We all use roads that our government builds, that is apparent. What is less apparent, though, is how these roads are paid for, and by whom. It seems, at least to us, that the most common knowledge of road funding is rather misunderstood.
Anyone who legally drives a car may be familiar with the so-called "user fees" associated with driving. Registration fees for getting tabs annually renewed, taxes on gasoline, tickets, tolls, and title fees represent this category. The money generated by these fees helps to pay for federal and state highways. However, this is not the entire story. The user fees do not cover the entire cost of building our highways. The story gets more interesting when you consider the municipal roads that cyclists spend most of their time on. When looking at the breakdown of where funding comes from, it becomes readily apparent that the roads we all rely on so much are part of a heavily subsidized system.
Here is how roads are actually paid for:
Federal Highways like I-90, US-2, and I-5 are funded by 74% User Fees and 26% General Fund (Sales, Property, Income Taxes)
State Highways are funded by 60% User Fees and 40% General Fund
Local roadways like town and country streets are funded by 8% User fees and 92% General Fund
Cyclists pay into the same general tax fund that everybody else pays (Sales, Property, Income Taxes). This general fund subsidizes the roads motorists drive on. For motorists to fully bear the costs of actually building and maintaining roads, we would need to increase user fees several times over. The subsidization of roads by our general funds is not something often considered by motorists who demand more from cyclists.
Aside from their payments into the general tax fund, cyclists subsidize motorized travel in other ways. Whenever a cyclist chooses to ride their bike instead of drive their motorized vehicle, they are actually saving the state money on a per-use basis. Once constructed, roads cost quite a bit of money to maintain, roughly 29.2 cents per mile of motorized travel. Cyclists only add roughly 0.9 cents per mile to the cost of maintaining roads. Given their contribution to building and maintaining said roads, it becomes apparent that they truly do pay their fair share.
If you would like to know more about this information or read our sources, consider further reading: