From today’s Toronto Star:
Giorgio Mammoliti boldly announced Wednesday that if elected mayor, he would introduce a $20-$30 registration fee for bikes. “It’s an agenda that seems to be taking over so far in this election. It’s all about the downtown core and the downtown agenda, and the suburbs don’t want to continue to subsidize these pet projects,” he said.
With all due respect, he’s got all his facts wrong.
Cyclists live and ride all across the city, and there are major infrastructure projects happening in the suburbs right now to help ensure that cyclists have a safe place to ride in every part of Toronto. In fact, the city (along with federal and provincial funding) is spending $23 million in North York and Scarborough to build bikeway trails – far more than is being spent downtown. (The downtown bikeway projects will cost an estimated $330,000 this year.)
So his math is completely backwards. Not only that, but according to the city’s own Cycling Survey (2009), utilitarian cycling is growing faster in the suburbs than in the core. (download PDF report highlights)
Mammoliti’s proposed bicycle fee would only bring in about 35 million a year (minus the enormous cost of administering a whole new system of licensing). City staff reports have repeatedly stated that costs outweigh any potential benefits when it comes to licensing or registering bicycles.
From a 2006 staff report:
There are an estimated two million bicycles owned by residents of the City of Toronto. The feasibility of implementing an on-line licensing system for bicycles to generate revenue must be evaluated on the following points: the cost to implement such a programme, public education, practicality for enforcement of the programme, jurisdictional challenges, and, the effectiveness of such a programme for generating on-going revenue.
In order to recover the administrative costs of the programme and to ensure that sufficient revenue is generated on an on-going basis, the cost of the licence would need to be set at a value that may be considered exorbitant.
Other municipalities have looked into the costs of implementing and administering a mandatory bicycle licensing requirement. In 1991, the former City of Ottawa evaluated the financial feasibility of licensing bicycles to generate revenue to fund on-going cycling projects. Its investigation determined that it was unlikely to cover the administrative costs of running the programme, let alone to generate sufficient revenue, and the idea was abandoned.
So forget about that idea.
But the real flaw in his thinking is the idea that cyclists aren’t already paying their fair share of the costs of road-building and maintenance. The exact opposite is true. According to the Cycling Survey, most cyclists also drive cars (full report, page 64). So most of them already pay the Vehicle Registration Fee. 81% of recreational cyclists “have access to a car always or several times a week”. For non adult cyclists, the number drops to 67%. So the entire notion of cyclist VS driver is baseless and misleading.
Furthermore, the vast majority of cyclists on Toronto roads are city residents and pay city property taxes. But many drivers are from the 905 and don’t contribute to our municapal tax base (nor do they pay the vehicle registration fee).
Here’s the most important fact. 54% of Toronto adults are cyclists. They may not ride every day, and they may own and drive cars. But they own bikes. And asking each and every one of them to register and pay an annual fee for each bike will just result in thousands of bikes gathering dust, a small amount of revenue, and a huge step backwards for Toronto.
Key Findings from the 2009 City of Toronto Cycling Survey (PDF)
Full Survey Results and Comparison between 1999 and 2009 (PDF)