Why do cyclist eat my road cookie?

The contention between car drivers and cyclists goes like this story..

A young lady was waiting for her flight at a boarding room of a big airport.
Her flight was delayed and she would have to wait for many hours. She purchased a book and a package of cookies and sat down in a chair to spend the time. Beside her was an empty chair where the package of cookies lay and a man was sitting in the next chair reading a magazine.

She took a cookie and the man took one as well! She was irritated but said nothing and continued to read. She thought to herself, “Whoa, he’s got nerve!” For each cookie she took, the man took one as well. She was infuriated but did not wish to make a scene in the crowded airport.

When only one cookie remained, she thought I wondered what this rude man will do. As if reading her mind, the man picked up the cookie broke it in half and handed it to her without looking up.

That was it; she got up, gathered her things and stormed off.

Later after she boarded her plane, she reached into her purse to get her glasses and she pulled out a packet of cookies -she suddenly remembered that she had placed HER cookies in her purse. And the man she considered so rude, was sharing his cookies with her with out anger, just pure kindness.

She felt so ashamed and there was no way to make the proper amends.

Many drivers feels the same as the lady initially:

“I pay road tax yet the cyclists don’t, why should they be allowed on the roads?”

The frustration is for a good reason. Singapore is probably the most expensive place to own a car, apart form the car price, import tax, COE, insurance, road tax patrol and so on. With the car population growing faster than roads can expand, congestion hour has been extended for at least one hour compared to 10 years ago. The inconsiderate cyclist didn’t pay any of these cost and now want to share the road? No way!

However most people don’t realize, although drivers have paid a lot, the road and car-related infrastructure is by far more costly than what they have paid. Let’s look at a few examples:

Example 1: Car Park Space

I live in a condo and I share the cost of all the facilities including car parks even though I don’t use one. Obviously all the people who don’t drive is subsidising those who drive in terms of car park construction and maintenance. This cost is factored into the price of each unit, and the management fees. More interesting issues relates to car parking can be found in Paul Barter’s blog (Associate professor NUS, LKY School of Policy) excellent article.

Example 2:  Road Tax

Road taxes and total tax (extracted from Singapore Statistic)

Another example, the annual income of motor related taxes in 2010 and 2011 is about $1.9 billion (including road tax, additional registration tax, special tax on heavy-oil engines, see fig. 1). That is just enough to build 1/4 of the 20km North South Expressway (8 billion), or 5km of the 20km. On the other hand, road expanded at a rate of 28 km per year over the last 4 years. If taxes from motorists pays only for 5km, who is paying for the remaining 23km? The non-motor-related taxes is paying nearly 5 times of the road cookie compared to the motor-related taxes. Further more, there are over 3377 km roads in Singapore since 2010, and they obviously need to be maintained constantly. Who is paying for the maintenance? If the motor-related taxes already used to pay for the 5km new highway, the entire maintenance cost has to come from the non-motor related taxes.

Example 3: Social Cost

Driving imposes significant burden on the society as a whole.

Air pollution causes respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Increases of PM2.5 is associated with higher number of patients admitted into hospital due to heart problems.

Noise from heavy traffic is known to cause stress and insomnia. Sound barriers are expensive to construct and are not always effective.

CO2 Greenhouse effect. Motor vehicles emit thousands of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and is one of the main contributors of greenhouse effect.

Road kills and injuries, regardless of who is right and who is wrong — motorised vehicle is the root cause of serious road danger. In 2010 there were 193 fatal accidents and 11665 injuries. Injuries can be so severe that a heavy and long term burden is imposed on victim’s family members financially, physically and mentally.

All the social costs have to be borne by someone and currently these costs are not covered by motorists in any way. Hard to believe? Here is a detail study from Copenhagen shows how each kilometer of driving creates a net lost to the society.

So road tax hardly paid for the roads, and driving costs other’s money. I wonder if these facts would make some drivers less tense when he see a cyclist on the road next time?

10 thoughts on “Why do cyclist eat my road cookie?

  1. isftish

    We are, or have learnt to be utimately selfish, and to fight for even the smallest miniscule thing, because we have learnt that there is no place for second, only first. We fight for school places, from preschool until uni. We fight for hawker seats, and refuse to share them, or leave when we’re done. We fight for parking lots. We fight for hdb common areas. We fight for seats on buses and MRT. We fight for free books that are supposed to be given to the poor. We fight for cheap clothes during sales. We fight for jobs, and for promotion opportunites. And we fight for road space.

    We learnt that if we stop to give a helping hand, we will lose in the race to be first. So we rather step over others, or sabotage others to get ahead. A lot of Singaporeans may be decently well to do, or better, but behave like beggers and homeless, forced to protect every little thing in their possession, because that’s all they have.

    It’s not just a traffic problem. It’s a social psychological attitude problem.

  2. TuaPekKong

    Oh, by the way, the calculations did not take into account fuel taxes, taxes on fuel and aftermarket car companies, workshops and all kinds of other car related industries. Also, ERP, parking charges and fines are also not factored in.

    1. Murli

      TuaPekKong, your second comment is actually not relevant. The point that this post makes is that (1) roads are a shared resource and (2) people using the roads do not pay for them equally. According to the data presented, cyclists bear more than their fair share of the cost of building and maintaining roads simply by paying income tax, property tax, GST, etc, all of which are not road tax.

      Car repairs, parking, fuel, etc are to the benefit of only the individual driver, i.e., none of this benefits other parties. So it is perfectly reasonable that the individual driver should bear 100% of the cost of this. No one would expect someone else to subsidise the food they choose to eat or the clothes they choose to wear, right? Same thing.

  3. DC

    with regards to TuaPekKong’s comment, the assumption by drivers is also that cyclists do not own a car and thus do not pay any of the road tax paid by these drivers. but the fact is that these cyclists may also drive, just that they chose to leave their cars at home today.. and for road tax, if we talk about maintenance of roads, it would be obvious that cars tear up the road more than bicycles.

  4. Francis Post author

    DC, agree there is a growing trend that some drivers are testing the idea of using bicycle as part of their transport mix. Many choose a folding bike. It is handy to be able to just pick up a bike and ride directly to a nearby cafe or run some errands. If more drivers switch part of their driving to biking. They will help to free up some road space for others. From this perspective, drivers should encourage fellow drivers to switch to bicycle when it make sense.

  5. Alan Tan

    This is not about cost and sharing. I stay in Changi, if any one care to come over here in the morning on a weekend will witness many cyclists cycle as if they were participating in “Tour de France”. They speed and couldn’t careless about traffic lights and other road users. They are a vocal lot and lobbying for special lane and protection whenever one of their member got into a fatal accident. Contrast this to motor cyclists. Motor cyclists have had more fatal accidents but they just accept the risk like all road users. The cyclists that are very vocal are mostly elite cyclists who want to have both the cake and eat it. Instead of aggressively educating and regulating their members they want others to accommodate them.

    1. Ian Stewart

      To Alan Tan’s complaint of cyclists “speeding” – so ridiculous. Even a peleton of amateur cyclists are probably travelling at 40kph max. So compare this to the drivers who are going a minimum of 70kph along the Changi Airport stretch. You seem to be a good example of the very worst in non-sharing and non-caring behavoir that says dead cyclists or dead bikers are ‘aware of the consequences’ of their mode of transport should should “accept the risks”. You should be ashamed of yourself!

  6. Francis Post author

    Alan Tan, given you a choice, which scenario is more dangerous?
    (1) Many cyclists thought that they are participating in “Tour de France”
    (2) Many drivers thought that they are participating in “Formula One”
    “Tour de France” wannabe may get themselves killed. However the “Formula One” very likely to kill others.
    Of cause both are wrong but this shows the intrinsic nature of bicycle is by far less fatal compared to cars.
    My interest is not in sport cycling, as you say they vocal enough. I am more interested in the everyday cyclists, the less vocal majority including uncle, auntie and workers.

  7. Keith

    I read this last few exchanges with interest…myself and a few colleagues who are both motorcyclist and cyclist were discussing the same issue. What I think it boils down to is developing mutual respect. I believe if society can mature to a level where it is considerate, then a policy of ‘policing’ will not be necessary. Having a special lane for cyclist is, in my opinion, akin to ‘policing’…it is the same as the hard, gaudy, plastic seats in our MRT because the authorities can’t trust the public enough to mind it’s property. I doubt a special lane can do much to prevent a dosing driver… stiffer penalty for reckless drivers, as well as cyclists developing road safety awareness might!

  8. Francis Post author

    Hi Keith, thanks for your comment. I agree a painted lane won’t be much safer in case of a dosing driver. However it will help the rest to position themselves consistently away from the cyclists. Speed of cyclist is much lower than motorbike. Motorbiker is able to travel at the same speed as car. It is a well known traffic management strategy: safe to mix vehicle of similar speed. It is not safe to mix vehicle of very different speeds such as mixing cyclist with motorist.
    I agree your point about “stiffer penalty for reckless drivers”, but this need to be based on a condition that not too many are violating the rules. If the infrastructure make it difficult to follow the rules, there bound to be many cases of violation. Each of such violation will appear as “normal” and become difficult to justify harsh penalty. Therefore, I still feel improving the road design should be the first step, than education and than legislation.

    For now cyclists have to adopt high level of awareness of the potential dangers in order to choose the safe way to ride. I shared my experience in this post: Key concept for safer cycling in Singapore

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