This pop-up cafe in what’s normally a midtown Manhattan parking spot highlights to me the difficulty of really calculating which modes of transportation are subsidized and which aren’t:
The point here is that space in midtown Manhattan is extremely valuable. The conventional thing to do with curbside space is to sell it to car owners for parking purposes as sub-market prices, leading to shortages. One policy alternative that’s still considered vaguely radical is to sell the space to car owners for parking purposes at market-rate prices, thus ameliorating parking shortages and increasing city revenue. But imagine a city auctioning off a piece of city-owned land and saying “we’ll sell it to anyone who wants to put a bike shop here.” The severe restriction on permitted uses for the land (to wit: bike shops) would itself constitute a large subsidy to the winning bidder. The normal thing to do would be to auction the land off without restriction so that it can be put to the most economical use.
Given path dependency, the large fixed investments in buildings, etc., it’s obviously not very practical for New York City to auction off West 44th Street. But this kind of allocation of expensive space to automative purposes is a major source of subsidy to car owners. Consider not just street parking, but also space-intensive things like the elevated Southeast-Southwest Freeway in DC or the massive patch of “ramp spaghetti” near the Kennedy Center.