There is no doubt that cycling is booming as councils and the Government invest in cycleways.

But do cyclists pay for the roads? Can cyclists ride two abreast?

You sometimes hear the old chestnut about how motor vehicle drivers pay for the roads and people on bicycles don't, so it is implied - and often stately plainly - that therefore cyclists shouldn't even be on the road. Roads are for cars!

Actually they are not, roads are for vehicles, and bicycles are vehicles - Class AA if they are a pedal cycle and AB if they are power-assisted. So they have equal rights to be on roads.

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You also sometimes hear some people say people on bicycles don't pay "road tax" which is true, because there is no such thing. It is true that state highways are funded entirely by central Government and revenue for land transport comes mostly from motorists through fuel excise duty (petrol tax), road user charges on diesel vehicles (RUC), and vehicle licensing charges.

So do cyclists pay for roads? Yes. Most of cycling is not done on state highways, it's done on local roads.

The costs of building and maintaining local roads are shared between central Government (through the NZ Transport Agency) and local councils. Councils contribute to the cost of their land transport activities from rates and borrowing.

So it is ratepayers and taxpayers who are paying for the cost of building and maintaining local roads, regardless of whether they walk, ride or drive. It is simply not true that someone on a bicycle is not paying for the local road they are riding on.

Also we don't ask pedestrians to pay for using the footpaths or expect only those who travel at night to pay for street lighting. Our roads are built to benefit us all.
A further relevant point is that maintenance is usually the main cost for local roads and bicycles cause very little or no damage to roads.

Many people who ride pushbikes, perhaps most, are also vehicle drivers. So on many occasions when a bicycle is on the road, one more motor vehicle isn't. If more people cycle, it's better for all of us. The air is cleaner, our roads are less congested, the cost of road maintenance would decrease, and our community is healthier.

What's not to like about that?

The issue of people on bicycles riding two abreast causes a lot of static, especially among people who don't know the law.

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Can people on bicycles legally ride two abreast? Yes - sometimes. And sometimes it's not wise even if it's legal. But the important point is that it is legal for cyclists to ride two abreast - provided they meet specific criteria.

The Behaviour Rules in the Official NZ Code for Cyclists say that "two cyclists can ride next to each other but should take into account the keep-left rule and not hold back traffic". And "ride in single file when passing vehicles".

Often people on bicycles will move into single file when they hear a motor vehicle approaching (I normally do) but drivers need to realise that people on bicycles do not have to do this at all times, it depends on the circumstances.

Equally one also sees letters and texts to the editor berating groups of people on cycles for riding more than two abreast (in rural areas usually) or two abreast on narrow country roads. This sort of behaviour is rightly seen as discourteous and at times illegal, so some people on bicycles need to take a look at their own riding habits as well.

Luckily most drivers are considerate of cyclists and vice versa. A few drivers are inconsiderate and aggressive towards cyclists and a few cyclists are arrogant or ride unsafely. Road rage in either direction is thankfully rare but isolated cases get all the attention.

If we recognise that we all have the right to be on the roads we've all paid for and have been built for all of us, our communities will be better places, and safer places, each and every day.

Gavin Scoble is a long-time keen recreational and commuter cyclist and one of the co-ordinators of cycling advocacy group Cycle Aware Hawke's Bay, the local part of the national Cycling Action Network. Views expressed here are the writer's opinion and not the newspaper's. Email: editor@hbtoday.co.nz.