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Whose Roads?

Defining Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways


Todd Litman

Victoria Transport Policy Institute

30 November, 2004

Victoria Transport Policy Institute

Phone & Fax 250-360-1560

© 1995-2004

Todd Alexander Litman

All Rights Reserved



Many people believe that nonmotorized modes (walking, cycling, and their

variations) have an inferior right to use public roads compared with motor

vehicles. This reflects the belief that motor vehicles are more important to society

than nonmotorized modes, and that roads are funded by motorists. This paper

investigates these assumptions. It finds that nonmotorized modes have the legal

right to use public roads, that nonmotorized modes provide significant

transportation benefits, and pedestrians and cyclists pay a significant share of

roadway costs. Although motorist user fees (fuel taxes and vehicle registration

fees) fund most highway expenses, funding for local roads (the roads

pedestrians and cyclists use most) originates mainly from general taxes. Since

bicycling and walking impose lower roadway costs than motorized modes,

people who rely primarily on nonmotorized modes tend to overpay their fair

share of roadway costs and subsidize motorists.

Whose Roads?



Motorists often assume that public roads are intended primarily for their use, and

nonmotorized modes (cyclists, pedestrians, and variants such as wheelchairs and skates) should be treated as inferiors or excluded altogether. Nonmotorized mode users are sometimes accused of paying less than their share of roadway costs, or simply told to “Get the #$%^@ off the road!” Pedestrians and cyclists are sometimes forbidden from using a particular public road to avoid delaying motorized traffic.

Lack of respect for nonmotorized travel often justifies policies that favor motorized over nonmotorized travel, including minimal investments in walking and cycling facilities, roadway design and management that creates barriers to nonmotorized travel, development policies that result in more dispersed land use patterns, and traffic safety programs that give nonmotorized issues little attention and place the onus for reducing risk on pedestrians and cyclists.

Are these assumptions justified? What rights do non-motorized modes have to use public roadways? Do nonmotorized modes receive a fair share of roadway resources? Do motorists really subsidize walking and cycling? This report explores these questions.

Legal Rights

Bicyclists have legal rights and responsibilities that vary from one jurisdiction to another. These usually include the following features (BikeMass, 2004; LawGuru, 2004).

• The right to ride a bicycle on any public road, street, or bikeway except where

specifically prohibited, such as on limited access highways.

• The responsibility to obey all relevant traffic laws and regulations.

• The responsibility to use hand signals to let people know you plan stop or turn.

• The responsibility to ride single file unless passing.

• The responsibility to have a white headlight and a read tail-light on if riding between from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise.

• The responsibility to have adequate brakes.

Most jurisdictions require drivers to yield to pedestrians using long canes or dog guides. Some jurisdictions have laws requiring bicyclists to wear helmets (some of which only apply to children), or placing other special responsibilities on cyclists.

The Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC, the basis for most traffic laws) states, “Every person propelling a vehicle by human power or riding a bicycle shall have all the rights and all the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle” (ITE, 1992; SWCP, 2004). Most traffic laws do not differentiate between bicycles and other vehicles (Paul Hill, 1986).

Some states require bicyclists to use an adjacent pathway if available, but these are increasingly being abolished to give bicyclists the choice of whether to ride on a path or the road (LAW, 1995).

Because motor vehicles impose significant risk on cyclists and pedestrians, the UVC gives drivers the responsibility to “avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human powered vehicle and…exercise proper precaution upon  observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person” (ITE, 1992), although this responsibility is often poorly enforced (Kenneth Todd, 1992).

The AASHTO “Green Book” also indicates that transportation officials recognize society’s responsibility to accommodate pedestrians, stating, Pedestrians are a part of every roadway environment, and attention must be paid to their presence in rural as well as urban areas…Because of the demands of vehicular traffic in congested urban areas, it is often extremely difficult to make adequate provisions for pedestrians. Yet this must be done, because pedestrians are the lifeblood of our urban areas, especially in the downtown and other retail areas. (AASHTO, 1994)

Importance of Nonmotorized Transportation

Conventional planning practices often consider walking and cycling as minor transport

modes, but this reflects planning bias (Litman, 2004a). Conventional travel surveys

generally find that nonmotorized travel represents just 2-5% of person-trips and less than 1% of total person-miles, but this reflects their tendency to overlook or undercount shorter trips, non-work trips, off-peak trips, nonmotorized links of motorized trips, travel by children, and recreational travel (Litman, 2003). Walking and cycling trips to access motorized modes are not counted, even if they involve travel on public facilities. If instead of asking, “What portion of trips only involve walking,” we ask, “What portion of trips involve some walking,” walking would be recognized as a common and important mode. For example, although only 7% of Canadian urban commute trips are entirely by walking, about three times as many involve a walking link, as indicated in Table 1.

Table 1 Commute Trips By Mode (Statistics Canada, 1992)

Car Only Walking All or Part Transit All or Part

Winnipeg 73% 16% 15%

Vancouver 72% 20% 12%

Calgary 72% 21% 12%

Canada 69% 22% 10%

Toronto 61% 24% 20%

Ottawa 60% 33% 16%

Average 68% 23% 14%

Although only about 7% of urban commutes are entirely by walking, about 23% involve some

walking on public facilities.

Some newer travel surveys attempt to count all nonmotorized trips (although participants

often have trouble recording short walking trips so they still tend to be undercounted).

The 2001 National Household Travel Survey (BTS, 2001) found that walking represents

8.6% of personal trips, about 50% more than reported in the 1995 National Personal

Travel Survey (NPTS), which used more conventional survey methods. In 2000, the

Southern California Metropolitan Transportation Authority increased the portion of travel

involving nonmotorized modes assumed for transport planning purposes from about 2%

of regional trips (based on conventional travel surveys) up to about 10%, based on more

comprehensive data from the 1995 NPTS. According to a U.K. survey, walking

represents 2.8% of total mileage, 17.7% of total travel time, and 24.7% of total trips

(Litman, 2004a). Rietveld (2000) finds that conventional surveys count only about onesixth

of total nonmotorized trips.

Walking and bicycling provide basic mobility, that is, they allow people to access goods,

services and activities society considers high value (also called essential or lifeline),

including people who have few travel alternatives. Accommodating nonmotorized travel

therefore deserves additional priority than indicated by simply considering its share of

total travel activity.

Whose Roads?


Benefits of Nonmotorized Transportation

Some experts believe that walking and cycling can do little to solve transportation

problems because they only consider motorized trips that shift completely to

nonmotorized modes, ignoring the important role walking and cycling play in an efficient

transport system (Litman, 2004a). Walking and cycling often substitute for local errand

trips, support use of transit and ridesharing, and help create more accessible land use

patterns (Litman, 2004b). One study found that residents in a pedestrian friendly

community walked, bicycled, or rode transit for 49% of work trips and 15% of their nonwork

trips, 18- and 11-percentage points more than residents of a comparable automobile

oriented community (Cervero and Radisch, 1995). Litman (2004b) found that a mile of

nonmotorized travel tends to leverage about seven miles of reduced automobile travel.

According to some studies, 5-10% of urban automobile trips can reasonably shift to

nonmotorized transport (ADONIS, 1999; Litman, 2004b; “Nonmotorized Transportation

Planning,” VTPI, 2004).

Conventional transport planning tends to consider a narrow range of planning objectives

and so undervalues strategies that provide modest but multiple benefits, such as

incentives to shifts from motorized to nonmotorized travel. Although such strategies are

not usually considered the most cost effective way of reducing traffic congestion, road

and parking facility costs, consumer costs, accidents, pollution, or improving mobility for

non-drivers, they provide all of these benefits and more. The potential benefits of

increased walking and cycling can be particularly large because the greatest impacts tend

to occur in urban areas where traffic congestion, facility costs, crash risk and pollution

problems are worst. As a result, a modest reduction in total regional vehicle mileage that

is concentrated in congested urban areas may provide significant benefits.

Conventional planning tends to value motorized travel more than nonmotorized travel. A motor

vehicle trip to a health club is counted, but a recreational walk or cycling trip is often ignored.

Conventional planning undervalues nonmotorized transportation benefits by separating

transportation and recreation objectives. Recreational walking and cycling provide health

benefits, user enjoyment and tourist business, but these benefits are often ignored. From a

conventional transport planning perspective, a vehicle trip to a gym is important, but

recreational walking or cycling is not.

Whose Roads?


Biased Language in Transportation Planning (Litman, 2003)

Transportation planning practices are often unintentionally biased toward motorized travel. For

example, projects that increase road or parking capacity are often called “improvements,”

although from many perspectives they are harmful. Wider roads and larger parking facilities can

degrade the local environment, and projects that increase vehicle traffic volumes and speeds can

reduce the safety and mobility of nonmotorized travel. Calling such changes “improvements”

indicates a bias in favor of one activity and group over others. Objective language uses more

specific and neutral terms, such as “added capacity,” “additional lanes,” “modifications,” or


The terms “traffic” and “trip” often refer only to motor vehicle travel. Travel surveys and traffic

counts usually under-record nonmotorized trips, because they ignore or undercount short trips,

non-work travel, travel by children, recreational travel, and nonmotorized links. Although most

automobile and transit trips begin and end with a pedestrian or cycling link, they are usually

classified simply as “auto” or “transit” trips. This undervalues nonmotorized transport.

The term “efficient” is frequently used to mean increased vehicle traffic speeds. This assumes

that increasing motor vehicles speeds increases overall efficiency. This assumption is debatable.

High vehicle speeds can reduce total traffic capacity, increase resource consumption, increase

costs, and increase automobile dependency, reducing overall economic efficiency.

Level of service (LOS) is a qualitative measure describing operational conditions for a particular

user group (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, etc.). Transportation professionals often assume that,

unless specified otherwise, level of service applies only to motor vehicles. It is important to

indicate which users are considered when level of service values are reported.

Biased Terms Objective Terms

Traffic Motor vehicle traffic, pedestrian/bike traffic

Trips Motor vehicle trips, person trips

Improve Change, modify, expand, widen

Enhance Change, increase traffic speeds

Deteriorate Change, reduce traffic speeds

Upgrade Change, expand, widen, replace

Efficient Faster, increased vehicle capacity

Level of service Level of service for…


Biased: Level of service at this intersection is rated “D.” The proposed improvement will cost

$100,000. This upgrade will make our transportation system more efficient by enhancing

capacity, preventing deterioration of traffic conditions.

Objective: Level of service at this intersection is rated “D” for motorists and “E” for pedestrians.

A right turn channel would cost $100,000. This road widening project will increase motor

vehicle traffic speeds and capacity but may reduce safety and convenience to pedestrian travel.

Whose Roads?


Roadway Funding

Economic efficiency and equity require that consumers should bear their share of costs

for the goods and services they use, unless a subsidy is specifically justified (“Market

Principles,” VTPI, 2004). Many people assume that pedestrians and cyclists contribute

less than their fair share toward roadway costs because they do not pay vehicle user fees

(fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees, and road tolls), and so argue that pedestrians and

cyclists deserve less right to use roadway facilities. However, this assumption is wrong.

Although user fees fund most highway expenses, local roads are mainly funded through

general taxes that residents pay regardless of how they travel. The majority (probably

more than 90%) of walking and bicycling occurs on locally funded roads, since most

highways are unsuited to walking and bicycling. Table 2 shows that in 2002, $27.9 billion

were spent on U.S. local roads, of which only $3.1 billion was from user fees. General tax

funding averaged about 5.6¢ per motor vehicle mile of travel on local roads. Roadway

user charges fund only about 70% of roadway expenditures (only 60% excluding bond

revenues), indicating that fuel taxes would need to increase more than 45% to fully cover

these costs. Canadian local roads are also funded primarily by general taxes.

Table 2 Roadway Revenues and Expenditures (2002 Dollars) (FHWA, 2003)

Source Federal State Local Total

User Fees (fuel and vehicle taxes) (millions) Table HF-10 $26,842 $49,689 $3,106 $79,637

Other Funds (general taxes) (millions) ” $1,719 $7,864 $24,770 $34,353

Total Roadway Funding (millions) ” $28,561 $57,553 $27,876 $113,990

Portion Other Funds (millions) ” 6.0% 13.7% 88.9% 30.1%

Roadway Mileage Table HM-10 120,570 773,289 3,072,647 3,966,506

Vehicle Mileage (millions) VM-3 2,415,413 440,343 2,855,756

User Fee Funding (cents/vehicle-mile) Calculated 1.1¢ 2.0¢ 0.7¢ 3.8¢

Other Funding (cents/vehicle-mile) ” 0.0¢ 0.3¢ 5.6¢ 1.2¢

Local roads are funded primarily by local taxes, resulting in a subsidy to driving.

The portion of roadway expenses funded by user fees is declining because legislators are

reluctant to increase fuel taxes and registration fees (Puentes and Prince, 2003). Funding

for roadway improvements and even maintenance increasingly comes from general taxes,

primarily sales taxes. Wach (2003) found that between 1995 and 1999 local general tax

revenues spent on highways grew three times as fast as user fee revenues.

It is difficult to know exactly what portion of transport funds are devoted to nonmotorized

facilities (Litman, 2004a). Local governments devote perhaps 5-15% of transportation

agency budgets, but other levels of government provide far less support. For example, the

state of Oregon is considered a leader in nonmotorized planning because it devotes 2% of

state transport funds to nonmotorized facilities. Most states probably spend less than 1%.

The costs of separated nonmotorized facilities should not necessarily be charged to

pedestrians and cyclists, since they are needed due to the risk and discomfort imposed by

motor vehicle traffic. Areas with minimal motor vehicle traffic do not usually require

separate facilities.

Whose Roads?


Figure 1 Transportation Funding Sources (Puentes and Prince, 2003)

General Funds




Fuel Taxes




Investment Income

and Other Reciepts


Other Taxes and Fees


Property Taxes

Vehicle Taxes 4.8%


About 40% of highway funding is from general taxes and bonds. User funding is declining

because legislators are reluctant to raise fuel taxes and vehicle fees.

General tax funds are also spent on various traffic services, such as policing, emergency

services, and subsidized parking facilities. A typical household pays several hundred

dollars annually in general taxes to fund roads and traffic services, as indicated in the

studies summarized below.

• Traffic services (besides roadway facility costs) are estimated to average 2.8¢ per urban

vehicle mile in 1992 dollars, or about 3.8¢ in 2004 dollars (Small, 1992).

• Local governments in the Chicago region spend an average of $130 per registered motor

vehicle in general taxes devoted to roads and traffic services (Urbanczyk and Korlett, 1995).

• Public expenditures on highways, roads, streets and traffic services average $413 annually

per capita in the Puget Sound region (PSRC, 1996).

• The city of Edmonton spends an average of $291 annually per resident on roads and traffic

services (KPMG, 1996).

• Local governments in Wisconsin spent $585 annually per household on local roads and

traffic services, only 14% of which originated from user fees (DeCicco and Morris, 1998).

Overall, roadway costs average about 5¢ per vehicle-mile for facilities and about 1¢ per

vehicle-mile for traffic services. Larger, faster and heavier vehicles tend to impose higher

costs because they require more road space, more complex intersections, more parking

space, more maintenance, and more sophisticated traffic management (Urban Institute,

1990; Jones and Nix, 1995; FHWA, 1997; Litman, 2004c). A road system used just for

walking and cycling costs far less than what is needed to accommodate motorized traffic.

Whose Roads?


In addition to road and traffic service costs, motor vehicle travel imposes other external

costs (costs not borne directly by individual users), including parking subsidies,

congestion delays and crash risk imposed on other road users, environmental damages,

and the opportunity cost of land devoted to roads (Litman, 2004c). Motorists benefit from

various indirect and hidden subsidies. For example, most zoning codes require the

provision of off-street parking for motorists, yet non-drivers receive no comparable

benefit. These external costs reflect an economically inefficient and unfair subsidy of

driving relative to nonmotorized travel (“Market Principles,” VTPI, 2004). Table 3

summarizes estimates of these costs, which indicates that automobile use has external

costs averaging about 28¢, while cycling costs average about 1¢, and walking averages

just 0.2¢ per mile.

Table 3 External Costs (Cents per Mile) (“Transportation Costs,” VTPI, 2004)

Cost Automobile Bicycle Walk

Parking Subsidies 10¢ 0.2 0

Traffic Congestion 4¢ 0 0

Crashes 8¢ 0.2 0.2

Environmental Costs 4¢ 0 0

Roadway Land Value 2¢ 0.6 0

Totals 28¢ 1¢ 0.2¢

This table summarizes estimates of various external costs of transportation.

It could be considered equitable to allocate funds to each mode based on its level of use

(Litman, 2004a). Funding should be based on person trips rather than person miles so

higher speed modes are not subsidized at the expense of lower-speed modes. For

example, there is no particular reason that society should subsidize a 50-mile commute

trip at a greater rate than a 1-mile commute trip if both get employees to work. Funding

based on trips allows pedestrians and cyclist to receive a fair share of public support. As

described earlier, nonmotorized travel is much more common than conventional travel

surveys indicate and plays a more important role in an efficient transportation system,

suggesting that a far greater portion of funding should be devoted to walking and cycling.

Additional funding for nonmotorized transportation improvements can be justified on the

grounds that such projects have been underfunded in the past and so additional

investments in the future, and because nonmotorized improvements provide multiple

benefits. For example, nonmotorized investments can be funded from accounts devoted to

improving mobility, reducing congestion, energy conservation and emission reductions,

providing basic mobility for non-drivers, improving public health, and supporting urban

redevelopment. Because walking and cycling provide both transportation and recreation

benefits, expenditures on pedestrian and bicycling improvements can be justified from

both transportation accounts and recreation accounts.

Whose Roads?


Summary of User Costs and Payments

On average, local and regional governments spend $300-500 annually per automobile in

general taxes on local roads and traffic services, averaging more than 6¢ per mile driven

on local roads. Only 0.7¢ of this is paid through vehicle user charges, meaning that

driving is subsidized through general taxes by about 5.6¢ per mile on local roads.

Automobiles also impose other external costs, including parking subsidies, congestion

and crash risk imposed on other road users, and environmental damages. Pedestrians and

cyclists tend to impose lower costs than motor vehicles and bear an excessive share of

these costs, particularly crash risks, because they are relatively unprotected. A shift from

driving to bicycling and walking reduces external costs, providing benefits to society,

such as road and parking facility savings, reduced crash risk and congestion delay

imposed on other road users, and reduced environmental impacts (Litman, 2004b). This

indicates that non-drivers pay more than their share of transportation costs.

For an average household, the costs imposed approximately equals the costs they bear,

but people who drive less than average and use nonmotorized modes tend to overpay their

share of costs, while those who drive more than average underpay.

The automobile industry has published reports claiming that motorists pay more than

their share of costs (Dougher, 1995; Spindler, 1997). However, these studies violate

standard cost allocation principles by including all vehicle taxes, including general sales

taxes, rather than just user charges, and by considering only highway expenditures,

ignoring local roadway costs and other external costs associated with motor vehicle use

(“Evaluating Criticism of TDM,” VTPI, 2000). Virtually all studies that use appropriate

analysis procedures conclude that motorists significantly underpay the costs they impose

on society (FHWA, 1997; Delucchi, 1998; Litman, 2004a).


Two neighbors each pay $300 annually in local taxes that fund roads and traffic services.

Mike Motorist drives 10,000 miles annually on local roads, while Frances Footpower

bicycles 3,000 miles. The table below compares the costs they impose with what they pay

in taxes.

Table 4 Local Roadway Payments Versus Costs

Mike Frances

A. Annual local mileage 10,000 3,000

B. Household’s general taxes used for road related services. $300 $300

C. Motorist user fees spent on local road (0.2¢ per mile). $24 $0

D. Total road system contribution (B + C) $324 $300

E. Tax payment per mile of travel (B/A). 3.2¢ 10¢

F. Roadway costs (cars = 5.6¢/ml, bicycles = 0.2¢/ml) $560 $48

Net (D – F) Underpays $236 Overpays $252

Non-drivers pay almost the same as motorists for local roads but impose lower costs. As a result,

they tend to overpay their share of roadway costs.

Whose Roads?


Other Equity Issues

Walking and bicycling provide basic mobility for people who are transportation

disadvantaged (“Basic Access,” VTPI, 2004). Accommodating nonmotorized travel

therefore deserves a higher priority than indicated by simply considering its share of total

travel activity.

It is sometimes argued that automobile travel also provides basic mobility, so the costs of

roads and traffic services should not be charged to individual users. Even residents who

never drive rely on roads for service vehicles, for utility access, and for walking and

bicycling. But basic access can be provided by a far cheaper road system than what is

needed in automobile dependent areas. Since most current roadway expenditures result

from the need to accommodate additional automobile traffic and the wear imposed by

motor vehicles, it makes sense to allocate most roadway costs to vehicle users.

Critics of using transportation funds for pedestrian and cycling improvements tend to

ignore the direct and indirect benefits that motorists can receive from nonmotorized

improvements. Motorists can benefit from reduced traffic and parking congestion, tax

savings, reduced crash risk and air pollution, reduced need to chauffer non-driving family

and friends, more efficient land use, and increased travel options that they may value in

the future (“Evaluating Transportation System Diversity,” VTPI, 2004).

Basic fairness suggests that everybody should be able to use public roads without

unnecessary restriction or excessive risk, since roads are a valuable public resource and

basic mobility is an essential activity. Prohibiting a particular mode from using public

roads can be considered as inequitable as excluding a particular racial or ethnic group

from using public parks or public restrooms. Similarly, it is unfair to allow ignore the

pedestrian and cyclists’ needs in facility design and management, resulting in greater

travel barriers or risk than other travelers face.

There is inherent inequity in the distribution of crash costs. Although any road user can

make a mistake that contributes to an accident, pedestrians and bicyclists are more likely

to be injured or killed when a collision occurs. In other words, non-motorized travelers

bear a greater share of crash costs than they impose, regardless of who causes a particular

crash. This not only causes injuries to pedestrians and cyclists, it also imposes protective

costs, such as longer trips or travel foregone. This inequity tends to increase as drivers

feel safer due to improved safety features (seat belts, air bags, etc.), resulting in greater

risk imposed on vulnerable road users (Chirinko and Harper, 1993; “Takeback Effects,”

VTPI, 2004).

Highways and motor vehicle traffic by their nature create barriers to walking and

bicycling. This is called “community severance” or the “barrier effect.” (Litman, 2004c).

This occurs because highways are large structures that tend to be difficult for pedestrians

and cyclists to cross, particularly when highways carry heavy, high-speed vehicle traffic.

Although these impacts can be mitigated by pedestrian crossings, bridges and tunnels,

there is usually still a significant increase in crossing time, reduced mobility for nondrivers,

and a degradation of the pedestrian and cycling environment.

Whose Roads?


Bicycles are sometimes considered to cause traffic delays, implying that programs to

encourage cycling contradict, rather than support, congestion reduction objectives. But

bicycles usually cause less congestion than automobiles (Litman, 2004b). Only on

congested roads with narrow lanes, high-speed traffic and no suitable alternative routes

are cyclists likely to increase traffic delay, and most cyclists avoid riding in these

conditions because it is unpleasant. Conflicts over road space can be considered primarily

the fault of motorists, since bicycles require less space than motor vehicles. Of course,

other types of vehicles also delay traffic. Trucks, delivery vehicles, farm equipment, and

vehicles with elderly drivers probably cause more traffic delays than bicycles. If

occasional delay justifies prohibiting cycles, these vehicles should also be banned.

Improved traffic laws enforcement can minimize congestion delays. Slower vehicles

(including bicycles) are required to stay to the right side of the roadway, and must get off

the roadway, when safe to do so, if they delay five or more vehicles, to let faster vehicles

pass. Excessive delay by cyclists therefore indicates that traffic laws are inadequately

promoted and enforced, or facility improvements are needed to reduce conflicts.

It is sometimes argued that nonmotorized travel is dangerous and should be discouraged

(or at least, should not be encouraged). Walking and cycling tend to have higher fatality

rates per mile than motorized travel, but this tends to be offset by the following factors

(Litman, 2004b):

• Non-motorized travel imposes minimal risk to other road users.

• Non-drivers tend to travel less than motorists. A short walking or cycling trip often

substitutes for a longer motorized trip. A typical motorist drives 5 to 10 times as far each

year as a typical non-driver walks and cycles.

• Pedestrian and cyclist risk can be significantly reduced (Pucher and Dijkstra, 2000). Many

nonmotorized crashes result, in part, from inexperience or carelessness on the part of

pedestrians and cyclists. A responsible and cautious pedestrian or cyclist has significantly

lower risk than the overall average.

• Walking and cycling provide significant health benefits that can offset crash risks.

Taking these factors into account, a responsible adult cyclist or pedestrian who follows

traffic rules and wears a helmet is estimated here to have a per-trip crash fatality rate that

is comparable to that of automobile travel, imposes minimal crash risk on other road

users, and significantly increases aerobic health. Per capita pedestrian and cycling

accidents tend to decline as nonmotorized travel increases in a community. There is no

evidence that walking and cycling by responsible adults increases overall road fatalities or

health risk.

Whose Roads?



This paper shows that bicyclists and pedestrians have legal, practical and moral rights to

use public roads. Nonmotorized travel plays an important role in the transportation

system, and provides many benefits to society, including benefits to users, motorists and

residents. Nonmotorized modes provides basic mobility for people who are physically,

economically and socially disadvantaged. Conventional transportation planning tends to

overlook and undervalue nonmotorized transportation.

Pedestrians and cyclists pay more than their fair share of roadway costs. Although most

highway expenses are funded through motor vehicle user fees, local roads and traffic

services are funded primarily through general taxes that residents pay regardless of their

travel habits. Motor vehicle use also imposes a variety of external costs, including

parking subsidies, congestion, uncompensated crash damages, and environmental

impacts. Pedestrians and cyclists impose much less external costs, due to lower costs per

mile, and because they tend to travel fewer miles per year. In general, people who drive

less than average overpay their true share of transportation costs, while those who drive

more than average underpay. As a result, pedestrians and bicyclists tend to subsidize


Current transportation investment and management policies tend to favor motor vehicle

use at the expense of non-motorized modes. Policy changes to better protect pedestrians

and cyclists, and increase non-drivers’ mobility tend to increase equity.

Whose Roads?



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(, 1995.

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(, Vol. 73, No. 10, October 2003, pp. 28-32, available at

Whose Roads?


Todd Litman, Economic Value of Walkability, VTPI (, 2004a.

Todd Litman, Quantifying the Benefits of Nonmotorized Transport for Achieving Mobility

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2004c. Also see “Transportation Costs” in the VTPI Online TDM Encyclopedia (

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