Tacoma Urbanist

Aug. 12, 2009 at 12:09am

Contrary to D.C. Based Auto Industry Lobbyist, Tacoma's Traffic Calming Modifications are Beneficial to the City

As Kevin Freitas, recently pointed out, the City of Tacoma wisely added bike lanes and on-street parking to a portion of 21st Street in Tacoma narrowing some of the sections down to one lane which was currently serving as a automobile speedway through North Tacoma.

Photo of 21st Street after the modification by Kevin Freitas,

The new city measures are beneficial to the area as they will

1) Bring greater safety to the area for pedestrians and bicyclists :

Researchers "found that cyclists and pedestrians in the United States were two to six times more likely to be killed than their German or Dutch counterparts. Per kilometer traveled, U.S. pedestrians were 23 times more likely to get killed than the occupants of a car, while bicyclists were 12 times more likely to be killed. In the United States in 2000, 662,000 bicyclists and 191,000 pedestrians ended up in emergency rooms.
2) Make this area of the North End a place to want to live and enjoy rather than simply a place to drive through.

3) Give greater real and perceived safety for pedestrians where on street (curb) parking is now allowed by creating a wall of steel.

On-street parking increases positive "friction" along a street and can narrow the effective crossing width, both of which encourage slower speeds. Parking can also provide a buffer between moving motor vehicle traffic and pedestrians along a sidewalk.

Also, curb parking works well with the urban design of the environment and reduces the need for blightful surface level parking lots, thus, it should be maximized when possible.

21st Street should have never been designed with two lanes each direction which enticed drivers to speed and made roadway unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Automobile Lobbyist Response In Opposition:

Predictably, Washington DC based Automobile Users Trade Organization (AUTO) lobbyist Veronica Moss, with a very narrow car centric interest, has objected to Tacoma's traffic calming measure, exclaiming in this video:

"What about the cars?  There are not enough roads for cars."

"Bikers are a pimple on the butt of any city. Bikers think that they own they own the road.  They dodge in front and I feel unsafe."

See also the discussion re 21st Street on Feed Tacoma:

comments [87]  |  posted under Tacoma


by Erik on 8/12/2009 @ 12:24am
For more information on traffic calming measures, see



Traffic Calming Library:


Traffic Calming Articles in Planetizen:


by L.S.Erhardt on 8/12/2009 @ 12:41am
owwww..... my head hurts

by Erik on 8/12/2009 @ 1:01am
The Tribune weighs in today on the issue:

Chances are, many of the critics use the North 21st arterial to quickly get from one end of town to the other and resent “calming” strategies that add a little time to their commute. But those strategies are the very things the people who actually live in the neighborhood tend to like because they slow down traffic and make it safer to walk or bicycle.

Building bike lanes, curb extensions, medians, sidewalks or wide paved shoulders are part of the “Complete Streets” program that Tacoma leaders have bought into, which means that more city roads will be reconfigured in coming years to enhance access to pedestrians, cyclists and transit users as well as motorists.


by morgan on 8/12/2009 @ 6:12am
So true! Tacoma is taking a step towards designing neighborhoods for people, not cars.

ps- I love those 2 line title headers!

by tacoma1 on 8/12/2009 @ 7:31am
I can't get enough of Veronica Moss!

My favorite quote is "if it's an adult, I don't even beep".

No wait, maybe it is "there's not enough roads for cars"

I've watched this video a few too many times, I have to admit.

by jenyum on 8/12/2009 @ 7:53am
LMAO, I love the video.

by Nick on 8/12/2009 @ 9:51am
Hahahaha, love it!

by Erik on 8/12/2009 @ 10:23am
Interesting. 97 comments on the Tribune article about the 21st street traffic calming efforts:


Are they connected to Automobile Users Trade Organization? Astro turf lobbying? Hard to tell.

by MarkMonlux on 8/12/2009 @ 11:10am
Somebody likes their seat warmer just a tiny bit too much.

by tacoma1 on 8/12/2009 @ 11:29am
Young and newer residents probably think that folks who live on N 21st street chose to live on a 4 lane highway, not so. This had always been a 2 lane road with street parking and plenty of room to ride a bike, until the City Transportation brain trust got involved. The recent lane changes just restore this road back to the original design. What's old is new but once again.

by NineInchNachos on 8/12/2009 @ 12:09pm
@tacoma1 high five!

by fredo on 8/12/2009 @ 12:42pm
People who don't like traffic in front of their homes should look for housing that's not located on an arterial street. Don't buy a house on N. 21st and then complain about it.

by tacoma1 on 8/12/2009 @ 5:27pm
I don't live on 21st, but I live close enough that I find myself as a pedestrian on it upon occasion. As someone who enjoys walking, having the car traffic speed by only 2 or 3 feet is unpleasant and unsafe. By moving the traffic a complete lane away and sticking parked cars inbetween the sidewalk and traffic is fantastic.

Look at it this way, by giving these fine homeowners back the 2 lane road that they already had 15 years ago when they bought their places, the city can raise their property taxes and get every penny that was spent on the project right back. Didn't cost you a dime. Heck, the city might even make money on the deal.

BTW, are you related to Veronica Moss?

by Erik on 8/12/2009 @ 5:55pm
Through her disinformation efforts, Veronica has stirred up some anger at the Tribune article comment thread and encouraged people to utilize her talking points:

There is no reason for N 21st to be a "complete street." It was more complete before, when the people who pay for the roads got to use the road.

There you have it. The essence of Veronica's argument: streets are solely for the use of automobiles.


by tacoma1 on 8/12/2009 @ 6:08pm
I find Veronica strangely evil and attractive all at the same time. Is that wrong?

People over at the TNT blogs aren't nearly as smart as us.

by Erik on 8/12/2009 @ 6:18pm
I find Veronica strangely evil and attractive all at the same time. Is that wrong?

Can't say. However, I believe she is dating Nick Naylor of the Academy of Tobacco Studies right now.


by tacoma1 on 8/12/2009 @ 6:22pm
Nick and Veronica, darn it. I should've seen that one coming. Oh well, they do make a perfect couple.

by fredo on 8/12/2009 @ 7:32pm

Just when the homeowners on 21st St. begin enjoying their newly reclaimed residential 2 lane street you come along and spoil things by announcing that it's all going to be paid for by raising their property taxes. ha ha ha ha ha ha

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/13/2009 @ 12:58am
Wait... that video was for real? I thought it was a joke.

Maybe some people don't have souls.

by Joel 413 on 8/13/2009 @ 3:05pm
@tacoma1 - You don't like walking with cars whizzing past 2 to 3 feet away from you when you are walking on a sidewalk with a raised curb next to you. Do you feel safe driving on a road, where two 2000 pound hunks of metal hurl at each other with nothing but two stripes of paint keeping them apart?

by tacoma1 on 8/13/2009 @ 3:46pm
When I drive my car, I have a seat and shoulder belt, 6 air bags, and a car that actually weighs 4,000 pounds between me and the other car. So yes I feel more safe driving next to a moving car than walking next to a moving car.

That being said, I have been hit by a car as a pedestrian. It isn't a fair fight. Not sure what your point is though.

by Heatherrebel on 8/13/2009 @ 8:49pm
Hmmmm...I wonder if she lets Nick Naylor in her back seat....

by tacoma1 on 8/15/2009 @ 10:19am
This just happened up in Gotham, but still is important to take note of why traffic calming is important.

The incident was the second pedestrian-vehicle collision in Seattle this week


by Erik on 8/15/2009 @ 12:04pm
Here's a recent letter to the editor in the Tribune today which states it well and gives some historical perspective on 21st Street:

So, drivers are irked that traffic on North 21st is being calmed? (TNT, 8-10).

North 21st used to be only two lanes through our once quiet neighborhood. Some time ago it was changed to four lanes from Alder to Proctor, causing higher speeds, loud road noise, cars passing, more accidents and great difficulty for pedestrians to cross the four lanes. Owners could not park in front of their own homes. It became a dangerous nuisance.

The City of Tacoma is now solving this problem on North 21st, and we are very grateful.


Hmmmm...I wonder if she lets Nick Naylor in her back seat....

Yes, as we have seen before, that is a possibility:


by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 9:23am
It's time to start making bicyclists help pay for all of these improvements that benefit them.

by fredo on 8/16/2009 @ 9:38am
RE: bicyclists use of the roads.

One thing that irritates me is the way cyclists use both the sidewalks (when being a "pedestrian" favors them) then using the streets (when being a "vehicle" favors them). The expensive curb cuts intended for disabled people are really being appropriated by cyclists to accommodate this habit. One minute they're on the sidewalk, the next minute they're swerving right in front of your car.

Complete streets is creating a functional "no man's land." As they say...the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 9:54am
Agreed, Fredo, agreed. Bicyclists, by and large, as a group, are the one of the biggest hazards on our roads.

I feel that part of the solution is to introduce some accountability. Make them get (and pay for) licenses. Make them put identifying marks (read: license plates) on their vehicles. Then introduce them to the traffic enforcement authorities (read: police, aka tax collectors) as a new source of revenue.

Honestly, I'm surprised that the greedier government officials (Mike Lonergan, for example) hasn't thought of this already.

It's only fair. Bicyclists insist on having equal rights to use the roads, so let them pay taxes and traffic fines equal to what's paid by other users.

by jenyum on 8/16/2009 @ 11:12am

just, no.

But to be pretend serious about it for a minute...

1) Unlike cars, people start riding bikes at around age 4. Should 4 year olds have to get a bicycle license? Should children just not learn to ride bikes anymore?

2) The typical bike costs a very small fraction of the typical automobile

3) The typical bike weighs exponentially less than the typical car, which is capable of killing someone at any moment, given even a split second of inattention. This is the primary reason why cars have to be licensed and insured.

4) Americans are literally killing themselves through inactivity, children especially. Requiring licensing and fees for bicycles would further contribute to the shocking rate of childhood obesity in this country and serve as a deterrent to those who might otherwise explore a bicycle commute as a way to save gas money.

5) For the working poor who can't afford a car, (this includes a lot of teens and college students) bicycle licensing and fees might contribute to a greater strain on the public transportation system. If you are all about saving money I don't think you would be for that.

6) Similarly, requiring bicycle licensing and tax collection would create significant additional administrative costs, as well as policing costs. I cannot imagine the police would be eager to add pulling over cyclists and checking their paperwork to their list of duties.

I'm sure there are 2 or 300 other reasons why that's a really, really bad idea.

by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 11:29am
Nonsense, jenyum. All nonsense. Point-by-point, here we go...

1. 4-year-olds shouldn't be riding their bikes on the streets.

2. If cars cost less, should we allow drivers to go without licenses and tabs? But more to the point, the infrastructure to support bicycle use on roads isn't exactly free. Cyclists should pull their own weight.

3. The primary reason cars have to be licensed is to pay for infrastructure. See point #2.

4. Irrelevant to this discussion.

5. Huh? Sorry, this makes no sense at all. Too whacky for rebuttal.

6. The administrative systems are already in place, as are the traffic enforcement resources. What's lacking is accountability. For instance, a cyclist can't have his license revoked or suspended, because he doesn't need one. Making cyclists get licenses will improve their behavior and improve safety.

If you have 2 or even 300 more reasons, bring 'em on. I'm ready.

by jenyum on 8/16/2009 @ 11:42am
no...liability is an enormous factor in vehicle licensing, however the money collected gets used. And enforcement and administration are not ever free, as long as they are tasks performed by humans who must be paid.

I left environment completely out of the equation but there's no contest there.

You know, at some point you stop driving the car and it starts driving you.

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 11:44am
As I said over here:

Project as massive as this don't make me feel so bad for adding a bike lane or two around town. Pretty sure our taxes are proportionally going to where they're used most.

They ain't building that thing for bikes!

I'd like to agree to the proportionality idea for cyclists and maybe I would if someone could produce facts showing how much it costs to re-stripe a road for a mile of bike lanes versus building a mile of road/freeway like the above. I'm guessing it's at least a hundred fold difference, if not more. Likewise to the amount of wear and tear a bike produces on the road versus an often studded tire vehicle.

It's very true that some cyclists are bad seeds and that's not something I can get behind. Some drivers are too. Cyclists can and have been pulled over so really nothing much is required of the system than to possibly educate the police more so those bad eggs can be punished. But for guys like me just peacefully saving some gas and getting some exercise commuting here and there to work, don't make me come up with more reasons not to do it 'cause, chances are, I will. And that's bad for my health, the environment, road maintenance, etc.

by tacoma1 on 8/16/2009 @ 11:48am
Cyclist's are actually paying too much. Not saying they deserve a refund, but all drivers should thank them for making extra room on the roadways.

For example, my neighbor owns 3 cars and 1 bicycle. I know for a fact that he bought all 3 cars in Tacoma, so the sale tax dollars all stayed within the city.

When it is rainy out, he drives one of his 3 cars to work. It's his right to do so, he paid plenty of sales tax, and owns a home, and therefore pays his fair share of property taxes too. When the sun is shining, I see him passing me on his bike going to work, while I walk to light rail.

When my neighbor is riding his bike, he is using less of the road than when he is driving. When I am walking, I am using only the sidewalk, not the road at all. It seems odd that some people find it perfectly acceptable and unwasteful to use all of the road provided you are in a car, but when that same person chooses to use only a small portion of the road, then suddenly, that person is in the way, causing problems, costing their fellow tax payers money.

Sorry, but it is the people that only drive cars, don't use public transportation ever, don't walk, and don't cycle who should pay their fair share. You guys are the road hogs, not the cyclist. Your actions require us to build more roads, not less, you create more congestion, not less, and you cause more air and noise pollution, not less.

As to who is the biggest hazard here? Drivers or cyclists? I certainly think that all cyclists should obey the traffic laws, which is why I am not a fan of Critical Mass. With that being said, how many drivers in Tacoma always drive within the speed limit, never run red lights, always come to a complete stop at every stop sign, and never text or talk on the phone while driving? To those drivers.......no to that one Tacoma driver, I thank you.

As anyone ever been killed by being struck by a cyclist? Maybe it's happened, but highly unlikely. The reverse is not so true with car drivers.

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 11:52am
Plus, I think that Veronica Moss video above was a complete joke. Literally. There's no chance that actress was serious in that role. It even seemed from the comments like someone thought she was here in Tacoma? Not in that video. Sorry, if folks were being sarcastic it was lost on me hence my above vote of clarification.

by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 11:54am
Kevin, consider for a moment how it's been working up to now. They build a mile of road, at whatever cost, and make car owners pay for 100% it. Then they take 25% of that road away, and give it bicycles, at zero cost to bicycle users. Then the bicycle owners tell us it's for our own good, because it "reduces traffic congestion". Pleeeze.

So, the idea that the cost of bicycle infrastructure is limited to paint stripes isn't really true at all.

@jenyum... we had driver licenses in this state for upwards of 60 years before anybody even thought of making insurance mandatory. So, if driver licensing is really all about liability, I'd really like to know what the rationale behind licensing was prior to that.

I didn't say the admin for bicycle licensing would be free, I just said the systems are in place already, and by that I mean that the incremental cost would be trivial because there would be no need for new bureaucracy. Besides, any costs would be born by the cyclists, which is as it should be.

It sure sounds to me like the bicycle advocates know they are getting something for nothing, and they seem to get pretty pissy about it when somebody suggests they pay their own way. Go figure.

by tacoma1 on 8/16/2009 @ 11:57am
The streetfilms folks are extremely creative, fantastic advocates of cycling, good street design, and public transit. The video is a complete parody. Anyone that didn't get the joke is most likely part of the problem.

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 2:36pm
@tacoma1 -- thanks. I was certainly hoping it was a parody. Relief!

@panachronic -- I'm reducing traffic congestion by riding to and from work. Anyone biking instead of taking a car is doing the same. Reducing congestion. Especially since most of the roads we bike on have no bike lanes so that massive "25%" number you used doesn't apply at all. In no way would I imagine that every road in the city and county be so drastically constricted by bikes lanes. I think the folks that are indeed taking cars and wear and tear off the road by biking just want a reasonable network of bike paths around any city so they can safely do so just as any neighborhood, even though it may take up some of your precious front lawn, might want sidewalks.

Oh, and I'm totally with tacoma1 on the tax/fair share issue. I have a car, pay taxes, licensing, and insurance on it and my Vespa whether I drive it or not. Because I choose to bike once in a while I'm paying far more than my fair share.

by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 8:30pm
Really Kevin, you're not reducing congestion at all. You're still out there, taking up space, just like the cars. Hopefully, the cars are looking out for you, by slowing down and giving you room... but if they're doing that, then you are actually causing much more congestion than you are mitigating.

The only way I see to actually reduce congestion is to use transit, walk, or stay home.

And if you reason that you are paying more than your fair share because you pay taxes on vehicles even though you sometimes use your bike instead, then it follows that the rest of us -- non-cyclists, that is -- are also paying more than our share, because we are helping to pay for bicycle-centered resources that we never use.

There is no getting around the facts that infrastructure is being installed purely to benefit cyclists, the cost of those resources is greater than zero, but the amount paid by bicycle users IS zero. And the only fair way to remedy that is to charge cyclists for the infrastructure that they demand and use.

by KevinFreitas on 8/16/2009 @ 8:49pm
I understand where your coming from, pana, but it doesn't seem you're willing to accept many people pay for services, infrastructure, etc they don't use. I'm OK with paying a little into such things especially if they help the greater good. But arguing symantics over something like bikers with a few lanes created for them around town doesn't appear to sway you toward that "greater good" perspective. Less taxes. Not in my backyard. I get it.

Feel free to honk if you see me riding to and from work tomorrow, taking up less space, not polluting, causing less road wear and tear, etc. Oh, and my entire ride in has no bike lanes.

by Erik on 8/16/2009 @ 9:58pm
As it is right now, automobiles travel is subsidized in a big way. Nothing against cars, but people want to use them, they should pay for the pro-rata cost of doing so.

Right now, if someone wants to bike or walk to work, they still end up subsidizing automobile use through payroll and property taxes.

by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 10:14pm
That's not really true, Erik. It's not automobile use that is subsidized; it's road construction, which in turn is one of our economic engines.

Remember, road construction supports commerce, emergency services and utilities right-of-ways, among other things. Bicycle lanes do not augment any of those benefits.

by Erik on 8/16/2009 @ 10:39pm
That's not really true, Erik. It's not automobile use that is subsidized; it's road construction, which in turn is one of our economic engines.

Same thing. Here's where the market would have given us a better result.

Also see:

We have subsidized auto ownership extensively at the expense of its vastly more efficient competition, public transit. We have subsidized suburban sprawl at the expense of more efficient and convenient cities and small towns.


Not only subsidized, but the "greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."


by amym on 8/16/2009 @ 11:00pm
My 4 year old rode her bike today on a family bike ride around the side streets of North Tacoma and through the UPS campus. She rode about 3 miles. It is really good for kids to ride their bikes!!!

by panachronic on 8/16/2009 @ 11:03pm
Hate to break it to you, but Kunstler is a crank who is disconnected from reality and tends to be allergic to facts. I'm not arguing that transit isn't more efficient, mind you, just that James Kunstler isn't a good source of helpful ideas.

For instance, in the very post you link, Kunstler argues that short-haul airline routes could be more efficiently served by passenger railroads. But if that were really true, why hasn't it happened? Well, obviously, it's not because automobile travel is subsidized, is it? Railroads were the original subsidized mode of transportation in this country, but market forces (the airlines) have squeezed out passenger rail anyway, because people value the speed of air travel, which is something that rail cannot match.

Similarly, "the market" has given us what we have in the way of local surface transportation, because it is what people wanted. (I realize that's not necessarily what was best for us.)

Honestly, my whole purpose here is to expose bicyclists for the narcissistic freeloaders that they are. Not that it was tough to do, mind you. And not that the bicyclists themselves didn't give me a lot of help.

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/16/2009 @ 11:09pm
There are still a few areas 'round here where sidewalks don't exist yet. One that comes to mind is that street that runs parallel to Ruston Way, above the tracks.

I walked down that entire length of road more than once... so do I need a license for my feet? I mean, all 220 lbs of me is very, very gradually wearing away at the asphalt.

But that aside, the taxes for roads are supposedly staggered in licensing and in fuel (higher taxes on diesel) so that heavier vehicles, which wear the road more, pay more proportionally. And since bikes directly* require no petroleum fuels to operate and since they weigh about 50 lbs+ rider, I'd say it's a fair set-up we have now.
...besides, keep biking and there will be less of you to wear the street.

*given how much of our modern world depends on petroleum, it's impossible to say anything today doesn't require oil at all.

by NineInchNachos on 8/16/2009 @ 11:15pm
My favorite quote from the 1984 film 'repoman' was this gem from the character called Miller: "The more you drive the less intelligent you are."


The best way to fix congestion is to run out of cheap gasoline. COMING SOON to a planet near you!

by NineInchNachos on 8/16/2009 @ 11:21pm
Railroads are coming back in a big way. Just ask the parts of the dome district about to be buried under the berm.

I rode my tandem bicycle with the whole family to get Chinese food today. We rode on streets, on the sidewalk all over. It felt awe-inspiring.

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/16/2009 @ 11:31pm
"The best way to fix congestion is to run out of cheap gasoline. COMING SOON to a planet near you!"

That is truer than we all think, I'm afraid.

by Erik on 8/16/2009 @ 11:39pm
For those interested in Veronica Moss and urbanism, she makes another appearance in:

The Search for the Zozo

In the early part of the 1900s, Zozos - large, furry, innocent, purple creatures - once freely roamed New York City's streets, and were seen frequently mingling among its denizens and enjoying the public realm. But with the advent of the automobile their numbers slowly dwindled, until the 1930s when sightings became rare and they were thought to go extinct.

From Streetfilms investigation:


Another casualty of the automobile dominance.

Does anyone know if there is any record of Tacoma ever having Zozos roaming Tacoma's streets in the early 1900s?

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 6:24am
Are bicyclists freeloaders?

It sounds sort of unkind, but in fact, I think they are. My family uses motor vehicles as well as bicycles for transportation. When we use the motor vehicles we pay a proportional share of the road maintenance. When we use the bicycles we use the roadways for free. If there were no motor vehicles and only thousands of bicyclists how would we maintain the road? Finally, each bicycle does cause wear and tear to the roadway, it's all proportional. Should they pay as much as a car owner? Probably not. Should they pay something? Morally, yes.

by KevinFreitas on 8/17/2009 @ 6:56am
...Kunstler is a crank who is disconnected from reality...

Hey, finally we agree on something pana!

...my whole purpose here is to expose bicyclists for the narcissistic freeloaders that they are...

Oop, nevermind. Back to reality. If I were a cyclist that didn't own and pay everything associated with a car I might be more of a freeloader. But I'm not. So I pay plenty. Let's have some fun with licensing fees now too, shall we?

It's costs me $76 a year to renew my car tabs. That 2002 Subaru Impreza TS Sport Wagon weighs about 3000 lbs according to a couple website. I'd include my weight but that'll be constant for both examples we'll be using here. My bike weighs a mere, say, 20 lbs, and that's a guess but likely a high one. So, if the concern is my wear and tear on our God-given right of ways, then I should be paying about $.51 (rounding up) of licensing per year for my bike.

Oh and, to take it one step further for how proportionally I might pay for my bike usage on those roads meant only for cars, in a good week I ride to work twice out of 7 days. That brings me down to $.15! So, who do I pay?

Really, we ought to put transponders in the shoes of every pedestrian so we can charge for their sidewalk impact and the electricity it costs to change the "DON'T WALK" sign to "WALK".

by jenyum on 8/17/2009 @ 7:37am
Kevin, I think you really have an excellent idea there. However, I would take that a step further as your suggestion would not adequately record the impact of the very young who don't yet walk, and the disabled.

If we really want to crack down on freeloading, we need to microchip children as newborns, and track their movements.

Of course, children can't pay for roads. (That would just be silly) So their contribution will be deferred until they reach the age of majority, at which time they may either pay their bill, or if their family is not able to pay, work it off for a few years. Naturally, we would not want this to become a big government program, so we would allow for privatization. Privately held corporations could then buy and sell these contracts on the free market. (It's a stimulus program, too!)

It's all so simple, I really do not know why no elected official has thought of this before.

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 7:50am
Interesting post KF-

Pedestrians don't use the roadway, they use the sidewalks which are provided (in theory) by the abutting property owners. The walk/don't walk signs are only required because of the existence of vehicular traffic. If there were no vehicular traffic there would be no need for such signs. OTOH bicyclists receive an enormous utility gratis the car driving community. As we all know, the costs of keeping the streets paved are not funded entirely through licensing fees but through gasoline taxes and no one who is driving a car is shouldering a tax burden of only $76 per year. It's much higher than this.

If we agree that bicyclists should pay something (in Kevin's hypothetical it works out to $.15) then the only question is how much? Let's look at how health care is provided. Family one pays $10K a year for a policy, but never needs treatment. Family two pays $10K but is at the doctor's office routinely and uses $50K worth of treatments a year. Should family one get a discounted policy, or as in the case of the bicyclists who don't wear out the road, should they get the service for free?

by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 9:28am
Not that I agree with you, but since it is your idea...........exactly how would you determine which cyclists pay, who would they pay, and when?

by wildcelticrose on 8/17/2009 @ 10:34am
adding on to the health care direction this thread has taken.

Bicyclist A rides to work and/or rides for health and fitness and thereby does not drain the medical system.

Driver B can't be bothered to walk, bike or take public transit because it requires effort; and instead spends their time in the car on on the couch in front of the television as is draining the medical system with treatment for obesity, heart disease, type two diabetes and high blood pressure.

Using the numbers of $50K for one family and $10K for another family, that's a heck of a lot more than car/bike tabs.

So now who's the "freeloader"?

Gee, don't like being pegged as a "fat lazy unhealthy driver" because it's a gross generalization and negative stereotype?

That's sort of like pegging all cyclists as "free loaders"

Most cyclists I know pay plenty of money in vehicle registration, property tax, gas tax, sales tax, etc...

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 11:07am
Tacoma1@ How about a license tab affixed to every bicycle with an annual renewal cost of say $20.00? Or are cyclists so inherently virtuous that the streets should just be provided for them?

Celticrose@ You didn't follow my analogy. But to respond to your posting I would say that the bicyclists are not providing health care to the out-of-shape drivers. Out-of-shape drivers OTOH are providing free roadways for bicyclists. As I said the word freeloader sounds sort of unkind but it is an accurate description of bicyclists who don't also own motor transportation.

by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 11:48am
@ fredo
So do we do a house by house search for all bicycles in the city?
And what about mountain bikes?

btw, how many adults do you think there are that own a bike, not a car?

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 12:24pm
I would use the honor system. Those cyclists who believe (correctly) that they are receiving a benefit would happy to participate. If mountain bikes are legal on the city streets they should be included.

How many adults own a bike but not a car? I would suggest that it's quite a few. Probably thousands. But it's irrelevant to this discussion. People who own both cars and bikes still have a moral obligation to help pay for the wear and tear occasioned by bicycles.

People who won't pay even when given a reasonable opportunity to do so are freeloaders.

by Erik on 8/17/2009 @ 12:37pm
Bicyclist A rides to work and/or rides for health and fitness and thereby does not drain the medical system.

Good point. People making the choice to ride their bike saves taxpayers huge amounts of money by not degrading the roads and requiring ultra expensive road upgrades and maintenance.

In fact, it probably makes economic and taxpayer sense to pay people to bike and not buy a car.

We want to encourage people to take actions which saves taxpayer money.

by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 12:53pm
Good point Erik.

Plus I think it is a reasonble function of government to subsidize non polluting activities, and tax activities that cause pollution through the nose.

by wildcelticrose on 8/17/2009 @ 3:14pm
@Fredo Bicyclists don't pay for health car for drivers?

Anyone who pays taxes and/or into an insurance plan pays for healthcare for those who drain the system.

Or are you insinuating that freeloading cyclists don't have jobs, insurance or pay taxes?

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 6:54pm
"bicyclist A...rides for health and fitness and thereby does not drain the medical system" Celtic Rose could you provide a link which supports this position? Is there any evidence that bicyclists are a lesser drain on the medical system than people who drive cars? When a car driver is in an accident an air bag goes off and he goes home with a headache. When a bicyclist is in an accident he spends a few days in intensive care.

Regarding my statement that bicyclists don't pay for the health care for drivers, I should have said that bicyclists pay no more for the health care of drivers than drivers do for the health care of bicyclists. OTOH, drivers pay all the costs associated with road building which benefits bicyclists while bicyclists don't provide any funds to pay for the roads that driver's use. Does that sound fair?

Why won't bicyclists pay their fair share?

by panachronic on 8/17/2009 @ 7:12pm
If the cyclists are taking this discussion into the realm of health care costs, that pretty much acknowledges that they have lost this debate.

Similarly so with the matter of "wear and tear" on the roads. That was never the substance of my point to begin with.

What I'm saying is that pavement is being taken away -- in the form of bicycle lanes -- from the motorists who paid for it, and being dedicated to the use of cyclists who did not pay for it. There's a word for that: "theft".

by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 7:20pm
@ Fredo

Regardless of your opinion and your inability to understand the benefit of low impact, non polluting transportion alternatives - Washington law apparently gives cyclists the legal right to ride on the street.

RCW 46.61.755

(1) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this chapter

by panachronic on 8/17/2009 @ 7:23pm
"...shall be subject to all of the duties..."

Right. Like I was saying, make 'em get licenses and buy tabs.

by tacoma1 on 8/17/2009 @ 7:26pm
what about mtn bikes not used on the road?

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/17/2009 @ 8:00pm
This is one of the most absurd discussions I've seen on FT.

In reality, most bike owners over the age of 18 also own a car. So the "not paying fair share" is a poor argument.

But if we're going to go with that logic, we can't stop there:

You know, ol' Thorax lives in an apartment and pays 1/16th his share of property taxes. So next time he needs the paramedics or the fire department, we'll slap him with a huge fee so he pays his share.

You know, panachronic drives a Prius., so they're burning 2/3 less gas than other cars! We need to up the license and tabs on hybrids significantly so these thieves are paying their fair share.
...and god help you if you get a Volt.

You know, Fredo spent $2000 less at retail last year than his neighbors. We need to give him a "services fee" so he pays his fair share of the sales tax.

You know, RR Anderson hasn't gotten a single ticket in his life. He's certainly not supporting the police who protect him and his children. We need to slap him with an annual cop tax, so he pays his fair share.

You know, tacoma1 built a graywater system and rarely needs to use the city water supply. Better administer a non-usage fee so they pay their fair share.


You see what I mean about how absurd this is? In any kind of system there will always be some "taking it for the team" and "for the greater good". There will be some who get more than what they pay for and some that will pay for more than they get.

If you think it's unfair to not pay licensing fees on your bike, then please send a check to the City general fund. Put your $ where your mouth is.

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 8:03pm
"...law gives cyclists the right to ride on the street."

As Charles Dickens once wrote " the law is an ass."

My postings are meant to stimulate a discussion on a moral issue. Should one group of commuters be required to furnish maintained roadways for a second group of commuters? Let's not hide behind a code book.

Ironically, Tacoma1, you provided an argument in favor of taxing bicyclists. You referred to bicycles not as no impact, but as "low" impact. If they cause an impact as you claim they do then their should be a cost associated.

by panachronic on 8/17/2009 @ 8:20pm
He helped my argument, as well, Fredo. Especially the part about cyclists being narcissistic.

by KevinFreitas on 8/17/2009 @ 8:33pm
I gladly approve of whatever fees come from my various vehicles going toward bicycle lanes around town. Other folks don't have to echo the same encouragement to anyone listening the might have some kind of say as to where those dollars go but at least not everyone complains when funds coming in through one channel don't necessarily go back out through the same one.

by NineInchNachos on 8/17/2009 @ 8:37pm
Hey what about tobacco smoking taxes? Not everybody smokes but the taxes collected from them go to benefit everyone. Are the people who don't smoke who benefit from smoking funded taxes considered freeloaders in your demented eye-for-an-eye thought experiment?

Soooooooo many people DO NOT ride any kind of bicycle and sooooo many idiots drive that the ratio is almost ZERO. A little like the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy argument that the population of the universe is ZERO if you put infinity in a ratio to the finite.

100+- bike riders
1000000000000000000000000000000+ combustion engine drivers

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/17/2009 @ 8:46pm
So then, why are some of us arguing to tax something that improves health, does not pollute, saves the precious, precious oil and actually takes cars off the road (thus reducing gridlock and wear)?

And on a similar note: since sidewalks are paid for by property owners, do I have to license my bike if I only use sidewalks and parks? Do I need to buy a license from my neighbors for walking/biking in front of their houses?

by NineInchNachos on 8/17/2009 @ 8:51pm
I'll sell you a license to walk/bike in front of the HFW compound Thorax

by NineInchNachos on 8/17/2009 @ 8:55pm
I would like to sponsor a voter initiative to re-brand automobile enthusiasts as global ecological suicide-terrorists.

by fredo on 8/17/2009 @ 8:59pm

People who don't smoke don't expect to get a benefit from the taxpaying smokers as far as I can tell. What is this benefit that non smokers get anyway?

In contrast, bicyclists (many of whom pay nothing toward the streets) expect a huge benefit to be provided, namely an enormous network of smooth bike lanes.

Here's a hypothetical to consider.

The year is 2030 and the last automobile has just been smashed under the cash for clunkers program. Now we have only bicycles. Who should pay for the roads then?

Here's an observation I've made about this discussion. People who routinely use feedtacoma to champion the cause of socialism turn their backs on socialism when it means it might cost them a few bucks. A true socialist would embrace the opportunity to expand the socialization of street costs.

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/17/2009 @ 9:05pm
A true socialist would be happy to assign over 100% of their pay and let Uncle Sam make 100% of their decisions, provide all food and healthcare, paint their house and wash the dog. Why do anything yourself, right?

by Erik on 8/17/2009 @ 9:12pm
This is one of the most absurd discussions I've seen on FT.

I don't think they are serious Thorax about bikes being significantly subsidized given the incalculable auto subsidy in the US . I think they are just trying out the Veronica Moss type persona for good measure given her popularity.

by NineInchNachos on 8/17/2009 @ 9:23pm
Ah ha! trick hypothetical question!
Cash for Clunkers will run out of money long before that.. corporations will eliminate the middle man (the consumer) and expenses (namely product manufacturing) and instead gain nourishment directly from the host organism (the government) like an honest to god parasite. The Obamatron 9000 will achieve self-awareness and come to the realization that to save America you'll need to destroy humanity... legions of robot death panelists will roam the earth cleaning out strongholds of humans wherever they are to be found.

Only, they didn't expect to come up against a rag-tag group of human resistance fighters lead by a mysterious special-needs man TRIG PALIN. Oh the robots will try to send a unit back through time to TERMINATE Trig before he was ever born...

what am i doing. I should be drawing tomorrows tacomic.

by L.S.Erhardt on 8/17/2009 @ 9:38pm
Seems fair, Eric. I'd rather not waste my poor typing skillz0rs on this, so I will exit this conversation in a manner that is both epic and trite:


by Erik on 8/18/2009 @ 12:09am
Hey wait a minute.

Maybe Fredo is right and the bikers are the problem:

from the Vancouver Sun

A Critical Mess? Yes it is

If we lock up all those responsible for current traffic problems, the traffic jams would be gone

The Vancouver Sun editorial criticizing the Critical Mass bicycle ride did not go nearly far enough.
Imagine how many fewer traffic jams there would be if all these people were put behind bars. If they were locked away before the next Critical Mass, my bet is that even 10,000 bike riders in the downtown core would barely be noticed. But if they still cause a traffic jam and disrupt the peace, I say arrest them too and throw them in jail.


by fredo on 8/18/2009 @ 7:53am

Well I don't think I ever said bikers are a problem. But I do think some bikers have an entitlement attitude that reflects poorly upon all bicycle enthusiasts.

As I mentioned in a previous posting my family all owns and rides bicycles. If the city declares that bicyclists will pay a licensing fee to help defray the cost of street maintenance I'll send in the money. This would be a small example of community building in action.

by tacoma1 on 8/18/2009 @ 8:34am
@fredo and panachronic,
So we all agree that cyclist deserve their fair share of the road.

As to how much to pay...............hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I think that a carbon emissions tax on all vehicles would be the best way to pay for roads. The most polluting vehicles pay an obscenely high stupid rate, the vehicles that produce a modest amount of pollution pay a modest amount, and of course, the vehicles that produce zero emissions pay zero.

by fredo on 8/18/2009 @ 8:49am
your carbon emissions tax will provide the roadways that bicyclists want ...in the short term. What happens when there is no more oil and no more automobiles?

As a footnote to your proposal I think we should note that the production and distribution of bicycles contributes carbon emissions. There is petroleum used in every step of the process. What vehicles produce zero emissions?

by tacoma1 on 8/18/2009 @ 9:06am
Of course. The tax has to be cradle to grave on all products. So when you buy a product you pay a tax on the carbon expelled to get the product to point of sale.

If in day to day usage, carbon is expelled, you pay carbon taxes on the fuel.

If you recycle the product at the end of it's useful life, you get a rebate for doing so. The fee to recycle the product is paid upfront when you buy it.

Eventually, the roadways will slowly fill with EV's and non polluting vehicles. As that happens, ICE vehicles will have to shoulder more and more of the expense of the road. This will speed up the conversion away from fossil fuels. Finally, when all vehicles are using clean energy, vehicle miles travelled, or toll roads will have to come into play, as the ultimate end user of the roads will ultimately have to pay.

This will, of course, take decades to come to fruition, even in my utopian mind.

by fredo on 8/18/2009 @ 9:16am
Is there any person in the 'free roads for bicyclists' camp who will answer the following question?

Who will provide road construction and maintenance when there are no more automobiles?

by tacoma1 on 8/18/2009 @ 9:27am
Fredo, I said it above. Eventually we have to go to vehicle miles travelled, or tolls when all the carbon spewing ICE vehicles are gone. Cars aren't going away, but they will be powered by carbon neutral or carbon free fuels. But this will take decades at the rate we are going.

by amyk on 8/31/2009 @ 5:48pm
This is what is real bike infrastructure--would be so great around here....


by KevinFreitas on 9/1/2009 @ 7:02am
@amyk: Wow, how cool is that?! Seems like a really helpful design for all involved. And for only $80K? That's a total steal when it comes to the usual costs of public transportation projects. That kind of $$ would probably get you about an hour's worth of work on that monstrous Nalley Valley viaduct or Sounder berm.