Comment 31249

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted May 23, 2009 at 17:13:36

Mr Meister,

Fuel taxes come nowhere near covering the costs of roads (let alone the social costs associated with accidents and pollution).

I can actually make this statement very precise: the federal government has actually estimated the total financial costs associated with road infrastructure ( to be between $17 and $26 billion dollars per year in 2005. In comparison, all taxes on fuel (fuel tax, GST and provincial taxes) brought in about $8 billion in 2006

The bottom line: roads are heavily subsidized from general tax revenue since all taxes on fuel cover only between 31% and 47% of the costs.

In addition, the City of Hamilton found that the social costs due to driving are at least $450 million per year for Hamilton alone. None of these costs are covered by the fuel tax, or license fees which are the only taxes specifically paid by motorists. These social costs (or negative externalities) include the cost of accidents. Even the direct costs of building and maintaining roads are not fully covered by these taxes.

The bottom line is that all residents pay taxes towards building and maintaining roads, and the roads are a public good whose use and design must consider everyone's interests equally.

We've also seen recently how every other aspect of driving is heavily subsidized: from exploring for oil, to building cars, to the research and development of designing new cars.

Walking and cycling are excellent bargains for the taxpayer by comparison!

But to return to the enforcement issue, I perhaps was not sufficiently clear.

The police, quite reasonably, focus most of their effort on motorists who are responsible for almost all deaths (close to 3000 annually in Canada), injuries (227,768 annually in Canada) and property damage. My point is that highly publicized enforcement campaigns against cyclists pedestrians are ineffective, and appear more aimed at appeasing drivers annoyed by the actions of cyclists and pedestrians than by safety concerns. A recent Spec article quoted a police officer pointing to jaywalkers 'startling' motorists.

The second point is that any public discussion of cyclists immediately produces a chorus of complaints by motorists about cyclists flouting the law. As discussed ad nauseum at RTH, the evidence is that motorists break the law just as blatantly (who drives less than 100km/h on QEW?), and the risks entailed are much greater.

The idea that motorists "always take a backseat to everyone else on the road" is laughable.

The engineering guidelines for building roads are designed first for motor vehicles, not pedestrians and certainly not cyclists. Our most expensive roads, freeways and highways, are off-limits to both pedestrians and cyclists! If motorists really took a back seat, speed limits would be 30km/h everywhere to virtually eliminate serious injury. Finally, Hamilton spends $50 million on roads each year, and in principle $300 000 on cycling improvements (although even this small budget has not been spent most years).

You've also forgotten that almost all adult cyclists are also licensed drivers, and therefore also "know the rules of road".

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