Sunday, January 11, 2009

Commonwealth Transportation Board hearings Tuesday

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will hold public hearings in Fairfax County on Tuesday, January 13 at the Fairfax Co Government Center starting at 7 p.m. This is your chance to let the CTB know about the need for better bicycle facilities in Virginia.

According to the VDOT press release, "Representatives of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) will be present to provide information and answer questions." (It has always seemed odd to us that the Department of "Transportation" does not include rail and public transportation).

All road projects should accommodate bicyclists. When projects are designed, the impact on all modes should be considered. As an example, if a project could be extended a short distance to complete a bicycle facility, at least that part of the project should be included in the overall project scope.

There should be dedicated funds to maintain bike facilities. This includes regularly sweeping debris from bike lanes, regular repaving of major paved trails, and adding paved shoulders to existing roads.

See the Virginia Bicycling Federation site for more information on what you can do.
First, all road projects DO accommodate bicyclists. The roadway itself is accommodation. In fact, I’ve seen signs to that effect….”Share the Road”… Not every road needs to have a dedicated bike lane or even paved shoulders. That would add significant costs to road projects. With a budget this is constantly dwindling, that means fewer projects can be completed, and that hurts everyone, not just cyclists.

Does everyone know where the money comes from for transportation projects? It comes from the Transportation Fund. Does everyone know where the money comes from for the Transportation Fund? That would be from the Gas Tax. (State and Federal) How much gas does a cyclist buy…? I would imagine none when using the dedicated cycle facilities. If FABB wants to enjoy dedicated bicycle facilities on all projects and “dedicated funds”, I suggest a registration or taxation for cyclists. There should be a use tax for these facilities just like there is a use tax (gas tax…) for the roadway.

I will commend FABB and other “Special Interests Groups” on their success. You’re certainly part of the vocal minority whose sense of entitlement has led to a substantial number of dedicated bicycle facilities. I’m just part of the silent majority that is tired of wasteful spending… Maybe the current state of the economy will encourage other rational people to speak their mind allowing logic and reason will prevail!
I agree that cyclists can use the existing roads and many currently do; we have no choice. I think cyclists are actually safer when using the road and being regarded as part of traffic. Most motorists are looking for other road vehicles, not for pedestrians or cyclists on sidepaths or sidewalks.

However, if we are ever going to encourage more people to use bicycles for transportation, we'll need dedicated facilities on some roads. Many neighborhood and urban roads with low speed limits don't require bike facilities, but collectors and arterials in N. Va. need either wide outside lanes, paved shoulders or bike lanes. There are few options on the local roads, many of which end in cul-de-sacs.

"Does everyone know where the money comes from for transportation projects? It comes from the Transportation Fund."

This is a common fallacy. "Highway" projects are funded by the Federal gas taxes, but local roads are funded through general tax revenue. Most cyclists pay their share of gas taxes anyway, since most of us own motor vehicles. We just choose to use bikes because they are cheaper, less polluting, and a healthier way to get around.

According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, "Although motorist user fees (fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees) fund most highway expenses, funding for local roads (the roads pedestrians and cyclists use most) originates mainly from general taxes. Since bicycling and walking impose lower roadway costs than motorized modes, people who rely primarily on nonmotorized modes tend to overpay their fair share of roadway costs and subsidize motorists."

The report goes on to state that "in 2002, $27.9 billion were spent on U.S. local roads, of which only $3.1 billion was from user fees."
1) On-road bicycle facilities benefit motorists by improving the safety, capacity, and maintenance of the road for everyone. For example, they make it much easier for motorists to overtake bicyclists who are legitimately traveling on the road.

2) The rights-of-way for virtually all roads and highways (except for freeways which often impede bicycling and where bicycling is often prohibited) were NOT acquired with any motor vehicle user fees such as a gasoline tax.

3) Motor vehicle traffic congestion, not bicyclists, are the reason why roads are ever widened.

4) Bicycles, unlike motor vehicles, do essentially no damage to roadways. Motor vehicle user fees are needed to undo to damage to roads caused by cars, trucks, and buses.

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