Insurance for cyclists

Insurance pic

“You don’t pay road tax,” is a common (and mistaken) complaint against cyclists from motorists ignorant of the history of road funding, but “you don’t have insurance” is another regular complaint.

In fact, if you’re a member of the CTC, British Cycling or London Cycling Campaign, you ARE third-party insured. And it’s also possible to buy cycle-specific third-party insurance.

However, let’s get this into perspective. When a cyclist crashes into a car; the cyclist is highly likely to come off worst. Cyclists ride with the knowledge any collision could lead to a dire outcome; motorists, cocooned in metal boxes, assume they’re snug and safe.

There’s no legal requirement for cyclists to have third-party insurance and this is a reflection of the damage that cyclists can inflict on property and pedestrians. Motorists, on the other hand, are legally obliged to be insured. Worringly, research by reveals that a fifth of motorists admit to driving without insurance. According to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau about 900,000 drivers under the age of 30 are currently driving without insurance. This matters because while a cyclist may cause a pedestrian death once in a blue moon, uninsured drivers kill 160 people each year, and injure a further 23,000.

Cause a death by driving – or cycling – and you risk being prosecuted, and sued for damages.

Smash into somebody’s property, cause damage and you stand a very high risk of being sued for reparation.

No household insurance policy covers motorists while operating their vehicles but some cover all other third-party claims, including from cyclists. Check your small print.

It’s worth noting that, unless specified, most cycle-related third-party insurance, covers the insured for journeys to and from work, and the like, but not for occupational use. Messengers are not covered by standard third-party insurance.

The oddly fascinating history of ‘road tax’ and the Road Fund

Winston Churchill 1925 opposition to 'road tax'

“There has been no direct relationship between vehicle tax and road expenditure since 1937.”
Policy and External Communications Directorate, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

“The hypothecation of vehicle excise duty was abolished in the 1930s, although the excise licence is still sometimes mistakenly referred to as a ‘road fund licence’.”
A brief history of registration, DVLA [PDF]

It’s often assumed that ‘road tax’ pays for Britain’s roads. In fact, it’s general and local taxation that pays for roads. Proceeds from Vehicle Excise Duty – a tax on vehicles, not a payment for use of roads – goes into the Consolidated Fund, the coffers of the Treasury. ‘Road tax’ – a ring-fenced pot of cash raised by motorists and to be spent on roads – was created in 1909, mortally wounded in 1926 by then Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill and no longer ring-fenced by 1937. Up until 1926, British roads had been – partially – repaired by the monies that accumulated from the tax on motoring. During the motorcar boom of 1896-1936, the British road network grew by just 4 percent, and the great majority of those new roads that were built were paid for not by motor taxation but from local authority funds.

The road tax pot was called the Road Fund. This was administered by a Road Board.

The Road Fund had been set up in the 1909/10 Finance Act, part of Lloyd George’s famous ‘People’s Budget’.

“The brunt of the expense at the beginning must be borne by motorists, and to do them justice they are willing, and even anxious, to subscribe handsomely towards such a purpose, so long as a guarantee is given in the method and control of the expenditure that the fund so raised will not merely be devoted exclusively to the improvement of the roads, but that they will be well and wisely spent for that end.”
Budget speech of then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George, April 1909

Lloyd George introduced a graduated tax on cars, based on their horsepower, and a tax on imported oil. Motorists had to pay an annual amount into the Road Fund. Lloyd George gave a pledge to motorists: the Road Fund money would be ring-fenced, to be spent only on road maintenance projects. This ring-fencing was deeply opposed by the Treasury and by Customs & Excise. A Customs official wrote in 1909: “The plan of ear-marking special taxes for special purposes is open to serious objection.”

Ring-fencing of taxes was heretical then, and it’s still heretical now (the TV licence fee, ring-fenced to pay for the BBC, is the exception that breaks the rule).

However, Lloyd George ignored his officials:

“I want to make it clear…that expenditure undertaken out of the fund must be directly referable to work done in connection with the exigencies of the motor traffic of the country.”

The Road Board, created by the Development and Road Improvements Bill, published in August 1909, gave grants from the fund to local authorities to repair roads damaged by motorists. Even in the early days of motoring, roads were mostly paid for by general and local taxation. Paying Road Fund dues was never a fee for using a road, it was a fee to be paid out to local authorities for the damage done to roads by motorists. A Customs memo of 1908 said the “increased taxation of motors…” would “aid in restoring local roads damaged by motors licensed in other areas.”

finance act 1910

Lloyd George said the Road Fund’s “first charge” was for improvements after damage done by cars; “power to build new roads” was only secondary.

William Plowden, in his 1971 book ‘The Motor Car and Politics, 1896-1970’ said:

“What was striking about the Road Fund was not its failure, but – given the heretical principles on which it was based – its survival: into the mid-1930s in practice, into the mid-1950s in form, and into the present day as a weapon of political argument.”

No new roads were ever built by the Board, and it sponsored few major improvements; much the largest part of its grants (over 90 percent in all) went towards small scale improvements in road surfaces. In 1919 the Ministry of Transport was created with a Roads Department. The Road Board became superfluous and was disbanded. The Road Fund continued to exist, but not for much longer.

'Road tax' expenditure table 1910-30

The Treasury, never happy with the ring-fenced Road Fund, constantly plotted against it.

In 1921, the Treasury’s Sir Otto Niemeyer wrote a private memo to Sir Robert Horne, the then chancellor:

“The Chancellor will probably not wish to raise this controversy at the present moment, but at the same time he may think it well to give no further encouragement to the theory that motor taxes must be spent on roads.”

The Ministry of Transport was opposed to going back on Lloyd George’s 1909 pledge to motorists but the Chancellor saw the need for the pledge to be superseded at some point. To Niemeyer, Horne replied: “I am anxious that special emphasis should not be laid upon such a pledge at the present time. The financial future is so uncertain that it is impossible to say that no changes shall ever take place in the destination of the proceeds of motor taxation. If the need arises, some Chancellor of the Exchequer may some day be compelled to use some of the revenue from motor taxes for general purposes…”

By 1923, the Treasury’s opposition to ring-fencing of motor taxation came out into the open. A memo circulated to the Cabinet said: “It appears to the Treasury that the time has come when it is desirable to hold an enquiry to determine what should be the national policy in regard to the finance of road expenditure and motor car taxation…”

In the same memo, the Treasury heaped scorn on the principle behind the Road Fund, outlining the ludicrous situation the priniciple of ring-fencing extended to other sectors: “…e.g the taxes on drink, liquor, licences, etc., to bear the charges for police, prisons, and the administration of justice; the income tax the cost of defence; the death duties the debt charges and so forth – it is easy to imagine the confusion that would result…Some of the services charged on the funds would languish for insufficient funds, some would run riot with excessive sums at their disposal. In short before long the whole system would be reduced to chaos…”

The Treasury said the suggestion that Government had ever made a ring-fencing pledge, in perpetuity, to motorists was a “preposterous claim” and that it was not right that “any set of taxpayers are entitled to make binding terms with Parliament as to the application of the taxes levied from them. The bargain, such as it was, was made during another Parliament and with another government; and there can be no question that Parliament has full power to alter the rates of motor taxation and the application of the proceeds without the consent of the motor users.”

By 1925, the Treasury was preparing the way for scrapping ring-fencing. Sir George Barstow, Controller of Supply Services, said it was not possible “to maintain that the action of the government, three Parliaments ago, stopped all governments for all time from imposing taxation on the owners of motor cars for purposes other than paying for roads and bridges. Motor taxation was in no sense voluntary. It was imposed by Statute; and what Parliament had done, Parliament could undo.”

In minute to his officials in November 1925, the then Chancellor Winston Churchill said:

“Entertainments may be taxed; public houses may be taxed; racehorses may be taxed…and the yield devoted to the general revenue. But motorists are to be privileged for all time to have the whole yield of the tax on motors devoted to roads. Obviously this is all nonsense…Such contentions are absurd, and constitute…an outrage upon the sovereignty of Parliament and upon common sense.”

Churchill wanted to end the Road Fund’s ring-fencing once and for all.

To a deputation of rural interests, he said his proposed abolition of the Road Fund was not anti-motorist: “Let me say clearly, I have an expensive motor car, and use it a great deal, and I have nothing personal in my argument – I am speaking from a detached point of view.”

Closing the Road Fund would have met opposition from the Ministry of Transport; diverting cash from the fund less so.

Churchill and his Treasury mandarins felt they were entitled to take £7m from the Road Fund because the Treasury had given the Road Fund a grant of £8.25m in 1919.

A ‘raid on the Road Fund’ was feared by motoring organisations but they could do little to stop it. In 1927, Churchill made the first of his two ‘raids’ on the Road Fund. His budget of that year was the beginning of the end for the Road Fund. The whole of the Road Fund’s £12m was absorbed into national coffers (it took until 1937 for the Road Fund to be emptied; it limped on, in name only, until the 1950s).

Churchill’s opposition to the Road Fund was largely financial but not exclusively so. Fearing motorists would lay claim to roads by dint of paying for a small portion of their repair, he wrote:

“It will be only a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.”

In a note to Churchill by the man who had pushed Lloyd George to make the ring-fencing pledge to motorists in the first place, Austen Chamberlain wrote:

“I certainly never imagined such a statement could be construed by any sensible man as binding on Governments or Parliament with no regard to time or circumstances.”

In 1927, the Treasury noted that the main supporters of the Road Fund were private motoring organisations who wanted road improvements not for the good of the country but to drive faster: “it is clearly absurd that the State should be asked to provide large and ever-increasing sums for what are virtually pleasure racing tracks.”

Belief in the continued existence of ‘road tax’ was heavily engrained at the highest levels. Conservative MP Colonel JTC Moore Brabazon, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Transport in 1923-7, and even Minister for Transport in 1940-1, said in a 1932 speech in the House of Commons, that money that went to the Road Fund was

“motorists’ money. It is not Imperial taxation. It is money that comes from the motorists, to be spent on one definite thing, namely the roads.”

In this view he was wrong, and it’s a mistake made down to the present day.

The UK’s inter-war road building programme was not paid for by motorists alone. In 1929 the Government authorised a £28m programme for an extension of the trunk roads programme and £27.5m five-year programme for classified roads. New build roads were paid for by general taxation, not from ‘road tax’.

The 1930 Royal Commission on Transport report on road transport reported that two-thirds of the maintenance cost of roads – despite the existence of the Road Fund – was met by general and local taxation.

The Salter Report of 1932 recognised that motorised road vehicles were guilty of “using the common highway for private profit, while endangering public safety, amenity, and capital.”

In May 1936, Austen Chamberlain the told the House of Commons that the Road Fund would be wound-up the following year and absorbed by the Ministry of Transport. The Road Fund, raided by Churchill in 1926, halting it in all but name, was therefore defunct from 1937 onwards.

Now, we have Graduated Vehicle Excise Duty, a tax on motorised emissions. In fact, this is similar to when car tax discs were introduced in 1921: cars with greater horsepower paid more.

Then as now, road are darn expensive to build and maintain: motorists have never paid the full costs of the tarmac they drive on. Motorists have always been subsidised to drive.


And motorists, from almost the first days of motoring, have believed the roads belonged to them.

By 1907, two years before the creation of the Road Fund, motorists had forgotten about the debt they owed to prehistoric track builders, the Romans, turnpike trusts and bicyclists (the Cyclists’ Touring Club and National Cyclists’ Union had created the Roads Improvement Association in 1886). Before even one road had been built with motorcars in mind motorists assumed the mantle of overlords of the road.

A satirical verse in Punch magazine of 1907 summed up this attitude:

The roads were made for me; years ago they were made. Wise rulers saw me coming and made roads. Now that I am come they go on making roads – making them up. For I break things. Roads I break and Rules of the Road. Statutory limits were made for me. I break them. I break the dull silence of the country. Sometimes I break down, and thousands flock round me, so that I dislocate the traffic. But I am the Traffic.


Forty years later, J.S. Dean, the journalist and head of the Pedestrians’ Association, wrote ‘Murder Most Foul’, a polemic calling for an end to “road slaughter” and an end to the motorists’ view that highways were made for their exclusive use.

“The private driver is… most strongly influenced by the sense of ownership of his car, and, as he often believes, of the road as well. It is “his” car to do with as he pleases, and, as he often believes, it is “his” road too, and the other road-users are merely intruders who are there at their own peril.

This belief (it is of interest to note) has its origin in the vicious and anti-social proposition, embodied for a time in the Road Fund and since sustained by the motor and road propagandists, that the motorists have a right to demand that the motor taxes should be devoted exclusively to the construction and “improvement” of roads, i.e. as experience has shown, to the construction and “improvement” of roads with special or exclusive reference to the convenience of the drivers and with a general disregard of the convenience and safety of the other road-users. Of course, one might as well say that the drink taxes ought to be devoted to the construction and improvement of public houses or the duties on cosmetics to the establishment of beauty parlours.

From 1923 to 1938 the road tax disc security background text read ROAD FUND LICENCE. in 1939 the tiny text switched to MECHANICALLY PROPELLED VEHICLE LICENCE.

Even though the Road Fund was no more by 1937, motor vehicle log-books continued to use the term. The RF60 log-books were issued by local authorities, some of which used the designation VE60, for vehicle excise. RF60 and VE60 log-books were finally phased out in 1977 when the newly-created DVLA took over the registration of vehicles.

ChapelHouse road fund licence

Many motorists and motoring organisations still use the antique terms Road Fund and Road Fund Licence. This is wrong, a point stressed by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs:

“It is still common to hear the ‘tax disc’ referred to as the Road Fund Licence, an expression that dates from the time that vehicle tax was collected by local authorities and linked directly to road building and maintenance. The direct link between vehicle taxation and road construction (and hence the ‘road fund’) ended in 1937. Nowadays, the correct name for the amount payable for a tax disc is Vehicle Excise Duty.”

VED too obscure? Use ‘car tax’. This is both accurate and intelligible to all. ‘Road tax’ carries with it the whiff of ‘road ownership’ and, over the years, has caused unnecessary conflict between road users, all of whom have equal rights to use of roads. In short, motorists do not pay for roads, we all do.

+++++++++ is an ironically-named campaign supporting the road rights of cyclists. The message that cyclists have equal rights on the roads is carried on iPayRoadTax t-shirts and jerseys.

Cyclists are hit with sticks when they should be fed with carrots

Driving while distracted with cellphone

There’s a strong economic argument for paying people to cycle (it happens in Denmark, for instance), and to raise fuel taxes to force motorists to drive less.

Cycling is healthy, green and low impact; driving leads to obesity, is carbon-wasteful and destroys roads.

‘Smart taxes’, first advocated by early 20th Century English economist Arthur Cecil Pigou, need to be levied to correct such imperfections. Activities that have high external costs to society – such as getting in a car for every short journey – need to be reined in by being made much more expensive.

Cycling, which has many benefits to society, needs to become much more financially attractive. The UK Government’s Cycle to Work salary sacrifice scheme is just the start. Let’s pay cyclists to cycle. Let’s put a monetary value on the concept of One Less Car.

Pie in the sky, of course, no Government – not even one with a commuter cyclist as Prime Minister – would ever dare risk the wrath of the motoring public. But without financial – and infrastructure – disincentives, motorists will continue to clog up the roads; kill fellow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians; and burn precious fossil fuels.

Petrol should be a lot more expensive than it is. Vehicle Excise Duty should be massively hiked. As it is now, it’s a blunt tax. It costs the same to tax a car that drives 150 miles a year as a car that drives 15,000 miles a year. VED is no disincentive to driving. [And, as the rest of this site was built to point out, VED is not a ‘road tax’, it doesn’t fill a ‘road fund’ to maintain or build roads].

And it shouldn’t be the motor industry propped up with ‘scrappage schemes’ it should be the bicycle industry.

All airy-fairy, lentil-loving ideas, of course. Daily Mail readers would have punched through their computer screens by now. Or wet themselves laughing.

But our finite globe can’t cope with more and more cars.

Higher ‘gas taxes’ might seem a radical concept but it’s relatively mainstream among economists, especially those who admire Arthur C. Pigou. Members of the so-called Pigou Club – including cross-party, big-hitter economists – advocate taxing “negative externalities” and subsidising “positive externalities.”

A good, recent example of a Pigovian tax was the new ‘green road tax’ system to be introduced in the Netherlands. It was later withdrawn following complaints from motorists (the Netherlands isn’t just a country of bicyclists, it has a severely congested road network). Motorists would have had to pay according to distance driven. The reasoning was that it’s only fair that heavy users of the road (in both senses of the word) pay more than those who often leave the car at home. Congestion and the environment were both taken into consideration in the putative scheme. Driving a 4×4 on a city road in rush hour would have attracted more of a charge than driving a 2CV out in the sticks. The system should have started in 2011 for freight transport and was to be expanded to include cars in 2012.

Drivers were to be charged an average 3 Euro cents per kilometere. The tax should have increased every year until 2018, when it would have cost an average 6.7 Euro cents per kilometere to drive in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Government argued its new tax would have benefitted 6 out of 10 drivers, with those driving the most and at peak hours bearing the greatest burden. But Dutch motorists talked down the plan and so will be faced with extra road congestion for all in the years ahead.

Pig off
Economics teacher/blogger and time trial cyclist Tejvan Pettinger, found via Rainmiles, is a proponent of a Pigovian subsidy for cyclists. On his blog, he writes:

“Cycling creates positive externalities (Benefits to the rest of society, not felt by the personal users). This means the social benefit of cycling is greater than the private benefit. If I cycle, other people benefit in the form of less congestion, less pollution, healthier society…

“Cars should pay road tax and petrol tax because they create negative externalities; the social cost is greater than the private cost. The tax system is a way of making motorists pay the true social cost.

“I would argue that lorries and heavy goods vehicles should pay extra taxes because they create the most negative externalities and the social cost is higher than driving.

“If cyclists were subsidised it would encourage more people to take up cycling to work. This would help city centre transport systems and quality of life.”

On a blog posting about, Pettinger said:

“Cyclists are often criticised for not paying ‘road tax’ and [iPayRoadTax] is a worthy campaign to raise awareness that we all effectively pay for the road and its maintenance. It helps to provide a defence against aggressive motorists who would like to see cyclists pushed off the road, because occasionally they have to slow down to overtake someone.”

He also quipped he’d like to see a jersey emblazoned with his economic manifesto: “Higher Pigovian taxes for motorists! Subsidies for cyclists! Let’s try and achieve a Pareto optimal outcome on our roads!”

Not all cyclists own cars

My other car is a bicycle

I’ve taken a bit of stick on a variety of cycling forums – including comments on stories on this site – for appearing to suggest that only those cyclists who also own cars (and hence pay Vehicle Excise Duty) are covered by the campaign. I apologise if this has been the impression given.

The site is not about taking sides or making sure only one sub-set of cyclists can assert their “rights” on the road. highlights that ‘road tax’ doesn’t exist; motorists do not pay into a ‘road fund’. As road tax doesn’t exist, those cyclists who do not pay VED are not disadvantaged by the concept. is a useful, shorthand way of expressing a number of interlocking concepts, it’s not a campaign for “motoring cyclists”.

Government bodies disagree on ‘road tax’

DVLA prize draw

“There has been no direct relationship between vehicle tax and road expenditure since 1937.”
Policy and External Communications Directorate, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Swansea, August 2009

The DVLA – Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – now gets it right every time and calls Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) a tax on vehicles, not something that pays for roads.

However, the Driving Standards Agency – like the DVLA, a part of the Department for Transport – doesn’t seem to know the difference and, in the Directgov video below, allows the actresses to call VED, ‘road tax’.

Why is this important? Because far too many motorists believe stumping up for a token annual ‘road tax’ pays for Britain’s road system: the maintenance, the new roads, the bus lanes, the painted white lines laughingly called cycle lanes.

And paying for something confers the right to use that something. So, if cyclists don’t pay ‘road tax’, they have lesser rights to use the roads paid for by motorists; or perhaps no rights at all. This leads to aggression against cyclists from drivers ignorant of their rights and responsibilities.

But if a Government video gets it wrong, what hope motorists?

Who Pays For Britain's Roads?

VED & kit FAQs Zero BED

Shouldn’t it be
Yes. But too few people know what VED is. Everybody knows what road tax is. Or they think they do. ‘Road’ tax really ought to be known as ‘car’ tax or, more accurately, ‘vehicle’ tax (er, except that a bicycle is a vehicle in law…and bikes don’t pay VED).

As a bicycle is a low emissions vehicle it should be in Band A. These cars pay nothing for their VED. But what’s BED?
Yes, if cyclists had to pay VED, their bicycles would not attract a fee, just as pre-1973 cars get their tax discs for free, as do low CO2 cars, such as the Toyota Pious. BED is Bicycle Excise Duty. Just like road tax, it doesn’t exist.

Why aren’t bicycles taxed?
Unlike cars, bicycles cause little damage to the road surface. Some cyclists ride on the pavement, illegally, but when doing so they cause no damage. Cars routinely park on pavements, blocking the way for pedestrians and damaging flag-stones. In fact, pavement parking is so endemic, few motorists give it a seconds thought. Not only do their cars have superior rights on roads, it seems, they want unfettered access to pavements, too.

Setting up a cyclist registration and taxation scheme would cost more than it raised, and for what? As bicycles have no tailpipe emissions (ahem, cyclists on the other hand..) and therefore don’t pollute, they would attract a duty of £0. Do motorists really want to pay extra VED to pay for the costs of printing and distributing free tax discs for bikes?

How do other European countries pay for roads?
Most European countries operate VED-style schemes.

German automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer complains that such schemes don’t take actual road usage into account.

“You pay the same in taxes for a car that drives 100 kilometres per year as you do for the same car that drives 100,000 kilometres,” points out Dudenhoeffer.

Such unfairness is set to come to an end in the Netherlands, a ‘polluter-pays’ system is to be introduced. Motorists will pay according to distance driven. The reasoning is that it’s only fair that heavy users of the road (in both senses of the word) pay more than those who often leave the car at home. Congestion and the environment are both taken into consideration in the forthcoming scheme. Driving a 4×4 on a city road in rush hour will attract more of a charge than driving a 2CV out in the sticks. The system starts in 2011 for freight transport and will be expanded to include cars in 2012.

Drivers will be charged an average 3 Euro cents per kilometere. The tax will increase every year until 2018, when it will cost an average 6.7 cents per kilometere to drive in Holland. The rate can be adjusted if it fails to change driving habits in the country.

The Dutch Government believes its new tax would benefit 6 out of 10 drivers, with those driving the most and at peak hours bearing the greatest burden. Politicians are expecting the number of cars on the roads to decrease by 15 percent, as more people would switch to public transport and bicycles.

Will there be women-specific jerseys?
Yes. Mighty fine nice ones.

When will the jerseys and arm-warmers be available?
Third week of February. Pre-order from the iPayRoadTax shop.

Can I sign-up for email updates?
Sure you can. Simply pop your email addy into the form below and you’ll get sent info on the iPayRoadTax products as they become available.

“Cyclists don’t pay road tax, they shouldn’t be on the roads; roads are for cars.”


It’s not just right-of-Genghis-Khan taxi drivers who spout such piffle. Sensible and otherwise sane motorists also like to trot it out. “Why should my road tax pay for cycle facilities or bus lanes?” is another common complaint.

Yet road tax doesn’t exist. Hasn’t done since 1937. Those little perforated discs pay for Vehicle Excise Duty. VED for short. It’s not a road tax, it’s a car tax, a tax on vehicles with motors. (Not all vehicles subject to highway rules and regulations have motors; bicycles, for instance).

Vehicle Excise Duty is based on the level of a vehicle’s tailpipe emissions. The bigger and more carbon-wasteful the car, the more the car’s owner pays for a VED licence (perhaps it should be renamed Vehicle Emissions Duty?).

Cars which spew less than 100g/km CO2 don’t pay any VED so should motorists be seeking road bans for the VW Golf BlueMotion or the Toyota Prius because, just like bikes, they are “tax avoiders”?

Scot Cops' Road Fund Boo-Boo

Scot cops’ VED boo-boo: “You must have a valid road fund licence” was so-named because very few people know the difference between Vehicle Excise Duty and road tax. Even MPs, Government departments and police forces don’t always know the difference, as the screen-grab above shows. Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary even mention the ‘road fund’, an entity that has been pushing up the daisies for the best part of 70 years.

Every citizen has the right to use public highways for free; and that includes motorists, equestrians, wheelchair users, pram pushers, pedestrians and cyclists. Vehicle Excise Duty does not pay for roads and nor does it assign any greater rights for VED payers to use those roads.

Many motorists fume when held up for a millisecond on “their” roads by a vehicle that doesn’t apparently contribute to the upkeep of said roads. Cyclists, it’s often voiced, are ‘tax-dodgers’. In fact, the majority of adult cyclists in the UK also own cars. They just choose not to use them for every journey. Motorists ought to applaud such two-wheeled altruism: less cars on the road means less congestion for all.

If VED doesn’t pay for the roads, what does? That’ll be general taxation and council tax. So, even cyclists who don’t own cars are paying for the roads, and for road services. This gives cyclists no more right to the roads than motorists. We’re all equal in law. As general taxation pays for all roads, cyclists pay for a type of road they can never use: motorways.

Asphalt nation
Motorists may be surprised to learn that the tarmac they so love wasn’t spread on the UK’s dirt roads for the benefit of cars. In fact, it was lobbying from 19th Century cyclists – who wanted smoother surfaces to ride along – which hastened the black-topping of Britain.

The country motorised rapidly during the post Great War period and successive Governments ploughed cash into slapping tarmac on Britain’s ancient network of highways. It wasn’t until the 1950s and beyond that lots of new roads were created. Prior to that, existing roads were given weather-proof surfaces but they had long been used by pedestrians, carts, horses and, from the 1870s onwards, bikes, and only much later still, cars.

To pay for the tarmac, the Government created the Road Fund in 1910. Money from this pot went direct into road improvements. This is called ‘hypothocation’, a posh word for ring-fencing, when a charge goes direct to a cause it’s said to be fund-raising for.

While the Road Fund monies went direct into the road improvement pot, not enough money was raised to pay for all the commissioned improvements. For a start, there weren’t that many paying customers. Then, just like now, road ‘improvements’ were heavily subsidised from the public purse.

Cyclists, it can now be seen, are not interlopers on roads paid for by the motorist. Some people might even argue that cycling ought to be State-subsidised: using a bike reduces congestion and pollution; bikes and their riders are featherweights, causing negligible wear and tear on road surfaces; and cyclists are healthier so, with less degenerative diseases, are less of a burden on the NHS. Paying cyclists to cycle? It’s not such an odd concept, after all, motorists are subsidised to drive. Motorists may feel beleaguered because of fuel price hikes, congestion and a crumbling road infrastructure but, in real terms, driving has never been so cheap. The true costs of motoring are never met by motorists directly. Fuel duty and vehicle excise duty doesn’t go anywhere near to ‘paying for the roads’.

The 1920s Road Fund, paid into only by motorists, was abolished because there were fears – well founded fears, it turns out – that motorists would believe the paltry sum they paid each year was the whole amount required by the State and this therefore gave motorists more right to use the roads than those users who didn’t pay. The politician who, in a parliamentary debate in 1926, had the foresight to realise this was a Toad of Toad Hall worldview was a certain Winston Churchill. In 1937, when he was chancellor of the exchequer, he abolished the Road Fund (quick, somebody tell Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary).

Foska to bring campaign to life


NEW: vote for your favourite jersey (choice of 3) on (until December 31st). was born and raised on, in November. It snowballed faster than I could have ever imagined. Interest in the jerseys was so great I knew I’d struggle to meet demand so, six days after Twittering the first concept, I signed a partnership agreement with

Foska is Britain’s largest manufacturer of bespoke and brand-licensed cycle jerseys, the company behind the jerseys from Marmite, London Pride, The Simpsons, London A-Z, Dennis the Menace and many more iconic cycle jerseys.

This company will produce a number of different jersey styles for, including short sleeve, long-sleeve, and women-specific. Foska will also produce water bottles and arm-warmers.

Everything will be sold via and through bike shops, enabling me to concentrate on the website and campaign rather than design, make, bag and ship a ton of product.

Foska will take the fake tax disc graphic and turn it into a great looking jersey and this will be placed on soon. You’ll be able to pre-order the jersey or arm-warmers on, or drop in an email request for a reminder when product has landed. Here’s how Foska is currently taking pre-orders for its new Wallace & Gromit jerseys.

Producing the items will take time. We’ve got to produce the design, agree on wording, get in samples, and then put in a first order. I would have loved to have had product available before Christmas but, then, I’m not a manufacturer and have little appreciation of the graft that goes into a big production run like this. (When I first mooted this idea I thought there would be about 30 jersey orders and I would put in a herding-cats, club-style order to Impsport or similar – the immediacy and size of the demand knocked me sideways).

What will be available before Christmas is a line of t-shirts, mugs, and other items, all produced using print-on-demand technology. I’m using Spreadshirt for the majority of products. I’ve bought t-shirts from Spreadshirt before; the quality is first class.

Now, following news stories on and there were lots of forum postings, both for and against the concept. I’m not going to be able to please everybody all of the time but earlier today I posted some video evidence of a driver shouting at a cyclist to “buy some road tax”. This is why the campaign was started; we’ve all been on the receiving end of such misinformed opinions. So, thanks for your faith in my fledgling idea. I’m chuffed to bits that the iPayRoadTax jerseys and armwarmers will get out there and start spreading the message that cyclists have every right to be on the road. shop shop

To help spread the message there’s a bunch of Spreadshirt-made badges, t-shirts, wickable base-layers and a messenger bag, all featuring graphics.


A variety of bespoke, cycle-specific jerseys, arm-warmers, water bottles and other accessories will soon available to pre-order via soon. Originally, the way to pre-order was to send an email expressing interest but so many were sent it became clear a retail partner was needed. The cycle clothing – similar to the jersey examples above – will likely be available in late January, although can log your details once the designs have been added. Sign up for the Foska newsletter via ‘SafeUnscribe’.

Or use the form below to get the iPayRoadTax emailed newsletter (this won’t hit your inbox a thousand times a year, and your details will not leave the building):

Twitter inspires


Alongside the ‘all cyclists blow through red lights’* canard from motorists there’s the classic ‘we pay road tax, cyclists don’t.’ This is an objection voiced the world over. This morning on Twitter, Nick Bertrand said:

“I pay road tax/VED for the car I rarely drive. Should I wear a copy of the tax disk on my jersey?”

I replied, telling him that’s a great idea, and others agreed. I then went on a bike ride. On the road to Dunston – Damascus being too far for a hill-climb quickie – I had a light-bulb moment: jerseys with tax discs printed on them.

And arm-warmers, so cyclists thrown the ‘we pay road tax’ argument can counter by simply pointing to an upper-arm. It’s sure easier than getting a tattoo.

When I got back from the ride I registered and I commissioned Luke Scheybeler to produce the fake tax disc above. This will be used on the jerseys and arm-warmers. For product updates, follow iPayRoadTax on Twitter.


The fonts and colours for the jersey and arm-warmers aren’t set in stone. Others on Twitter suggested headset spacers and topcaps, too. Oy, could do loads of things. Like mugs, badges, t-shirts? Or how about, ahem, a tax-disc holder for your car, emblazoned with bicycle symbols?

When I twittered the fact I’d registered a domain-name and who would like some arm-warmers and jerseys, the response from Twitterdom was immediate. Within seconds I got firm orders. Really. Seconds. Amazing. From inspiration to product idea to mock-up to orders within minutes. Who says Twitter is a waste of time and thence money? I may have just created a micro-business thanks to picking up on a 140-character message.

If you’d like to express interest in items from the forthcoming I Pay Road Tax collection, have a look at this.

* Just cyclists blow through red lights, huh? Two wrongs don’t make a right but there are plenty of online examples of motorists doing things they shouldn’t. This video of motorists smashing into other motorists (and, at the end, a motorcyclist) is shocking:

NB Road tax was abolished in the UK in 1936. Since then we have paid ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’ and, as every fule knows (except the majority of motorists, it seems), this does not pay for the upkeep of roads. This comes out of general taxation. Cyclists are tax-payers…And, of course, the majority of adult cyclists also own cars so pay VED, too. It’s just that many cyclists prefer not to use their cars for every blummin’ short journey. shop shop

To help spread the message there’s a bunch of Spreadshirt-made badges, t-shirts, wickable base-layers and a messenger bag, all featuring graphics.


A variety of bespoke, cycle-specific jerseys, arm-warmers, water bottles and other accessories will soon available to pre-order via soon. Originally, the way to pre-order was to send an email expressing interest but so many were sent it became clear a retail partner was needed. The cycle clothing – similar to the jersey examples above – will likely be available in late January, although can log your details once the designs have been added. Sign up for the Foska newsletter via ‘SafeUnscribe’.

Or use the form below to get the iPayRoadTax emailed newsletter (this won’t hit your inbox a thousand times a year, and your details will not leave the building):