This is making the rounds on various California mailing lists this morning: Ron Wengler of the Northridge West Neighborhood Council wants the city of Los Angeles to “reinstitute bicycle licensing fees” of “at least $150 per year to reflect their shared responsibility for the cost of maintaining the roads and their safe use.”
Update: The proposal was tabled at Tuesday night’s neighborhood committee meeting.
If I on my bike cost the state of California $150 per year in road safety and maintenance, the public burden imposed by Wengler’s automotive use is more astronomical than even the most outlandish estimates I’ve seen.
The proposed 2011-2012 California Highway Patrol budget for “traffic management” is $1.7 billion per year. Statewide, the CHP responds to about 1,000 bicycle crash calls annually. That’s the same number of car and truck incidents the CHP responds to every single day in Los Angeles County alone. If a cyclist’s ‘fair share’ is $150 per year for those 1,000 incidents, the motorist’s fair share is ($150 per incident) x (365 days per year) = over $54 thousand annually for each driver. That *only* for public safety, Mr Ron Wengler, and that’s comparing the statewide bicycle safety burden with LA County’s automotive safety.
For road maintenance, the standard used by traffic engineers to calculate road damage is the fourth power rule. The relative damage done is calculated by engineers with vehicle speed times axle weight to the fourth power.
To keep things simple, assume a bicycle rider plus bike with weight 200 pounds traveling 20 MPH. A 4000 pound automobile travels three times the speed and weighs 20 times as much. 20^4 = 160,000, multiply by 3 = 480,000. 480,000 x $150 = $72 million dollars per vehicle. That is, if Mr Ron Wengler is truly interested in everybody paying their fair share. All of a sudden, that $150 bicycle registration fee sounds like a great deal. Perhaps Wenger is really a commie in disguise who’d like to get everybody out of their cars and transform Los Angeles into a working man’s bicycle paradise.
Ron Wengler’s Fiscal Road Rage
Of course Wengler is not interested in fairness or equity. It seems to be a punitive measure to get the bikes out of the way. I’ll presume maybe Ron Wengler was momentarily delayed by bicyclists on the road in front of him? Wengler obviously didn’t think his ludicrous proposal through: removing bicycles means adding more cars to the road, and those cars take up about eight times the space of each bicycle. More cars means more delay for Ron Wengler as he waits at red lights and stop signs for passing traffic. Each additional car burns gasoline, which means higher gas prices for Ron Wengler. Each additional car results more wear and tear on his local streets, which means higher property taxes for Ron Wengler. Each additional car results in that much more burden on the California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles County Sheriff, and city of Los Angeles police departments, which, again, results in higher taxes (or reduced state services) for Ron Wengler.
Had Ron Wengler bothered to do any research, he’d also realize his proposal is prohibited by state law. California Vehicle Code 39004 says local agencies may collect bicycle licensing fees but “the sum shall not exceed four dollars ($4) per year.”
It doesn’t appear Ron Wengler (aka “Paul Bunion”) is on the Northridge West Neighborhood Council, but if you’d like to give the board members your considered opinions on this proposed fee their contact emails are listed here. The neighborhood council discusses this at their meeting tonight. Meeting agenda [PDF] is here.
Biking In LA makes a counter proposal for Northridge: a $150 rebate for everyone who agrees to ride a bike instead of contributing to L.A.’s massive gridlock.
Update: Thank you to Zero_Gee in the comments below for checking my math on the relative public safety costs of bikes vs cars.