As you may or may not know I like to ride bicycles, I like to ride bicycles a lot actually but I also own a car as do most cyclists, very few people outside of major metropolitan areas such as New York City are completely car free by choice. However without exception whenever there is a debate about whether or not bicycles belong on the road or if it is safe for them to be there, one ass hat is always sure to bring up their retarded theory that cyclists don't pay for the roads so they shouldn't be allowed to use them, the fact that most cyclist also own cars and pay the same taxes for roads as they do is amazingly beyond their level of intelligence. This argument is usually followed by suggesting a licensing fee, insurance, etc. just like a car... I actually would agree to a licensing system if one could be developed that would provide an equal and fair fee for all vehicles and if whatever money was collected through a bicycle licensing system were to go directly to improvements on the road to make cycling on them safer. That will likely never happen in my life time however so for the sake of argument lets just look at what a fair system might look like.
Here's where the logic gets interesting for those who use this argument, the only true way to fairly calculate how much each vehicle should pay is by using the weight of the said vehicle. The heavier the vehicle the more damage that vehicle is going to do to the roadways and should therefor assume more of the cost to repair the damage their vehicle has caused to the road. So lets say that it is decided that a bicycle should be charged a rate of $50 per year for a license to use the road and that the average bicycle weighs 20 lbs give or take, I'm no mathematician so my math will probably be sketchy at best. So if a 20 lbs vehicle's fair share of the road cost is $50 per year, then one could argue that a car weighing 2000 lbs might be $5,000 per year... keep in mind I am not a math whiz so my calculations could be off and most likely off in favor of the car. The average weight of a Honda Civic is around 2700 lbs so in actuality you'd likely be paying more than the example above unless you happen to own a smallish Civic sized car, the average weight of a large SUV by comparison is about 3 times as much as a Honda Civic so the SUV owner would be expected to pay 3 times as much in order to cover their fair share of damage to the road or about $15,000 per year. I gotta say I am liking this more and more, with this kind of money imagine how smooth the roads would be, each and every road could have a bicycle lane incorporated into it and we'd still have money left over for the further development of multi-use bike/pedestrian trails.
Ok, I admit that the scenario above is a bit a far fetched and pretty unrealistic as most people wouldn't be able to afford to drive even a Honda Civic at that point but it would certainly cut down on vehicle traffic and alter how people decide to get around. As a more realistic scenario lets talk about wheel tax, which at it's base is design around paying for roads and is usually decided by number of wheels and the weight of the vehicle or the amount of damage that vehicle is likely to do to roads. So if for example the average car has to pay $50 per year for wheel tax as their designated fair share, a bicycle's share would be negligible by both weight and actual damage to the road.In fact it would cost significantly more money in administration and enforcement costs then you would ever collect with a bicycle licensing fee. Even if you were to charge the bicycle a flat $10-20 bucks per year, you would probably still lose money on it and at that point the fee would be a penalty rather than a fair assessment based on potential damage to the roads caused by the bicycle and in this scenario the argument is about the cyclist paying their fair share to use the road. Also could you imagine poor little Johnny who wakes up on Christmas morning to find a brand new shiny bike under the tree only to find out he can't ride it because his minimum wage, single mother couldn't afford the bike and the licensing fee because if there were to be a bicycle licensing fee it would most certainly be across the board so that every single bicycle going out the door at the LBS or big box store was properly licensed. My guess would be that the retail stores would also be responsible for collecting and reporting licensing fees to cut down on the number of government employees needed to implement the system, turning them from the generally rad dudes and dudettes that they are into the licensing gestapos.
Unless the ass hats out there who complain that cyclists don't pay their share for roads want to start paying according to the first scenario, collecting any sort of "fair" fees on bicycles would actual lose money or just be a penalty fee rather than an actual fair licensing fee. I might also point out that not only do bicycles not cause damage to the roads but they also provide a cost savings by keeping at least one car off of the road that would otherwise contribute to damaging the road. In reality those that chose to use a bicycle as transportation are not only saving wear and tear on roads (i.e. money) but they are also help ease traffic and congestion in parking lots, which means that those complaining could get to their destination faster with less hassle and should be able to find better parking when they get there... heck maybe society should pay cyclists for not driving a car or at the very least say "thank you" rather than attempting to penalize cyclist just because we are annoying obstacles that are "in the way" or "too slow".