I’m going to start with the assumption that, at one time and place or another, people who bike have been chastised by people who drive for not “following the rules of the road.” I have seen and heard this grievance aired frequently. It has often been presented as an argument against increased bicycle infrastructure. It […]

Recently the Conference Board of Canada released a study that claims that upwards to 90% of Ontario road costs are covered by drivers. The purported findings of the study were gleefully touted by all major news sources, and if one was careless enough to read appending user-comments, one could expect that they were rife with remarks of smug self-satisfaction and entitlement, and perhaps claims of moral superiority in the horrific “war on cars.” I was immediately sceptical of the findings because previous studies have estimated, on a national level, that driver-related revenues covered upwards to 64% of road costs, and I argued that even this was probably an overestimate.

Predictably, most of the media reports did not pay close attention to the ranges (often just reporting the 90% figure) and methodologies used, nor did any of them spot or comment on any of the obvious issues in the study. I figured this was typical journalistic inaccuracy and sensationalism. But then I read the press release on the Conference Board of Canada’s website. It leads off by claiming “Majority of Ontario Road Infrastructure Costs Paid by Motorists.”

This is a false statement. Continue reading

Like most issues, people engage with transportation mainly in an individualistic way. Hence most “debate” about transportation infrastructure, as in this¬†predictable piece, merely amounts to recounting a set of personal anecdotes such as seeing cyclists riding on sidewalks, without extrapolating any broader insights beyond expressing one’s peevishness. Maybe this is just systemic – people are “inherently” selfish (or encouraged to be so), and have great difficulty considering some issue beyond their immediately personal wants and experiences – say on a societal or structural level. Whatever the case may be, what’s frequently missing from the constant stream of indignant rants about transportation (and even transportation debates by our finest politicians) is a discussion about what the relative societal benefits (and costs) are of differing transportation schemes. What kinds of transportation systems and urban planning are most efficient, affordable, safe, and least damaging to human and environmental health? Continue reading