, law enforcement, traffic-related health care, and dozens of other buried real costs, they add up to from $4.50 to $7.50 a gallon.

Cyclists, on the other hand, pay for every mile they use, and actually end up subsidizing motor vehicle travelers. The next time you find yourself in that age-old debate with your car-loving friends about who pays for the roads, keep the following ideas in mind:

And there are other, less quantifiable benefits to bicycling. If children can ride bikes or walk, parents don't have to spend their days chauffeuring them around. The children learn traffic skills and gain other positive attributes. Health and fitness levels are improved. Better air quality can result where a substantial number of bicycling and walking trips are substituted for motor vehicle trips.

It may be hard to shake a motorist's car-centric philosophy. However, cyclists are financially accountable for the roads, and should enjoy all the rights that they pay for.