Ron Wengler’s $150 bicycle fee

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.

More cars = More good!

Let’s punish people on bikes! But these people still must get to work, to the store, their recreation, and in Los Angeles that means they’re going to drive. More cars on the road means these things that will directly impact Ron and Marlene Wengler!

  • More traffic, longer waits and red lights and stop signs, longer queues at freeway ramps, more gridlock, more congestion! That’s more time in the car for Ron Wengler, and less time doing things he enjoys.
  • Less parking at the the super mart, grocery store, hardware store, the lake, and the beach.
  • More street noise from extra traffic, which leads to more stress which in turn leads to a shorter, less pleasant life for everybody in the built environment.
  • More auto exhaust, more ozone, more air pollution, more asthma and COPD and related health problems.
  • More traffic collisions, higher insurance premiums, and a higher risk of personal involvement resulting in serious injury or death.
  • Higher costs for road maintenance and public safety, which means fewer dollars for other state services.
  • More gasoline and diesel fuel consumed, which in turn means higher prices at the pump for the Wengler family.

Be careful what you wish for, Ron Wengler, because you just might get it.

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.


  1. I’ve never heard of Ron Wengler before, but I’m going to take a wild guess that he’s one of those small-government, don’t-intrude-on-peoples’-lives kind of politicians. Am I right? -Ted

  2. While I can’t agree with a bicycle tax, isn’t the car equivalent value a little high?

    Shouldn’t the car equivalent be closer to $54,750, not $54 million. Assuming 365,000 car crash calls per year vs. 1,000 cycle crash calls. ($150 per vehicle, per thousand incidents × 365 days)

    Probably better to evaluate the cost per incident versus the number of vehicles or number of journeys, or number of passenger miles. This might show a higher equivalent cost for bicycles as they have a proportionally higher number of accidents per mile. (Though the health benefits are vastly better than driving)

  3. I’m glad somebody checked my arithmetic. You’re right — that $150 is per 1000 incidents for the bicycle, but I calculated it at $150 per incident for cars, which is incorrect, so I overshot it by three orders of magnitude. Oops!

  4.  As the son (yes that’s correct) of Ron Wengler, I will apologize for my father’s lack of education. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t speak to him as of not too long ago when he had nothing positive to say about my applying to UCSB, for which his only comment was: “my brother told me that it’s a hot bed for crime” Lots of drunken college students right?

    or lots of bike thefts perhaps since it has been credited for its bike culture. for which I’m really excited because my brother gave my his cruiser and I did get accepted yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    my father was practically forced to get married and have children at a young age per the heavy weighted fist of his mother who told him to do this so he could avoid the draft for vietnam. I’m a veteran by the way and served in Bosnia.

    I also rode a bike for almost an entire academic year along with taking the bus from newbury park to moorpark college. 

    please forgive him, we all know that he needs help. LOL please if there is anyone religious,PRAY FOR HIS SOUL.

    He did set up his house with solar power and plans on buying a new electric car which was all apart of his retirement plan so he could save money and enjoy vacations. he’s not a total idiot, but he does need help psychologically

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