Bill Arballo’s Jan. 15 column (Eye on the Coast) led with tongue-in-cheek commentary on bicyclist fees for roadway funding. Unfortunately, it was also a thinly veiled invective. Bicyclists, according to Bill, generally hold traffic laws in contempt. They “enjoy benefits” from public roads “not available to car operators,” since they are able to run stop signs and turn without signaling. Bicyclists evidently do not pay federal, state or local taxes, Bill implies, since they are not licensed by the DMV. Where does the money for road construction and maintenance come from anyway? Don’t ask Bill. He clearly has no idea.
Here are the facts. Bicyclists have a legal right to operate their means of conveyance on public roads equal to those who operate automobiles or motorcycles. They are likewise subject to traffic laws. Fines for running stop signs apply to bicyclists, and they can be hefty. With revenues down in many jurisdictions, enforcement of traffic laws for bicyclists has increased in frequency. Fees associated with licensure are unlikely to offset the additional administrative costs. Tying up law enforcement with “random” checks of bike licenses is a poor use of limited public resources.
Here are some more facts: Bicyclists contribute significantly to the local economy. San Diego County has the highest concentration of bike shops I have ever seen. Some of the bikes one sees on the weekends cost more than many older cars on the roadways. Bicycling is excellent exercise and contributes to health outcomes over the life cycle. This benefits everyone, in the form of reduced pressure on our healthcare system, reduced premiums, and improved quality of life for all involved.
While it is true that many bicyclists do not live up to their obligations as users of the roadways, I would urge everyone to consider the following: coming to a full stop on a bike can be likened to having to get out of your car every time you stop at a stop sign or red light. While this does not excuse unlawful behavior, perhaps nonbicyclists can empathize a little. Factor in the fact that many of the colorfully clad athletes one sees on the weekend have been riding for hours when they carefully roll through a stop sign.
Bicycling is also not all recreational. Many bicyclists commute to work, reducing the number of cars on the roads and lowering their carbon footprint. Finally, after all this seriousness, it is important to note that riding a bike is fun. Unfortunately for Bill and the governor, taxing bicycling is about as feasible as taxing fun itself.
Hugh D. Lester is a resident of Vista.