As more and more people are considering the feasibility of commuting via bicycle in Portland due to the rising gas prices and other concerns, we of course see more confrontation between people in cars and people on bikes, since there are more of them about. This is frustrating, and it seems the dialogue about these issues is a bit emotionally charged and slow going, but hopefully it will eventually result in a suitable mixture of car and bicycle traffic, as well as softer attitudes on both sides of the debate.
I just ran across this article today on the Copenhagenize blog - regarding bicycle registration, and the argument that people who primarily ride bicycles as opposed to driving cars are not paying as much to maintain the roads, and therefore should either be charged more, or should not be able to use the roads.
You may or may not know, but Amsterdam and Copenhagen are two of the most heavily bicycled cities in the world, with 40-60% of their traffic being bicycle traffic. Anyway, a reader had written to the author of this blog (which is about biking in Copenhagen), and asked about the issue of bicycle registration in Europe and whether this same issue was a problem there.
The article makes a number of really good points, including (here comes another bulleted list, yay!):
- a bicycle registration system would likely cost *far* more than it would earn (therefore making the problem worse, not helping it).
- a bicycle does far less damage to the road than a car does, therefore a person who is primarily riding a bicycle to commute is not incurring as much road repair cost, so it makes sense that they wouldn't pay the same amount of taxes as someone who primarily drives a car.
- a bicycle has no environmental impact due to its operation, therefore it incurs no cost for pollution management and such.
- riding a bicycle (as with any other exercise) helps to build your own personal health, thus improving your energy level, your productivity at work and at home, making you a more active beneficiary of society, and not taking up sick or hospital time as much.
There are more details, statistics, etc in the article, but the points simply make common sense as well, without needing statistics to back them up. Another issue that isn't brought up in the article, but that was brought up on the BikePortland.org blog today, is that bicycles take up much less space than cars do, both on the road and when not on the road. Seattle, Washington is rolling out on-street parking for bikes, and they are fitting 20 bikes in one car parking space, with ample room for each bike. The same applies to bikes which are moving down the road, many more can fit in the same space that one car occupies.
Anyway, I know it's not a simple problem, merging bicycle and automobile traffic in urban centers, but I think it's well worth the effort to get the infrastructure and education in place to make a best effort at both getting people out on bikes, as well as getting cyclists and motorists to co-exist peacefully. Obviously, it is possible, and I hope that it continues to be - and continues to be more and more of - a priority for the powers-that-be in Portland.