Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Paid For These Roads: Now Get the Hell Off 'Em!

One of the arguments that many motorists use as an excuse to hate cyclists is “My vehicle taxes pay for these roads so they are mine, now get the hell off!” There are so many ways this line of thinking is wrong that it’s somewhat hard to decide where to begin.

I guess my first question is who the hell started the rumor that only vehicle taxes pay for our roads? Where did you hear that and where is your proof? If that was true, we’d all be walking on dirt roads to and from work. There simply wouldn't be enough money generated to keep up with demand. Go to your county government’s website for God’s sake and look at where the revenue comes from and where it goes. Any idiot can do that. Take up too much of your time? OK, let me break it down for you.

Wherever you live, you pay county taxes. Some of us pay City/Municipality taxes as well, but let’s focus on County Taxes since that’s where the money for our roads comes from sans Interstates (Federal Taxes) and State owned roads (duh, State taxes). I’ll use Mecklenburg County, NC for my argument since that is where I live and ride. Property tax needs a definition before we can go any further. According to, “Property taxes are leveled on real property (land and buildings), business personal property, motor vehicles, boats, trailers and income producing personal property.” Of those, I technically own 4 pieces of real property (because a home and the land on which it sits are assessed separately and I own 2 homes), and 1 motor vehicle. The current tax rate in Mecklenburg right now is .8387 per $100 of property value. Using that formula my vehicle tax will bring the County a whopping $89 of revenue. However, between my 2 homes, the County will reap about $3003 from my pocket. Still want to tell me I’m not contributing to the building and maintaining of the roads I ride my bike on?

It’s really all a moot point anyway because our property taxes are all lumped into one sum and in Mecklenburg County that sum accounts for 76.1% of the total revenue. There’s no way to track where a specific dollar paid by a taxpayer has gone. So when you say your vehicle taxes paid for these roads, you’re making a grossly uneducated assumption to justify the harassment, hurting and sometimes killing of another law abiding taxpayer. In fact, let’s apply that way of thinking to motorists instead of cyclists. Suppose you want to spend the weekend in the mountains. Well, you better get a good pair of sneakers because you certainly won’t be driving around Asheville to see the sites. Why? Oh, poor you. You didn’t pay Buncombe County Property taxes, so you’re not entitled to drive those roads. Want to go to the Outer Banks? I hope you’ve paid your Dare County Property Tax. No? Too bad. No Jockey Ridge hang gliding for you.

Equally as ridiculous is this: the entitlement that is suggested with the “my taxes, my roads, get off” myth. Entitlement meaning, I pay taxes on the car and you don’t pay taxes on that bike, so I have more rights to this road. More generally put, if I pay more in taxes than you, I am contributing more the community, so I get more rights than you. How fucked up would that be? Here’s how: if you rent, you’re not paying real estate taxes and, therefore, are paying considerably less to the County than me. Approximately $3000 less. So that would mean all renters need to get the hell out of my way when I’m driving to the market place. Rush Hour? Not a problem for us homeowners – your renting ass needs to get the hell off the road and make way for the people who contribute more!

Apart from that nonsense, is the fact that our Property Taxes pay for many, many things. Roads are just one small fraction in an otherwise extremely complicated equation. Again, according to, “When you call the police or fire department, play in a park, send your children to public school, check out a book at the library, or eat at an inspected restaurant you are using services paid for by your property taxes. Your taxes also pay for services to help people move from welfare to work, protect children and senior citizens from abuse and neglect, protect our water and air from pollution, repair and build roads and much, much more.” So, as long as I’m paying my taxes, which I do every year in full and on time, I have every right to be riding my bike without harassment on a road that all Mecklenburg County residents helped pay for.

“My taxes, my road, get off” myth: Debunked.

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