Should cyclists pay tax to be on the road?

4 December 2015

bike cycling Possibly the most boring arguments you'll see on the internet - and the most vicious - is that between motorists and cyclists. As we know, some drivers get angry at absolutely everything, and cyclists like trolling them. For people who both drive AND cycle (90% of bike owners have a car according to figures), they're left in an awkward position, and do their best to avoid the whole sideshow.

So with that, social media is about to kick-off royally, as a campaign has started called 'Get Britain Moving', which asks that cyclists pay to be on the roads.

This is the idea of a bloke called Mike Rutherford, and sadly for prog fans, it isn't the guitarist from Genesis.

He says that drivers have to use our shabby roads and sit in long queues in central London, because the government are building a cycle superhighway, which runs via Hyde Park Corner, Parliament, Blackfriars and the Tower of London.

Rutherford, who founded the Motorists Association decades ago, reckons it isn't fair that drivers have to sit in jams while cyclists get a nice new road to use. Of course, cyclists also have to use the crappy roads too, and have sat in numerous traffic jams while work was done on the roads since forever.

He wants cyclists to pay a £50 tax a year, if they want to use the roads. He said: "If cyclists want their dedicated lanes and cycle lanes surely they, like drivers, plane users and boat users, should pay for the access. £50 is not a lot and it would help. Cyclists should pay their way. Drivers are one of the highest taxed motorists in the world and he or she pay their motoring related taxes, which total about £60billion a year."

"I don’t know why cyclists are the only ones who are let off from the charges." He added: "Cyclists should be insured. They can run people over and kill them and hurt them. It’s happened, so there should be insurance for bikes."

There is a flaw in Rutherford's thinking. No-one actually pays a specific tax to access the roads. They're paid for by general taxes, like libraries or whatever. There's car tax, but no road tax. Winston Churchill abolished it in 1937. Cars are taxed based on amount of CO2 they emit. And other vehicles don't pay road tax either, such as Band A motorists and disabled drivers.

So, if a road tax was introduced, it would most likely be thrown at drivers too, on top of the taxes they already pay.

Bitterwallet doesn't have a dog in this fight, so only have facts to play with. Basically, if you want people to pay directly for access to the roads of the UK, no government will ever charge just cyclists, and not drivers. While it seems unfair if you're paying a lot to drive, the fact is, there's people who neither drive or cycle, who are also paying for the upkeep of the UK's roads.

So there you have it. There's other discussions to be had, for sure, but when it comes to road tax, this is just factually incorrect.

Should cyclists be insured to use the roads? That's another debate entirely, as of course, cyclists can cause injury and accident, but then, so can people running, or walking. Asking bikes to have insurance won't stop congestion either, which seems to be the main crux of the GBM campaign. One thing that should be looked at, is that this campaign should look at ways of arguing that taxes and insurance would be better for society, rather than a revenge punishment for something that irritates drivers.

Should the police do more about dangerous cyclists? Absolutely. We suspect that everyone would like something done about anyone who drives dangerously on the road, but again, taxes aren't going to fix that. It is obvious there's a problem (you can argue the toss about whether it is a cultural problem, or a practical one) here, but everyone needs to get their facts and stories straight before it gets fixed. Anecdotal evidence about someone annoying you those times, isn't enough.

Anyway - cyclists, motorists, and whoever else - it is over to you.

TOPICS:   Motoring   Tax


  • Raggedy
    Since there would be no discernable way of checking whether the cyclist who has just cut you up and made you spill your coffee over your lap actually had paid their "road tax", there seems little point. Also, since the removal of the need to display your CAR tax disk, hasn't it risen to record levels of people avoiding payment? Mr Rutherford is probably In Too Deep to think logically and should consider a career change to politician instead of staying in his Land Of Confusion.
  • Alexis
    The man is a tool. He'll be wanting a pavement tax for pedestrians at this rate.
  • Mr C.
    This has to go down as a first, a well written, impartial article on Bitterwallet with coherent arguments! Have you got a new writer?!
  • Mike
    Drivers don't pay road tax, they pay Vehicle Excise Duty. VED forms part of general taxation at the Exchequer, along with income tax, corporation tax, VAT etc. So we're ALL funding the roads, all the time, everywhere. Maybe we could Get Britain Moving more effectively by, say, getting out of our cars and using buses, trains or trams, cycling or walking, swegways for all these 0.5-mile journeys? Remember: you're not stuck in traffic - you are traffic.
  • Phil L.
    I think it's safe to dismiss the ramblings of Rutherford, as anyone too thick to realise that every bike on the roads is one less car, and it's CARS that cause congestion, is probably not capable of stringing together enough rational thought to even walk and chew gum at the same time, never mind convince the government that many centuries of prior law should be overturned, and that those with a right-of-way on the public highway be charged for it. Far better to remove the massive subsidy motorists receive and make them pay the full cost of their transport choices, including all the pollution and health costs. That would mean somewhere between a tripling and quadrupling of vehicle taxation. Anyone fancy £3.50/Litre? Then Rutherford could have the roads he wants - empty of most drivers, who would be driven off the roads by the cost. Of course, if you want to reduce the numbers fairly, you should do it by removing the worst drivers from the roads, not the least wealthy. As about 90% of drivers regard themselves as above average, that shouldn't be too controversial. Of course, some may be in for a shock! But the result would be improved safety, lower congestion, and less pollution. Regarding police priorities, remember that motorists have caused over 45,000 traumatic deaths in the UK this century alone, which is easily the most common cause of death which is attributable to someone acting illegally, and makes the strongest possible case for the police to prioritise driving standards. And that's not even counting those who've died from the effects of pollution, poor overall fitness, and obesogenic diseases. A high proportion of the cost of running the care services and NHS is due to motoring, so any reduction in that is to be welcomed.
  • R B.
    I am a cyclist, I am also a driver. Why should I pay road tax twice? There are barely any cyclist provisions near me and I live in a city centre which apparently is supporting the cyclist. I think Mr Rutherford can go to hell.
  • lstwhl
    > Should the police do more about dangerous cyclists? Absolutely. On what evidence? Bad cycling is already punished more severely than lethal driving. Disobeying draconian "no cycling" signs like in parks and squares can suffer fines of 500£ [1]. Knocking over a girl on a pavement whilst cycling causing superficial injury receives a 900£ fine [2] yet do something similar but far more dangerous like driving a car and receive only a 90£ fine [3]. Actually kill someone cycling whilst not paying attention, be fined 150£ but not be found responsible for that person's death [4]. Kill someone cycling and be found negligent incurs a 35£ fine [5]. Attempted murder of someone cycling where a driver literally aims for and drives over the victim with front and rear wheels is met with police apathy [6]. The reality is an attack on freedom of movement (which includes against people walking [7] but mainly cycling because that is a key business threat) coming from various tentacles of the motoring industry and their partners in the media. The latter has whipped up a hysteria, fake villany against cycling, fake victimhood for motorists, and the propaganda is indeed working. [8] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] https:[email protected]/the-ideological-war-on-cycling-ii-df7731ddd814
  • George
    I'll cycle on the pavement then.
  • Big A.
    Insurance - Yes Road Tax - Don't be so fucking stupid Mr. Rutherford
  • Alex
    Every day I cycle to work, I do not drive to work. I usually cycle once per week which means that there is 1 less car in the traffic jams on a Tuesday in Sheffield. Encourage more people to cycle and less to drive and you will get less traffic jams (especially if the majority of new cyclists are on dedicated cycle paths). Why do I not cycle 5 days per week? 1. I renovate houses for a living so often need to carry tools and materials. With planning I can probably cycle 3 days per week. 2. Sheffield is very hilly, cold and wet. The bike ride is 45 mins including a 25 minute climb in both directions, so if I am in a hurry I arrive knackered rather than refreshed. 3. My wife thinks it is too dangerous for me to cycle and actively discourages me. Build cycle lanes and this will improve.
  • evilnoodle
    Cycling insurance does already exist (and is extremely cheap for a year compared to car insurance). My commute home during rush hour is approximately 35 mins - I can cycle it in under 15 mins (without rushing) and even walk it in about the same length of time. All that for what should be a five minute drive, but isn't due to congestion - which by cycling I am helping easy! p.s. I pay VED twice and the nearest we get to "special bike lanes" in Aberdeen is a small line on the road/a bus lane.
  • Father J.
    "Drivers don’t pay road tax, they pay Vehicle Excise Duty." It is a tax levied on the use of the roads. If you don't pay it, then you can't drive your car on them. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable to refer to it as such.
  • Keith t.
    I wouldn't mind paying a little Bike tax....If it ensured that there was a safe cycle lane on every route i used.
  • Bollard
    Well written piece, well done. As a cyclist who suffers from bad flatulence, I would be happy to pay VED based on my emissions and appreciate that I may have to pay a bit more than those who are less flatulent but that's only fair.
  • Raggedy
    @Father Jack I think you'll find you have to pay VED whether or not your vehicle is moving on the road. Simply keeping it on the road means you have to pay. Don't encourage the Powers That Be to think it's a road tax. They'll be charging you for every different road you go on! Also if it was a Road Tax, pedestrians, cyclists, segue riders, dogs and you yourself when you got out of your car would also have to pay! Imagine paying a toll when you used a pedestrian crossing? Or traffic wardens slapping tickets on road kill...
  • Father J.
    @Raggedy You're clearly puddled, and as such I don't think continuing this discussion has any merit.
  • gas m.
    A database, potentially full of with every cyclists details to be sold on, git to be worth a few quid?
  • djm
    There is no such thing as 'road tax'. It is vehicle excise duty and is based on the pollutants emitted by the vehicle. A good number of electric cars don't pay ved, so charging bike would be silly.
  • Isodrac
    I love the smart comments regarding the fact it's not tax but VED, yet when it comes to paying for it the website specifically states "Tax your vehicle" and "Tax your car, motorcycle or other vehicle using your reminder letter (V11)." The website even has tax in the URL: That to me makes it a tax!
  • djm
    Excise/tax - same thing. My point is that it is VEHICLE tax, not ROAD tax. You are taxed based on your emissions, not for your space on the road.
  • Lela G.
    When drivers will pay for the full cost of driving, such as highway maintenance, air, noise, and space pollution, gridlock that affects economy, health costs due to pollutants, and all subsidies by the Government to auto and oil industries, then by all means ask that cyclists pay for the city roads they use, with Zero % of pollution, and No subsidies by the Government whatsoever.
  • Andy.
    If you drive and Cycle, you are obviously much greener than a 100% motorist and therfore should have a reduction on your road tax.
  • Raggedy
    @Father Jack I see you bowing gracefully and backing out quickly but your hat doesn't hide the white flag. :-)
  • Jennie
    Cyclist pay tax....what a joke. So what percentage of the road are they paying for? Being shoved into the gutter, with the pot holes. Cycles do not produce fumes, there for helping the environment. If the cyclists is a car driver then they're paying anyway. Not to mention council tax! And other taxes. Come on now, this bizarre idea needs to be thought out again.
  • Father J.
    Jog on, dickhead.
  • hedgehog
    Honestly, I really don't mind paying VED for my bike, on the current emissions based scale.
  • The H.
    "Should cyclists pay tax to be on the road?!" The answer is no.
  • Raggedy
    @Jennie I'm pretty sure Father Jack didn't aim his reply at you even though you may have been shocked by his clumsy and Neanderthal attempt at carrying on a conversation. :) Maybe it was just a spontaneous outburst of anger? :-)
  • Father J.
    "I’m pretty sure Father Jack didn’t aim his reply at you" Well done! You're not *quite* as much of a cabbage as I thought you were.
  • Fagin
    @Isodrac ..since when have the government been competent, ..take hmrc as a case in point, lots of monies owed by big firms, no effort to recover (just lunch at public expense). Therefore a department in charge which has had a mere 70 (ish) years to get it right with regard to road tax (or not). surprised at the incompetence? no not at all.
  • Raggedy
    lol @Father Jack I see you're still bleating. By your comment, you obviously thought Jennie was telepathic as you posted it after her comment? Dare I suggest you probably drive like everyone else is telepathic too? :)
  • Zed75
    People just get hung up about this. I think the point is that people who drive cars pay more tax, VED, on fuel etc.. If they don't pay VED they can't use their car - cars almost always have to go on roads. As such "road tax" as a term makes perfect sense. Just because someone decided not to earmark it for the road, but allow it to go into a general pot doesn't make a difference. In order to drive your car you have to pay VED. I don't have a problem with it. I also don't think cyclists should pay an extra tax. We need to encourage people to cycle and drive less.
  • Father J.
    @Raggedy Please hurry back to whichever village is currently missing it's idiot. Thank you.

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