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Stupid Idea of the Day Year: License to Bike

Obviously lots of bad ideas get floated publicly and go nowhere, so I'm not going to be turning pedals in anger on the trainer tonight. Not yet. But if either Seattle or Washington decides to start requiring bike licenses, on the phony premise that cyclists devour public resources and need taxing, my response won't be merely blogging aimlessly about it. I may have to get politically active.

Seriously, does anyone think my riding to work, instead of driving some smelly car that grinds away at the road surface and contributes to gridlock, actually costs the city money? And do people really think that painting little biker-guy stick-figure symbols on the road is what's blowing a hole in the state budget?

Also, if you're ignorant enough to believe such things, why stop at bikes? Why not go after those evil pedestrians? Sidewalks cost infinitely more than the bike lanes that don't even really exist. Worse, sidewalks have the gall to exclude cars, in turn narrowing the road! So pedestrians not only devour space that God reserved for His chosen motorized transportation method, but when you feel justifiably angered and moved to take matters into your own hands, you can't even splatter one of those selfish sidewalk-dwelling pedestrians without ruining a wheel or two. Is this fair?

OK, I broke my promise from back in the first sentence. But seriously, I feel like I understand car people pretty well, so why is it that they don't seem to know the first thing about bikes?

On the flip: Want some numbers? [If you dare...]

Car people are apparently angry about spending $240 million (proposed) on a network of bike lanes around Seattle. Here are a few other statistics, from the state and federal highway agencies' websites, to chew on when contemplating arguments about costs.

  • So far this year, there have been 432 deaths in Washington State caused by cars; recent annual averages are about 550 or so. Of those 432 people lost, 12 were on bikes, 315 were in a car, and the rest were bystanders of one kind or another. Roughly 10-15% of fatalities and accidents in Washington happen in King County.
  • The most recent economic impact of car crashes was that, in 2000, motor vehicle accidents cost the state's economy $5.3 billion. A conservative estimate, then, is that in that year alone the cost to King County was $530 million.
  • Some points about economic effects:
    1. This is a single year, not 30 years or whatever the lifespan of the bike plan is.
    2. These are 2000 dollars; that number is surely up in 2007.
    3. Not sure how this estimate is made; does it include hidden costs? Such as increased insurance premiums? Did everyone who took out a guardrail pay the state back for the damage? etc.
    4. These are just the costs of reported accidents; what are the costs of unreported accidents? of congestion? of parking lots? road repairs? road signs? man-hours devoted to maintaining the road network? environmental costs of the network being there? How much was spent cleaning up spills from leaky gas pumps and carelessness around the refineries in Anacortes? I could go on and on and on...
    5. Conclusion: society pays madly unquantifiable amounts of money for the sake of cars. Way more than any number you can find on the books.
  • And that's before the onset of global warming, which is predicted to upset the economy of the entire world. So cars are only a part of the problem, and King County is only a part of the car universe, and bikes are only a part of the solution in King County... but is that $240 million looking pretty small yet? Small enough to make people here consider being part of the solution for once?