The real cost of driving

Published: Friday, January 12, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 11:47 p.m.
I find the idea of imposing bicycle registration taxes to cover the cost of building and maintaining bike lanes proposed by Marilyn Bates (Voice, 1/7, "Cyclists should be taxed to pay for bike lanes") creative and thought-provoking.
While this proposal ignores the benefits of non-motorized transportation that extend beyond the people who use it, such as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, lower particulate and heavy metal pollution, lower road maintenance expenses and reduced traffic congestion, the basic premise that the cost of a service should be covered by its users certainly has its merits.
Even though I often use my bicycle to run errands around town, I would welcome this approach, as long as we also impose vehicle and gasoline taxes that reflect the true market costs of our addiction to the automobile. These would need to include the cost of catastrophic climate change, the mass extinction of species, the cost of keeping over 150,000 troops in the Middle East to ensure our access to cheap oil, loss of ecosystems and farmland, the cost of building and maintaining roads, parking and traffic signals, 40,000 deaths per year caused by automobiles in this country and reduced quality of life inherent in the suburban sprawl. This would internalize the economic externalities whose costs are currently born by the population at large.

Pavel Gubanikhin,


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