I am encouraged by recent letters to the editor that advocate for motorists and bicyclists to be considerate of each other and share the road.
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When I first read Robert Tonkin's letter in Friday's Juneau Empire, however, I was disappointed in his view that bicyclist have few rights to the road because they do not pay the gas taxes that fund road construction. While it is easy for a bicyclist to scoff at such logic, I prefer to embrace it. Bicyclists should have their own lane, and they should pay for it.
Now, most bicyclists are probably wondering how a lifelong cyclist who uses a bicycle for transportation and recreation can advocate this system. It is easy once we look at a bigger picture beyond the simplistic example of gas taxes for road construction and maintenance.
There are many costs of motorized transportation, most paid without regard to how much actual driving we individually do. The easiest and largest to identify include:
1. Paying to operate and maintain the road system.
2. Stabilizing oil producing areas such as the Middle East.
3. Covering the staggering health costs associated with pollution from motorized transportation.
4. Funding the increasing environmental costs of greenhouse gases.
Arguably, a tax-paying bicyclist is subsidizing the motorists who are inconvenienced by their presence on the road.
If we tie these tremendous costs directly to how much we drive, the bicycling community will net sufficient cash to easily pay for bike lanes. And since a dedicated bike lane will have a long service life, we will be creating a network of bike lanes that our community will be proud to pass down to our children.
I hope Tonkin will support this fairer concept of "Bike Lanes for Juneau." I see it as a win-win. Motorists will pay more but will no longer have the hassle of sharing the road with cyclists. Bicyclists will pay for their own lanes, which will empower more of our friends, neighbors and children to ride safely on Juneau's streets. Everyone will gain an even greater cash incentive to drive less and ride more, which is better for the health of the individual, community and planet.
And best of all, no one will ever again point their finger at bicyclists and somehow blame them for the congestion and cost of motorized transportation.