Another Interesting “Food for Thought” Article

This may be a bit of old news…I just located a link to an interesting article forwarded to me by faithful reader Frederick Lippens. His email languished at the bottom of my inbox since, oh…the beginning of August, but the article itself is a good conversation starter. The premise is,

One of the beauties of bike riding is the freedom. You buy one, or find one, and just jump on. There are no taxes, no fuel to buy and almost anything that goes wrong can be fixed by the rider. They’re also cheap enough that anyone can own one.

But should bikes be treated more like cars?

Read the rest of the article at Wired’s “Gadget Lab” by clicking here.

Basically, the article touches on taxes, licensing for cyclists and some other “hot button” issues. We’d sure love to hear YOUR feelings on these ideas and issues…so comment away!


  1. Stuart M.

    There’s just too much to comment on! I think many problems could be solved simultaneously by one simple act: put a 100% tax on every gallon of gasoline. If OPEC and the Russians sell it to us for $2.00, jack up the price to $4.00. The 100% tax would discourage gasoline usage, thereby encouraging people to live closer to their jobs and revitalizing town centers in both cities and suburbs (people want stores close to home), and just maybe people might consider bicycling these shorter distances. The tax money could be used in many good ways, I can think of about 100, starting with infrastructure, building renewable energy grids, shoring up social security, national health care, paying off the national debt…

  2. ha1ku

    There seems to be so many options here, and I don’t care to debate which one(s) are best. I will say, however, that I would shy away from punitive practices that, for example, punish someone for operating a motorized vehicle or punish someone for owning an unlicensed bicycle. In the end, people feel most motivated by choice. We, being the enlightened commuters, will naturally cycle as much as possible. Also, if I had to contribute monetarily in some way to help fund the upkeep of (bicycle-friendly) roads, I would totally do it.

  3. Ghost Rider

    @Stuart M. — we talked about this the other day. While lots of us clamor for $6.00/gal. gasoline to encourage other forms of transportation, faithful reader Iron_Man brought up the point that such a fuel price increase would force up the prices of consumer goods and food (more expensive transportation costs means higher end-prices).

    I’m of two minds on the issue of taxes for cyclists…on the one hand, we’re ALREADY paying taxes to help pay for roads, as many of us also own and use cars and purchase gasoline; a portion of those licensing and fuel taxes pays for the roads. On the other hand, I’m willing to pay additional taxes if it means that money will go directly to funding bike/pedestrian/public transport/light rail options in our cities.

    As far as bicycle licensure goes — I’m a bit torn with that, too. I mean, we’re already required to hold a license to drive a car; why shouldn’t we have a license to ride? It helps add a layer of “legitimacy”.

    On the other hand, cycling lawyer Bob Mionske said something to the effect that the right to travel is Constitutionally protected, so cycling on the streets is our RIGHT, while driving a car is merely a privilege. Here’s his take on the issue:

  4. Champs

    Don’t feel too bad about riding “tax free.” Gas taxes don’t come close to financing the entire system from street up to freeway.

    In Minnesota, that means the city/county streets, roads, and paths are paid for with property (and sometimes sales) taxes. Do you pay those? Then you’ve done your share.

  5. Champs

    Just to clarify… gas taxes only fund the state highway system, but that didn’t stop a certain “structurally deficient” Interstate highway bridge from collapsing before it could be repaired.

  6. bikebike

    lots of points in the article, all are red herrings being consistently put forth by car advocates.

    red herring #1 – taxes. here in canada, cyclists already pay for roads through their property taxes and in fact, subsidize motorists because bikes do not damage roads as much as cars do.

    red herring #2 – insurance. is there any evidence to support this notion that there will be a rise in pedestrian suits against cyclists? whats happening in europe? if you are truly concerned about insurance, join a cycling club. this usually gives you 3rd party liability. here in alberta, joining the alberta bicycle association costs $40/yr and that gives you $3million in 3rd party liability.

    red herring #3 – road laws. give me a f&@%ing break?! motorists are just as likely to break road laws as cyclists and if you actually pay attention whilst driving, it becomes very obvious that this is the case. do yourself a favour and watch other drivers the next time you get into your car – you’ll see!

    these “red herrings” are being floated by the car world more and more these days. seems to me that there is an effort to try and undermine the known advantages of bike commuting and it is really important for us cyclists to fight these misconceptions and misinformation.

  7. Ghost Rider

    @Champs — good point about property and sales taxes helping fund roads and infrastructure…I should have added that in my position on these issues.

    @bikebike — interesting take on insurance. I don’t have any particular feelings on that issue, but your suggestion is a good one. I’m not sure any of our local cycling clubs offer such insurance, but I will look into it.

    +1 on cars violating all manner of road laws…while they decry cyclists blowing through lights and such. That sucks!

    Yes, these are “red herrings”, and it is important for us to understand the underlying issues and to discuss them (and defend against them where needed).

  8. Champs

    I found this recent article on the matter particularly enlightening:

    Even without the “externalities” as defined by the article, travel by car is massively subsidized.

  9. 2whls3spds

    As a cyclist I already pay way more for road use than most motorists, based on miles ridden, wear and tear on the roads, weight or any other criteria you can come up with.

    Raising the taxes on the cost of fuel “might” cause some prices on items to rise. From what research I have done the cost of transportation on retail products is about 2-5% of the total cost. There are more cost effective means of moving products, but it would mess with the Just In Time model that most retailers now use. God forbid that they should have to actually warehouse a product or even plan ahead.

    If more people would attempt to purchase locally produced items it would help reduce or in some cases eliminate transportation costs. The average meal travels over 1200 miles prior to hitting your dinner table. That is insane! and subsidized by cheap energy prices. There are many other issues to be addressed by having a centralized food supply, like the huge salmonella outbreaks.

    Drivers break laws too, usually with fatal consequences. Traffic accidents in the USA kill an average of 112 people a day, that is equivalent to crashing a small/medium sized commercial aircraft EVERY DAY! Would we stand for that? So why do we accept it from cars and drivers? Instead of spending money making cars safer the money needs to be spent on alternative transportation and driver training, recurrent training at that.


  10. r4i

    Wow thats interesting i liked it. it was fun reading it. I liked it. keep up the same i would like to read some stuffs like this.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *