moderate closeup of a mountain bike in the snow

Like P.J. O’Rourke I too wish bicyclists would “pay their way”

Published 2011-04-04


The late, great P.J. O’Rourke took on bike lanes (after a 24-year hiatus), thus affirming his continuing slide into Andy Rooney-grade irrelevance.

Seriously, it’s not even worth fisking at this point.

But O’Rourke closes with what has become my absolute favorite anti-bike “argument:” that cyclists should somehow “pay” for “their” infrastructure:

Bike lanes can become an acceptable part of the urban landscape, if bicycle riders are willing to pay their way.

I love this argument because I wish it were true. The truth is: non-motorists subsidize roads for motorists. And the more you drive, the less you pay for the road you use.

This “argument” is thoroughly rebutted all over teh Intarnets so I won’t bother with math. I’ll just fall back on common sense. In the form of a pop quiz.

If you drive a car AND you suspect other road users (e.g. “bikers”) aren’t “paying their way” on “your roads,” ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do I pay property tax or sales tax? (Hint: unless you live rent-free in your parents basement, the answer is probably “yes”)
  2. Do I live in one of the 50 states or one federal district where highways and roads are subsidized from the general fund, i.e. by property or sales taxes? (Hint: do you live in America?)

Congratulations, you are driving your car on a road that your “road taxes” (example: gas tax, registration fees) do not completely pay for.

For extra credit, consider:

  1. Who does pay for these roads? Do you know someone who doesn’t own a car? Or someone who owns a car but doesn’t often drive it? Thank that person for paying for ”your” road.
  2. Do you ever drive on a road that prohibits non-motorized vehicles (e.g. a “freeway”)? Waitaminute...that person I just thanked in question 1 paid for this road I’m driving on...and s/he can’t even use it? What is this, Communist Russia?
  3. Is your car heavier than a bicycle? Which do you think would cause more wear on a road?