Compared to April 2007, Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles this year. And overall, automobile travel on all public roads dropped by 1.8%.
While this is certainly related to higher fuel costs, it would have been much more satisfying had this been due to more people (re)discovering the joys of riding a bicycle. Yet it appears that no one tracks those stats. That’s very unfortunate.
The concern is that with less miles driven, less fuel is purchased, and therefore, less taxes are collected for the federal Highway Trust Fund. The tax varies between 18.4 and 24.4 cents per gallon, based on the type of fuel. With the average vehicle getting about 20+ MPG, that works out to about a penny a mile in taxes.
I’m quite certain that cycling benefits the country (as well as individuals) in a much greater way. Is there a way to calculate the positive health and psychological impact that each mile ridden provides? Not to mention environmental gains over automobile use. Lower weight, lower blood pressure, lower stress – these all can contribute to a reduction in health issues, and less visits to the doctor.
Mile for mile, Americans would do far better to consider riding a bike more.