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Articles > Rant December, 12, 2012

Get off our roads! Cyclists and road tax

Sam Jackson
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7.43 / 10

“Cyclists should not be on our roads! They don’t pay road tax! We motorists pay up for our tax discs, which entitle us to be on the roads, and which pay for general road maintenance. Do bikes have tax disks? No. They take up our space and don’t pay for the deterioration to our roads which they cause. They have no right to be there. Get the f*****g bastards off our roads!”

Cyclists and road tax

Photo by Kyle Gradinger

As a cyclist this is an argument that I often encounter. Irrationally angry, Jeremy Clarkson inspired people seem to have a huge problem that I like riding my bike. Why interrupt your day to complain about this? But if you are going to complain and moan and yell at me, please at least have a coherent argument as to why I shouldn’t be on ‘your roads.’ There’s certainly a few misconceptions regarding road tax.

Firstly, there is the belief that cyclists should pay road tax for using their bikes on the road. I’ve got news for you. Road tax doesn’t exist. It was abolished in 1937. Even Winston Churchill campaigned against it. What motorists mean when they say ‘road tax’ is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED). VED is calculated based on vehicle emissions. Band A cars, which fall below 100g/km CO2 emissions, are exempt as their emissions are so low. Unsurprisingly, a bicycle is also exempt. Why? Well, how much CO2 does a bicycle emit? Complaining that cyclists don’t pay VED is like complaining that somebody that has never bought anything doesn’t pay VAT.

Secondly, there is the belief that cyclists don’t pay for the maintenance of the roads. Again, I’ve got news for you. There is no specific spend from VED on our roads. Road building and road maintenance is funded by council tax, which most adult cyclists pay as they often have homes, and secondly from general taxation, which most cyclists pay as they often have incomes. The very suggestion that cyclists do not have a right to be on the road through having not paid for it is absurd. It’s like saying you cannot possibly visit any other council district in case you use something, a pavement for example, that has been funded by a council to who’s taxation pot you do not contribute.

So I will continue cycling on the roads safe in the knowledge that I am in fact allowed to be there.

PS. 87% of British Cycling members also own a car. So that means most cyclists do actually pay ‘road tax’ anyway.

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  1. Amoeba

    Motorists, do not pay for the roads. The taxpayer is funding (subsidising) every registered car to the tune of just over 2 000 Euro each year, or exceeding 20 000 per decade (2008 figures). This is one of the top car subsidies in Europe.

    (BTW that’s all taxpayers in the UK, not just motorists despite their wholly inadequate contributions via car-tax and fuel tax)

    Motoring is far too cheap and like any under-priced activity, underpricing encourages excessive, unnecessary and frivolous use, with the inevitable and undesirable side-effects. Such undesirable externalities kill thousands of people each year, due to transport air pollution alone. The external costs are not paid by the motorists – you guessed it, the taxpayer picks up the enormous bill – it’s in the £ billions.

    It’s about time that motorists started to realise that they’re the social parasites, who do not ay their fair share, and started to act with all due humility, instead of the arrogance and aggression, so widely demonstrated and seen everyday on the streets.

    Of course there are good, Law-abiding, patient drivers, but I can’t help suspecting that many of them are Law-abiding cyclists, including those who have been scared off the roads by roads rendered hostile, by bad driving and bad drivers.

    BTW, like all human activities, cycling has external costs too, but these are utterly minuscule and trivial, when compared with those of driving. If the cyclist is of the ‘utility’ variety, i.e. cycling instead of driving, the external benefits of cycling (including that of not driving) vastly outweigh any external costs.

  2. William

    I don’t feel comfortable living in a world in which Jeremy Clarkson is taken seriously.

  3. Warwick

    Its bad enough on our roads with all the bad drivers.
    Cyclists are just obstacles and have no place in society!

    • Amoeba

      Warwick said “Cyclists are just obstacles and have no place in society!”
      What justification do you have for your bigotry?
      Motorists harm society – see my previous post. When you are stuck in a traffic jam, what type of vehicle maks up ~ 90-95% of the congestion – private motor-cars. It is de facto inescapable that the obstacles are not people on bicycles, but people driving cars, and most of those jorneys are very short. If cycling were banned, since most adults cyclists do have a car and do drive, but they choose to cycle instead. In consequence, banning cycling would add more cars to the congested roads, please do explain how that would reduce congestion.
      Science, economics and logic shows your ‘solution’ would only serve to make things worse.

  4. NameGeoff Crosby

    The argument as to the rights of cyclists to use roads can be justified by either party for or against, the problem is that there is no control over this mode of transport. Cycling is the only form of transport on the roads that is not licensed, they do not require insurance and have total disregard for other road users and pedestrians. If councils want to encourage the use of bicycles they should provide cycle paths that keep bicycles away from cars and pedestrians. Any form of transport that causes so many injuries and deaths in a year should be controlled, it is just to easy for local councils to leave it to road uses and let them argue between each other when it should be their duty of care to protect all concerned.

    • Geoff Crosby,
      “Cycling is the only form of transport on the roads that is not licensed, they do not require insurance”
      Your level of ignorance is quite overwhelming and either shows willful ignorance or perhaps even deliberate mendacity. Other unlicenced road users exist – pedestrians, horse-riders.
      First of all you have to show that cycling is especially dangerous to other road-users – you cannot, pro-rata, driving poses the greatest danger to life and property of all road transport modes.
      You assume that all motorists are licenced and there is a hidden assumption that all drivers are also insured. The reality is that around 3% of drivers in the UK are either unlicenced, uninsured, or most likely both.
      The DfT states that 80% of cyclists also drive, (presumably many of the others are children and below the legal driving-age).

      Motorists endanger all other road-users, while pedestrians and cyclist offer the least danger to others. If a cyclist or a pedestrian makes a misjudgment, they most likely only endanger themselves, whereas, when a motorist acts similarly, they can endanger everyone, especially vulnerable road-users..
      Try looking at the statistics.
      Motorists even endanger people in their own homes.
      This is not a unique event

      Around 98% of serious or fatal pedestrian injuries in urban areas (i.e. where pedestrians are most likely to be) – are due to collisions with motor vehicles.
      Per mile traveled, pedal cycles are less likely than cars to injure a pedestrian, and far less likely to kill them. In Great Britain, from 2009 to 2013:
      Cycles accounted for about 2% of all urban, non-motorway vehicular traffic and were involved in 0.82% of pedestrian fatalities and 1.6% of serious injuries to pedestrians;
      Mile-for-mile in urban areas, motor vehicles were about 1.2 times more likely than a cycle to seriously injure a pedestrian, and almost 2.5 times as likely to kill them;
      There was one pedestrian death involving a cycle on the pavement or verge, whereas altogether, 34 pedestrians were killed on average each year by vehicles on pavements/verges.
      An official study of pedestrian priority sites in the 1990s found only one pedestrian/cyclist incident in 15 site years.

  5. Yes Dru, I think both Car and Cyclists should spend time on a motorbike, if it don’t kill ’em it’ll make them better drivers!

  6. I read this article simply because I love your writing style – I don’t drive OR know how to ride a bike. xD However, you put your points across in a very articulate and intelligent way, and I love that every point you make is backed up by something factual. I aspire to write and debate as well as you one day, sir!

  7. Johannes Voges

    In all honesty the current road tax doesn’t pay for the deterioration of the roads, it goes of CO2 emissions which is utter crap. It should be done by weight and power. Anyway, a cyclist would be negligible in both these arguments anyway, they emit as much CO2 as a pedestrian. I would love to cycle on the pavements especially when there is no pedestrians using them but I have been told off twice by rolling police cars. So I agree with the above response.

  8. My rogue’s gallery (I’m a daily commuting London cyclists) :
    * Black taxis – think they own the road. Vindictive. Mean. Dangerous
    * Large flatbed trucks. Lethal. Regularly speed
    * 4x4s, especially on the school run. Fighting kids, distracted mums, dangerous junctions.
    * White van man.
    * Sports cars. Wouldn’t it be funny to overtake a cyclist at 50mph with a 2 inch margin
    * Buses – they can’t help being massive I suppose
    * Drunk pedestrians –
    It’s very dangerous out there guys, be careful!!!!

  9. Dru

    Asa motorcyclist I ask that some of you bike types learn to use the road responcibly. Whilst I was negotiating a bend I nearly didnt manage to swerve out of the way of two peddlers two abreast. Some of the people taking up this hobby are just plain ignorant of the dangers,get some training to learn of the dangers some of you cause in your total blind ignorance. Also if the bloke in Blackmore in Essex who decided to stop and chat to his mate on a 90 degree bend would care to thank my wife for not hitting him then please send me your adress and Ill come and explain why people like him are giving responcible peddlers a bad name.

    • John

      It’s legal for cyclists to ride two-abreast.

  10. Road tax for cyclists, are you Mad !! ( Electric cars don’t pay why should we) I am a fanatical cyclist, BUT I find no need to : jump red lights, ride on the pavements, ride without a crash helmet, ride without lights at night, ride an non roadworthy vehicle. It’s simple, make cyclists more accountable for their actions. Make helmets compulsory, make all bikes pass a simple annual roadworthy test, make cyclist have third party insurance for over (12s). In a time of recession the small cost of these things may help finances. I pay insurance every year at the cost of £30 a year it’s hardly going to break the bank. I pay upwards of £100 for a helmet as my head is worth it, I don’t jump red lights as I like living. I love cycling and have no objection to paying my way to continue enjoying it. When I go to purpose built mountain bike trails I pay to use them why should the highway be any different.

  11. Samantha Ashman

    Thank you for writing this. It’s good that you’re getting the information out there.

    I would also say to car drivers that you know that traffic jam you hate in the morning, when you’re not moving much for half an hour? I’ve driven in that. Now, I cycle. According to this website, there are three million people in the UK who cycle three times a week or more. Just imagine the congestion on the roads if they drove instead…

  12. Guest

    Whilst your reply to those arguments are perfectly sound, how about we remove ALL vehicles that lack an engine or battery or otherwise drive at the consistent speed limit off the roads, this would banish horse and carts as well as cyclists.