Over the weekend I was clearing out my RSS, and was pleasantly surprised to find Sunlight's work in an unexpected place. TheWashCycle is my favorite DC bike blog, and its author has started a series of posts designed to address arguments that are commonly faced by cycling advocates. One of those is that cyclists don't pay for roads — that the gas tax pays for them — and consequently folks on bikes aren't entitled to the use of roads, or are less entitled to space on the road than motorists, or shouldn't have a say in how roads are built.
As it turns out, the assumption that cyclists don't pay for roads is wrong. The WashCycle post linked to some work that we did for Pew's Subsidyscope project, which shows that gas taxes are paying for a decreasing share of our roads. In 2007 taxes and fees related to auto use covered only half the bill. The shortfall is made up by general revenues and debt — and though the specifics of the story play out differently from state to state it's safe to say that cyclists pay taxes that help build roads.
I mention all this not simply to highlight some pro-cyclist propaganda — though of course, as a daily bike commuter, I'm glad to do that, too — but rather to point this out as an example of what open government data can accomplish.Continue reading