By John Marsh, Editor & Publisher
Thanks to RBR Premium Member Russ Wood, a Californian, for sending me a link last week to the latest columnist calling for a bike registration fee.
George Skelton, in an L.A. Times piece, posited that cyclists should be “required to pay a state registration fee to ride their bikes on public roads.”
I will tell you no more about this very misdirected piece of work other than to point out what Skelton stated as his reason for writing the column:
“What set me off about bicycles was being tortured by about 2,000 of them Sunday at Lake Tahoe. Well, that’s not entirely correct. My daughter and I never got to Tahoe because the main state highway to Kings Beach on the north shore was closed to lake-bound traffic to make room for a 112-mile Ironman bicycle race.
“There had been no warning signs on the highway — at least any that thousands of us motorists saw. Suddenly we were turned around and told to detour roughly 30 miles. But that road — the only other one to the lake — quickly became a parking lot.
“Somebody really messed up — Caltrans, the CHP, local law enforcement, Ironman organizers or volunteers. A pox on them all. We turned around and drove 100 miles back to Sacramento.
“Recreational biking, that’s great. But closing down a state highway — robbing lakeside restaurants and other businesses of weekend customers — that’s arrogant and self-indulgent.”
There you have it. A guy got cheesed off about being caught in a traffic jam, blamed everyone BUT the participants in the event for causing the jam-up – but then decided to shift gears and take it out on cyclists anyway.
Really, I can think of no better description of Skelton than his own words in that last phrase: arrogant and self-indulgent.
Comments Are Far Better Than the Article
As is often the case when a columnist decides to base an article on something he knows very little about, and when the genesis of the article is self-described as “What set me off about bicycles was being tortured by about 2,000 of them….” – the results are bound to elicit some feedback.
In this instance, the comments were of a far, far higher quality of knowledge, thought and, in some cases, good-humor than what Skelton offered. Here are three of the better ones:
Ok, here we go for the 1 billionth time: roads are funded by the General Fund, not by gas taxes. Everyone pays into the General Fund so everyone pays for roads. I understand when anonymous commenters make this mistake but this guy has an education (ostensibly) and I would guess would hope to avoid being embarrassed publicly by revealing his lack of understanding on how roads are funded pretty much nation-wide.
It used to be that columnists would do some research before penning an article that might influence or inform the general public.
Defeating ignorance like the author’s is tedious work but worthwhile if we are going to make any progress in fixing the safety and equity of shared spaces in California.
As usual, anti-cycling bigots don’t do 5 minutes of research before making unsubstantiated claims about road funding.
Gas taxes pay primarily for state and federal highways which are mostly either freeways or remote roads that only a tiny minority of bicyclists actually use.
Most bicyclists ride most of their miles on city and county roads which get next to nothing from fuel taxes. Most of the money for city and county roads comes from sales and property taxes, which everyone pays.
None of that matters though. The roads are part of the public commons like sidewalks, public parks and public libraries. There is no “pay to play”. Registration is a tax on ownership. Youhave to pay it for off road only vehicles and planned non-operational vehicles. It’s based upon vehicle value and age.
Notice how he’s not looking to tax pedestrians? That’s because this is not really about who pays for what they use. That’s just a smoke screen.
He just doesn’t like sharing the road with bicyclists because he feels entitled to not be inconvenienced by having to [move] over for one once in a while. He thinks he owns the road and he’s trying to use road funding as an excuse to justify that delusion. His real goal is to discourage people from bicycling, because his personal short term convenience and sense of entitlement is more important than anything else.
The fact is that general fund taxes are also used for freeways, which bicyclists can’t use. Bicyclists are paying more than their fair share. The real freeloaders are motorists. They cost a lot more to support on the roads than bicyclists do to being dramatically heavier, taking up more space and doing a lot more damage to the road.
Good idea George, but we should base the fee on the GVW [gross vehicle weight] of the vehicle. If my bike and I weigh 168 lb and I pay $15, you should pay anywhere from $300 – 500 (plus license fees) and $.09 for every extra lb from trailers or the people and their big macs inside the car. With 21 million cars on the road, we should be able generate close to $10 billion for road improvements!
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