In his Off the Couch blog, Tom Held has been tactfully reporting about the crash that killed Jeff Littmann, his funeral, and the investigation into the crash. As tactful as Tom has been, some of the comment trolls have managed to take disrespect and untruths to new levels. Here is a comment that appeared tTuesday:
I will skip right over the implication that it is OK to kill people riding bicycles because they did not pay for the road, and I have already debunked the myth that people riding bikes do not follow the rules of the road in this previous fact-filled post. But I have not yet addressed the second common misconception among the non-cycling public, that only people who buy gasoline and register motor vehicles pay for roads.
So what are the facts about transportation funding?
First, virtually everyone who rides a bicycle also drives a car and pays gas taxes, vehicle registration fees and wheel taxes. So we are already kicking in to that pot of money.
Second, while gas taxes and vehicle registrations certainly fund a lot of Interstate Highway and State Connecting Highway projects, those funds don’t provide much money to the local roads, which makes up most of the total roadway network and the vast majority of the roads on which people ride bicycles. Jeff Littmann was hit on Waukesha County Road R, or Wisconsin Avenue. That county road is only eligible for a small percentage of funds from gas taxes or vehicle registration fees. Most of the money to build and maintain that road, like most local roads, comes from local taxes, which everyone pays whether they drive a car or not.
Municipalities like Waukesha County do get some money from WisDOT’s General Transportation Aid program for their local roads. That program currently returns to local governments roughly 21.8 % of all state-collected transportation revenues (fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees) – helping offset the cost of county and municipal road construction, maintenance, traffic and other transportation-related costs. The amount varies by municipality according to different formulas.
The share-of-cost percentage changes every year, and the general trend has been down. Here is a table as far back as I have readily available:
|Source: Transportation Aids System|
|Updated October 2011|
That means that as long as you are a tax payer you are paying for the roads and should have a say in how your money is spent. If you want paved shoulders or painted bike lanes on your roads, you have a right to ask for them because you paid as much as the next person whether you own a car or not.
There are many more indirect and direct ways people pay for the cost of roads beyond local taxes, (snow and ice removal fine fees, police fees, etc.) but through local taxes alone, people who ride bikes have contributed a majority share. In future posts, I will delve a little further into the funding questions. Not only do people who only walk and ride bikes pay for the roads, but they may actually pay more and get less in return than people who only drive cars.
So don’t ever let anyone tell you Jeff Littmann (or any other person riding a bike or walking) did not pay for the road he was riding on. He did, and that is an indisputable fact. What’s more, he had a right to expect he would be safe riding on the road he helped pay for.