The true cost of cycling

photo-55Everyone knows that cycling is much cheaper than using a car. Not only are the initial purchase costs far less, the ongoing running costs of cycling are negligible in comparison to running a car. What is not always considered, are the costs to the community for these two forms of transport. The arguments are neatly summed up on BikeSYDNEY’s site here. Some good quotes from that link …

“Every time you ride your bike you return around 40 cents to the community in health benefits.”

“In Sydney, congestion is expected to cost the community $7.5 billion each year.”

“More people on bikes also means less stress on expensive infrastructure. The difference in weight can add years to roads and bridges – saving the community millions.”

So, when online articles such as this one, in our local paper, attract a great number of comments, it is a sure thing that many of the commenters will predictably rant about the costs of new cycling infrastructure and make the lame old call of  “register all bikes” etc. Just to quote one such comment from the linked article:

“Who is paying those Regos and Fuel taxes ? NOT CYCLISTS they get a FREE PASS.
Car drivers & Transport Companies pay for your Bike ways.
Register ALL Bikes! Doesn’t have to be a lot, but at least make them identifyable (sic). If they can be identified they will have to stop at red lights like everybody else.”

When the police don’t have the time to follow up all reports of cars committing offences, they are certainly not going to do it for cyclists. And cars also run red lights, all the time … but I digress.

To return to the economic argument, also referred to in the above comment… no doubt large transport vehicles pay lots of registration fees, and fair enough: they are the ones causing the most damage to the roads. Cyclists cause very little damage, if any, and in addition, they make the cost savings outlined in the linked CycleSYDNEY article, just by cycling. Little wonder, then, that all local  government bodies have cycling strategies in place, as they can see the true benefits that large numbers of cyclists on the roads will have.

So, why aren’t there more cycleways in place to encourage more cyclists? After all, as with roads, build it and they will come, yet vastly greater amounts are still being spent on roads in relation to the dollars being spent on cycleways, in spite of the much greater cost per kilometre (for some figures on this, see here) for those roads. It takes brave political leaders truly willing to commit to building an outstanding cycling network in Australia. Are they put off by the attitudes of such voters as the one quoted above? Is a campaign required to sway that public opinion first?

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7 Responses to The true cost of cycling

  1. laurent says:

    If we have to deal with the economic argument we can have a replay with both healthy and economic counter-argument with the aim to have long term thinking.
    Less pollution and less noise in the city mean more healthy people, saving money, less taxes …etc

    • Vicki says:

      All good points, I think that our governments do not think beyond the 4 years to the next election so do not have much incentive to put into place policies that are best for the long term survival of society, unfortunately. It is the way democracy works.

  2. I have bikes that I don’t pay rego for. But I do have a licence and pay rego, 3rd party, insurance, emergency services levy on my car. It’s not as if cyclists don’t pay for roads, just indirectly.
    If bikes became a dominant transport option then registration, insurance, etc. would make sense and such schemes would be more viable. There would need to be tangible benefits demonstrated, unlike road tolls going to shareholders before infrastructure.

    • Vicki says:

      Interesting idea, if bikes became the dominant form if transport. I’m not sure that registration of bikes would work even under those circumstances as the cost of bikes is so low and they are so stealable. I am not sure if there is rego of bikes in the Netherlands (anyone know?), but I know that bike theft is a big thing there. I also pay rego and insurance on my car, more’s the pity!

      • I’m drafting a post about bicycle parking in Japan. After years of ignored warnings and bikes blocking footpaths local authorities have introduced designated parking areas and charges and are threatening to confiscate bikes parked illegally.

      • Vicki says:

        Bradley, that sounds like an interesting issue. My next post will mention parking too, feel free to comment and to include a link back to your post.

  3. Japan is laisse-faire about which side of the road you ride on, lights and of course helmets. Arguably bicycles parked poorly are a greater danger than riding along the same footpath; the rider has control, the bicycle dominoes don’t?

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