News / Toronto

Should Toronto pay people to cycle with money from drivers?

"Anything that can help people make the shift from driving to transit or cycling is a good thing," says Transport Futures director Martin Collier.

Parked bicycles line a street in Stockholm, Sweden. The city is considering funneling money from its road toll program into cyclists' pockets.

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Parked bicycles line a street in Stockholm, Sweden. The city is considering funneling money from its road toll program into cyclists' pockets.

A Swedish plan to pad the pockets of cyclists – using money taken from drivers – could be imported to Toronto, says a local transportation expert.

Officials in Stockholm, Sweden, are considering taking a portion of the revenue earned by its congestion zone program – which charges drivers a fee to access the city’s core – and giving it to cyclists in the form of credits for things like winter tires and tune-ups.

Teo Enlund, who authored a report on the issue for Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, said the plan would encourage more people to take two wheels to work instead of four.

“Those who make the jump to start cycling rather than traveling by car should get a pat on the back, not a kick in the face,” Enlund told a local newspaper.

Martin Collier, a Guelph-based expert on congestion pricing, agrees.

“Anything that can help people make the shift from driving to transit or cycling is a good thing,” he said.

The City of Toronto already has the authority to levy road tolls and could implement a similar cycling compensation plan “fairly easily,” Collier said. However, finding the political will for such a change is another matter, he said.

“It’s a different world in Stockholm,” he said, noting approval for the road congestion plan hovers around 80 per cent there. “In Toronto, there would be a lot more pushback.”

While drivers shell out for things like gas taxes, parking and registration fees, their mode of transportation is far more heavily subsidized than cycling or walking, Collier said.

For every dollar a vehicle owner puts into the system through things like taxes and levies, everyone else pays $9.20, according to a report from Moving Forward in Vancouver. In contrast, the public pays only eight cents for every dollar contributed by cyclists. 

What do Toronto drivers pay?

There are a number of user fees for drivers in Ontario, including gas taxes and annual permit fees. There used to be a $60 vehicle registration tax in Toronto, but it was cancelled in 2010.

Licence plate sticker: $108/year

Driver’s licence renewal : $81.50

Gas tax: 14.7 cents/litre (provincial), 10 cents/litre (federal)

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