Who is paying for those bike lanes anyway?


The Pandora two-way separated bike lane opened on time and on budget on May 1st. It’s been open for a month now and the use has been staggering. Preliminary data reveal that we’re seeing well over 1000 people per day using the infrastructure. This is a marked increase from usage on Pandora before the lanes opened.

In addition to data driven declarations of success even in these early days, anecdote and observation tell a deeper story. Before the installation of the Pandora bike lane, I can’t say I’d ever seen someone under the age of ten riding their own bike downtown. Now I’m seeing young kids, on their own two wheels, trailing closely behind their parents. And not only on sunny weekend days but also during the morning and afternoon commutes.

The new bike lane is making older kids and their parents feel safer too. I got this email from a Vic High parent last week, “Good morning Lisa. We attended my daughters last dance performance at Victoria High. After we left for home in our car, she left on her bike.  She got home shortly after us. We said, ‘That was quick how did you do that?’ She said, ‘I took the protected bike lanes; Lisa gave us a map.’ Thank you. Knowing my daughter is safe means a lot to us.”

These kids and teenagers are the people we built the bike lanes for. They’ll grow up knowing how to move through the city by bicycle and they’ll be able to do it safely. Biking will be normal for them not some “alternate” mode of transportation.

In addition to smiles and emails of thanks from parents, we’ve also received emails saying that cyclists should be paying their fair share for this new infrastructure. And that the Pandora bike lane was a waste of their property tax dollars.

In fact, it’s the opposite. People who ride bikes more than they drive cars subsidize infrastructure for cars. Everyone pays property taxes (those who rent pay them through their rent) and its property taxes that pay for roads. It’s enormously expensive to build and maintain roads for vehicles. Vehicles are much harder on roads than bikes or pedestrians. Vehicles lead to potholes and the need for pavement repair. Vehicles mean that when we build new infrastructure like the Johnson Street Bridge we need to build additional new wide, expensive lanes for cars. Those who bike, take transit, or walk more than they drive are subsidizing car infrastructure.

Second, the Pandora bike lanes were not paid for with property taxes but rather with gas taxes. Gas taxes are collected when people pump gas into their cars. Many people who ride bikes also drive cars from time to time so they are helping to pay for this infrastructure too.

Want to learn more about the economics of cycling? Watch the webcast of Portland’s Elly Blue, author of Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy giving a Lunch Time Lecture at City Hall.




7 responses to “Who is paying for those bike lanes anyway?”

  1. barbmclintock Avatar

    These stats are interesting and encouraging, but it would also be interesting to know how many of these represent NEW cyclists, and how many people who have moved over from previously travelling other routes such as Fort, Yates, or Johnson. In particular, it is obvious pretty well everyone who used Johnson before will move over to the new lanes as otherwise they’d have been riding the wrong way down a one-way street previously, which was not something we often saw. I don’t know if you have the capacity to determine the answer to this question, but it would be interesting …

    1. Lisa Helps Avatar

      Yes we can look at that data. Good idea.

  2. Max Avatar

    Build a bike lane from royal athletic park down to beacon hill park on vancouver street, leave fort street alone for now, wait till bike lane experiment really takes off.

  3. Linda ball Avatar
    Linda ball

    Please don’t put a bike lane on Fort St! So many of my friends who live out of Victoria have decided not to come into the city because the driving/parking is becoming more and more difficult. These are people who want to shop and spend time downtown but are frustrated by the increasing inaccessibility. I live downtown and it’s a real issue. I appreciate your vision but don’t dismiss the impact this will have on businesses who are struggling to survive on Fort.

  4. J Thompson Avatar
    J Thompson

    My family and I rode downtown for the first time last weekend, loved the new bike lanes SO much. My daughter (8) on her own bike and my son (5) on the trail-a-bike behind me, my husband at the end of the parade. The entire time the kids were exclaiming how awesome the lane is! Thank-you for completing this infrastructure. I am a regular commuter cyclist and have a cargo-bike that I ride with both kids but this is the first route that I feel safe having them riding on their own into town. THE BEST!!! #1

  5. James Campbel Avatar
    James Campbel

    I think your bike lanes are fantastic 🙂 Cars/ Trucks in general should have to pay to enter the city on a sliding scale much like other more environmental city’s around Europe etc where a entering “city” a toll is applied depending on the size and emissions of the vehicles. However if people choose to use electric of smart type systems then they would pay very little.

    This helps alleviate congestion and to prevent unnecessary travel, remove free parking and remind people vehicles are not a necessity its a luxury, we also need to bring back air-care and do annual inspections as there is a terrible amount of vehicles that would not pass an emissions tests and are effectively killing our young kids due to smog/emissions from badly maintained engines.

    Our planet needs all the help it can get peoples attitudes and entitlement issues are the problem, ideally we should adopt a tax on cars like Norway this keeps old cars off the road and makes sure only the safest/cleanest ones are used on the public roads.

  6. […] active transportation network that we’re building, including bike lanes, is funded by gas taxes. These are monies collected at the gas pump and distributed back to local governments. There are […]


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