Mitsubishi defends use of “road tax” in new TV ad campaign

mitsubishi "road tax TV ad

“Road tax is a thing of the past,” says Mitsubishi in its new TV ad, which first aired last night. Well, yes, that’s accurate. But the use of the phrase in the TV ad isn’t meant to mean “road tax” is dead but that there’s a vehicle that doesn’t have to pay it. Interestingly, Mitsubishi UK have revealed in a Facebook conversation that they sought official views on the use of the offensive and inaccurate term “road tax”. The company checked with trhe legal advisory team at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the copy advice team at the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), and Clearcast (the body responsible for clearing copy before a commercial can be aired on TV).

“Their collective view is that the phrase ‘Road Tax’ is a more commonly used phrase than ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’ and would therefore be better understood by the widest audience. As a consequence this advice has been followed in the development of the advertising copy for the launch of the new Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV,” said Shona of Mitsubishi.

However, ASA is a serial offender here, always refusing to tackle advertisers on this subject. Thing is, “car tax” is also a widely used and understood phrase. Why don’t car advertisers switch to that? That’s the term used by many official bodies. “Vehicle tax” is also used. DVLA, the Post Office, the AA, and many other organisations get the terminology right, why do car manufacturers find this so difficult? Small print on the Mitsubishi website mentions the “Government road fund licence”. Like “road tax”, this was abolished in 1937.

Gov.uk is now a little bit more accurate

Chapeau to those piloting Gov.uk: they fixed a couple of little niggles after being told about them.

Under ‘driving and transport’, there was a stray inclusion of ‘road tax’ (in brackets, but, still, best for the Government’s leading edge website to be accurate in all ways). And there was also an odd little phrase under ‘The Highway Code’. This was said to “include road signs and rules for vehicles and cyclists.” I explained that vehicles are inanimate objects and can’t follow rules. The website was duly edited.

OLD

NOW

CONTACT FORM

“Cyclists don’t pay for roads!” 1890-style

Thanks to some research I did for iPayRoadTax.com on the history of the long-gone Road Fund I discovered the cycling back-story of a number of key officials in the world of early motoring. This led to the creation of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, a soon-to-be-published history book on cycling’s critical contribution to both roads and motoring.

While thumbing through an 1890s bike mag, I spotted a concept that would be taken up with relish in the 20th Century: that cyclists don’t pay for roads. Today roads are paid for via local and national taxation. Back in the 1890s, roads – in both Britain and the US – were paid for by local taxation only.

When cyclists sallied forth out into the countryside, resurrecting use of roads that had lain dormant since the advent of the railways, there was a great deal of suspicion from rural ratepayers of these urban peacocks. But, as cyclists didn’t damage the roads they rode over, the suspicion didn’t boil over into suppression. (It was a different story for the first motorists, they ripped up the road with their “slaughtering, stinking engines of iniquity”. )

In the 1890s, cycling was the transport and leisure choice of the elite in society. It didn’t become ‘poor mans’ transport’ until the late 1920s. Cyclists of Britain and the USA used their position in society to agitate for better roads. Britain had the Roads Improvement Association, founded by the Cyclists’ Touring Club and the National Cyclists’ Union in 1886. America had the well-funded Good Roads campaign organised by the League of American Wheelmen.

Cyclists were the first to push for central administration for roads, which would later relieve local ratepayers of the full burden of maintaining ‘national’ roads. While most newspapers of the period were very supportive of the cyclists’ agitation for better roads, a columnist in the Gazette of Cincinnati, Ohio, expressed displeasure, claiming cyclists didn’t pay for roads:

“Our bicycle friends are still hammering away on the subject of good country roads, and have enlisted in their cause journals other than those devoted to the bicycle interest. Good roads are very desirable, but wheelmen should consider that they cost money in construction and maintenance. How much, by the way, do the wheelemen contribute toward country road improvements?”

An 1890 editorial in Bicycling World, the weekly journal of the League of American Wheelmen, pointed out that cyclists were ratepayers, too:

“As to the share of taxes paid by wheelmen, we are not aware that riding a wheel or being a member of the League exempts one from paying taxes, and we have no doubt but that there are many cyclists who pay just as much in taxes as does the writer of [the article].”

To be fair to the Gazette author, there were a lot more urban cyclists than rural ones, and it was largely the urban ones agitating for better roads, but the 1890s spat shows that who pays for what has been a road-related bone of contention for many years.

A numbers doctor writes…and, politely, gets it wrong on car tax being a “fee to use roads”

Roger Harrabin of the BBC wrote an excellent piece on the non-existence of ‘road tax’ (it was also a news segment on Radio 4’s Today programme). Naturally, this was a lightning rod for those who feel the BBC is biased and green: “The BBC hates motorists and loves cyclists,” wrote David Vance of the BiasedBBC blog, with not a shred of either irony or proof. The piece also resulted in a fair bit of email via this website. Some of the emails were supportive, others less so. The critical emails were literate and polite and obviously written by intelligent people. Intelligent people who couldn’t get their heads round the fact cars and bicycles have to share the road and that payment of car tax is a payment for the amount of carbon dioxide any particular car spews out. Those that spew under a set amount of CO2 do not pay car tax. Some of the critics seemed to suggest that as cyclists don’t pay for roads, they shouldn’t be allowed on them, which pretty much proves what the BBC article, and this website, argues: that some motorists don’t know who and what pays for roads and that the “roads are owned by motorists” mindset is a dangerous one for those road users without motors, but most specifically cyclists.

Some of the comments also had a very loose grasp of history, claiming that roads were built for the use of motorists. Rather pleasingly this allowed me to reply with one of my other websites, Roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com. I got a few spluttering replies after this but, mostly, the critics went on their merry way. Then today I played email tennis with yet another intelligent interlocutor, a doctor in fact. Not a medical one. No, a doctor who ought to be good at numbers as he’s research fellow at a School of Mathematics at a Midlands university (I’ll spare his blushes by not naming him). He’s right to try and poke holes in this site’s logic but, of course, he’s not the first to use the SORN argument. In fact, this is one the main “trump cards” played by those who say ‘car tax’ is a fee to use British roads.

Here’s the letter.

I should point out before anything that the examples on your site of motorists’ anger towards cyclists are obviously ridiculous and unacceptable. As a motorist, cyclist and pedestrian, in each position I see the stupidity of a substantial minority of all three groups, but cyclists are in more trouble because of their precarious positions, not being shielded in metal cages, and being next to those that are in metal cages.

However, I disagree with the start of your website: “Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them.”

Road tax does not, officially exist, this is true. It is not, however, a tax on cars and other vehicles. I am acutely aware of this, having just received my VED renewal notice, where the Statutory Off-Road Notification option is prominent. VED is not a tax on owning a car: it
is a tax on using the car on public roads, with a SORN exemption if the vehicle is unused or to be driven on private land only. This clear evidence means that VED is not a tax on the car itself, but is a fee to use a car on public roads.

I don’t want to let this detract from your efforts to raise awareness of the attitudes that some motorists take towards cyclists, but VED is a fee to use the roads, and is stated as such by the government. The only reason I am pointing this out is that, for an argument to be made convincingly, no holes in the logic must be present for the other side to pick at, even if in this case the opponents might not have the ability to see them.

My boilerplate reply is contained on a number of postings on this website, including the posting about the millions of people, including the queen, who can drive on Britain’s roads without paying VED, and here’s the reply.

Those who believe VED is fee to use roads sometimes use the seemingly-convincing ‘off-road’ argument:

“Doesn’t matter what you call it, VED/car tax/’road tax’, it’s a fee to use the public road because if you don’t pay it, you can’t drive on the public road. For instance, if I elect to use a vehicle off-road, I don’t need to pay VED. If I then choose to use the vehicle on a road, I would have to pay VED. If the vehicle emitted a certain amount of CO2, then yes that VED is currently free, but I would still have to get and display a tax disc in order to use the car on the road.”

But car tax isn’t a fee to use the road, it’s very much a tax on car emissions. Many cars, which use the public road, do not pay any ‘car tax’ because they emit less than 100gms of CO2. If car tax was a fee to use roads, electric cars and low-emissions cars wouldn’t be able to drive on UK roads.

Nor is it true that vehicles that will be driven off-the-public-highway – on private roads – don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty.

VED is charged under section 1 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, as amended, “in respect of every mechanically propelled vehicle that … is used, or kept, on any public road in the United Kingdom”. For England, Wales and Northern Ireland ‘public road’ is defined in section 62(1) of the 1994 Act as “a road which is repairable at the public expense”; for Scotland a public road is defined in section 151 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, as amended, as “a road which a roads authority have a duty to maintain”. However, the DVLA has powers to clamp vehicles that are not on the public road if they are in breach of the VED continuous registration requirements. The explanatory notes to the Vehicle Excise Duty (Immobilisation, Removal and Disposal of Vehicles) (Amendment) Regulations 2008 (SI 2008/2266) state:

The policy intention is to prevent evaders of vehicle excise duty from using off-road areas such as unadopted roads, commons, public car parks or roads maintained by Housing Associations to place themselves beyond the reach of the enforcement authorities.

Farmers can get ‘agricultural use’ exemptions from VED for their Land Rovers, so long as they only travel a mile or so on public highways. And in one special circumstance, cars which emit loads of CO2 can still drive on UK public roads without paying car tax. But only for a short distance. When a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) vehicle is going to a pre-arranged MOT test, and the vehicle has valid insurance for the journey, it can be driven on public roads without paying a penny for use of those roads.

Furthermore, if a car is registered in the UK but is never driven in the UK it still has to pay the UK’s Vehicle Excise Duty. So, a UK-bought car driven in France by a UK-born person who’s moved to France permanently, may never drive on UK roads but the car still has to pay VED. This is because it’s a tax on the car, not a fee to use the roads.

Gastropub owner jokes he’ll ram cyclists at 60mph as they don’t pay for roads

The Bathurst Arms is an ivy-clad pub hotel in the sleepy Cotswolds. The restaurant is to die for. If you make it that far, that is. If you’re a cyclist the landlord of the The Bathurst Arms wants to see you dead. Or at least he did, until others pointed out that writing death threats on social media, even in jest, is (a) bad for business and (b) potentially actionable. James Walker – the Emma Way of beer retailing – wrote about smashing into cyclists at 60mph in his “four by four” but has since offered his “unreserved apology.”

A social media shitstorm quickly followed his remarks. As he’s the director of the Bathurst Arms he won’t be sacking himself.

He recognises he’s been an idiot. His intention hadn’t been to “upset cyclists” so his comments that cyclists are “weak kneed individuals who hide their lack of athletic ability behind thousands of pounds of hi-tech gear” shouldn’t be held against him. And now that he recognises that roads are funded by income tax, road tax and fuel duty” (he gets this wrong even after the facts have been pointed out to him) presumably he won’t he ramming cyclists at “sixty miles an hour” because the cyclists are “riding three abreast on a surface paid for by me.”

This belief that roads belong to motorists alone – because, apparently, they pay for them – can be found all over social media, and is even captured on helmet cams. Otherwise intelligent people reveal they genuinely don’t know how roads are paid for. Some put their entitlement prejudices on public view. They see it as socially acceptable to verbally abuse fellow road users because of the mistaken belief that those road users don’t pay for roads. Motorists don’t pay for roads, all tax payers pay for roads. How many “punishment passes” – and worse – are due to this corrosive, dangerous belief that cyclists are interlopers on the motorists’ domain?

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

Comedy gold: “The car have priority over you because we pay road tax”

Motorists say the stupidest things. Well, some of them do, and so do their passengers. Who could ever forget the Mancunian ‘no pay, no say’ conversation? But for sheer comedy gold it would be hard to beat this exchange, which happened in Brixton at the weekend. It’s remarkably polite, from both sides. And erudite from the cyclist. What the video confirms, with knobs on, is that there’s a genuine belief that the payment of ‘road tax’ gives cars priority over cyclists on the roads. The little perforated disc in the windscreen is believed, by some, to be a road usage fee and, as cyclists are perceived not to pay this fee, they’re deemed freeloaders and ought not to get in the way of the fee payers.

In the following exchange – which also involves a punishment beep and a squeeze into a bus lane (it was a Sunday) – the car passenger seems incredulous that a cyclist could also be a motorist. Top marks to themitsky for keeping calm during the exchange, and bonus points for explaining, between traffic lights, the intricacies of the emissions-based vehicle exise duty and why cyclists sometimes ride in the middle of the road. One more set of traffic lights and themitsky may have been able to explain who and what actually pays for roads.

themitsky: “Hi, sorry-”
Passenger: “You don’t cycle in the middle of the road.”
themitsky: “Why not?”
Passenger: “You cycle on the side not in the middle of the road.”
themitsky: “Do you want to try it? Do you want to try cycling on the road and see how it feels?”
Passenger: “But on the side, not in the middle.”
themitsky: “If it’s not safe, I’ll cycle in the middle.”

themitsky: “Hello again.”
Passenger: “A question, if it’s not safe to cycle on the side, is it safer to cycle in the middle where the cars and everything is?”
themitsky: “Yeah, if I have to. It’s not against – it’s not the law that I have to cycle in the left of the lane.”

Passenger: “But the car have priority over you because we pay road tax.”
themitsky: “No, no.”
Passenger: “Yes.”
themitsky: “No, forget road tax.”
Passenger: “Yes we do.”
themitsky: “Check the website s27697.p982.sites.pressdns.com, there is no such thing as road tax.”
Passenger: “What do you mean there’s no such thing as road tax?”
themitsky: “Check the website s27697.p982.sites.pressdns.com, check it out.”
Passenger: [indicating car tax on windshield] “This is road tax.”
themitsky: “That’s not road tax.”
Passenger: “What is it?”
themitsky: “It’s a Vehicle Excise Duty disc. It’s only based on how much your emissions are on the car.”
Passenger: [silence]
themitsky: “If you have less emissions on your car it’s cheaper or it’s free.”
Passenger: “Is it really?”
themitsky: “Yes.”
Passenger: “Is that what you say?”
themitsky: “Yes.”
Passenger: “So you’re one is free cos it’s a bicycle?”
themitsky: “Yeah…You’ve got environmental cars which are cheaper because the emissions are lower.”
Passenger: “So why don’t you buy a car then?”
themitsky: “I’ve got a car at home, I don’t need to use it now cos I’m on my bike.”
Passenger: “So if someone cycled in front of you, what would you do?”
themitsky: “If there is not enough space for me to overtake, I wait behind.”
Passenger: “Is it?”
themitsky: “You only need to wait behind for a few seconds.”
Passenger: “But you was in the middle of the road.”
themitsky: “Because it wasn’t safe.”
Passenger: “It was safe, there was nobody else right here in front of you. And it was not about…”
themitsky: “Check the website.”

….

themitsky: “Hullo again….Three things. One, check your licence plate on youtube in two days, I have this all on video. Two, check the website s27697.p982.sites.pressdns.com and three, check the highway code.”
Passenger: “Good for you, put it on youtube”.
themitsky: “Check the highway code. There is no law that says I have to be on the left.”
Passenger: “Put it on youtube… [inaudible]… get run over.”

Survey claims that motorists want cyclists to wear helmets and pay to use roads

A survey from research agency Consumer Intelligence claims that motorists want cyclists to pay ‘road tax’. By not realising how roads are paid for the company is failing to live up to the second part of its name. Roads are paid by general and local taxation. The belief that roads are paid for by ‘road tax’ or the ‘road fund licence’ is 76 years behind the times (the tax was abolished in 1937). The actual name for the tax that motorists pay is vehicle excise duty, a tax on vehicles, not a fee to use roads. Cyclists pay more ‘car tax’ than the general population: in 2011, Ian Austin MP asked a parliamentary question about the numbers of cyclists who own cars. Minister for Local Transport Norman Baker revealed that, according to the National Travel Survey, 83 percent of cyclists own cars, which is a percentage point higher than the number of non-cyclists who own cars.

The survey claims that 18 percent of cyclists would be willing to pay to use public roads despite the fact nobody pays to use public roads.

The survey also finds that more than ninety percent of motorists want cyclists to wear helmets. It does not appear the survey asked motorists whether they should be made to wear helmets. Details on the survey have appeared on the website for a regional newspaper but there’s no information on sample size, date of the survey, online or telephone, or other information on which to base the validity of the survey.

Consumer Intelligence of Bristol is said to be “an independent research agency that specialises in providing customer and competitor insight, gathering critical information on pricing, service and customer behaviour.”

The company claims it has “the skills, experience and technology underpinned by a methodology that is accepted by all of the relevant regulatory bodies.”

The Consumer Intelligence survey claims that 83 percent of motorists want cyclists to pass safety tests before taking to public roads. According to the survey, 75 percent of cyclists would be in favour of a compulsory helmet law.

Consumer Intelligence PR officer David Black said: “The popularity of cycling is unprecedented…but there is also a lot of animosity towards [cyclists] in some areas from other road users, particularly in busy towns and cities.”

One of the forms of animosity towards cyclists is the erroneous, corrosive belief from some motorists that “cyclists don’t pay road tax”, an erroneous, corrosive belief now given credence by a market research company that has worked for many blue-chip clients.

Black added:

“There is much more that the Government, local authorities and companies could do to encourage cycling while improving the level of safety for cyclists and other road users, from making roads more safe to improving road surfaces or creating more secure areas for bikes to be locked up.”

The Consumer Intelligence survey claimed that 42 percent of cyclists cited poor weather as the biggest obstacle to people using their bikes more often. Safety is the biggest obstacle for 22 percent of cyclists, with a lack of cycle lanes being cited by 13 percent of the cyclists in the survey.

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

“I knocked a cyclist off his bike. I have right of way, he doesn’t even pay road tax”

You have to be a special kind of dumb to post that kind of comment to Twitter, but, sadly, the UK driving test doesn’t examine emotional intelligence and this young woman is speeding around Norfolk with these sort of sick, mistaken thoughts rattling around her head. How could anybody be so callous? Why is it socially-acceptable to admit to such a crime as though it wasn’t a crime? How can somebody training to be a tax advisor not know that “road tax” hasn’t existed since 1937, doesn’t pay for roads and that all road users have an equal right to share roads? UPDATE 1: 27th June, Norfolk police have said they have referred Emma Way’s case to the Crown Prosecution Service. UPDATE 2: Norfolk police will be charging Way with “driving without due care and attention, failing to stop after an accident and failing to report that accident.”

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FINAL UPDATE: At Norwich Magistrates court on 19th November, Emma Way was found not guilty of driving without due care and attention; guilty of failing to stop after an incident; and guilty of failing to report that incident. She told the magistrates her original tweet was “the biggest regret of my life so far.” So, no regrets about hitting the cyclist, just getting caught admitting she had hit the cyclist! Way was fined £337, ordered to pay £300 costs and had 7 points added to her licence for the failure to stop and failure to report collision. After leaving court she refused to answer reporter’s questions because she had “signed an exclusive TV deal.” According to her solicitor she’s to appear on ITV’s Daybreak breakfast show. But maybe some other vehicles (with wing mirrors) are being lined up for her? How about? I Pay Road Tax Get Me Out Of Here; Tis My Way or the Highway. Any more? #EmmaWayTVshows

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Presumably she thought her comments would be read by only her 100 or so Twitter followers, not realising her thoughts are available to all see? She must have been surprised, then, when she received the following message from Norwich Police:

The police had been alerted to Emma Way’s comments by twitter users shocked at her lack of compassion and her unbidden hate. She was quickly identified from her Facebook page and the police were sent other examples of her poor driving: she had taken twitter-available pix of herself tailgating other motorists, and even photographed her speedometer showing a speed of 95mph.

At first, folks thought she must have been joking when she boasted she had knocked a cyclist from his bike but the fact she felt able, among her friends, to make such a joke, and that she based her funny on the seemingly lesser road rights of her target, is worrying. The tweets collected by @cyclehatred have shown that a surprising number of anti-cyclist comments are not coming from traditional ‘white van man’ but from young women, many of them clearly new to driving. What is it that’s making some of these young women say such hateful things about cyclists? Perhaps it’s that some young female motorists feel safe in their cars and often rely on them to get everywhere? For such women, perhaps the thought of being a cyclist – unprotected from ‘stranger danger’ and open to the elements – makes them shudder, and the way to reject and despoil this “other” is to vilify and mock it?

In the comments section below, ‘Volcanic Plug ‘ (email address supplied), gave another possible reason:

“I am a young female motorist and I have to say, I don’t like cyclists much (sorry!). But it’s not because I feel safe in my car and feel I should mock cyclists…I am relatively new to driving and genuinely, I don’t like cyclists because I’m afraid of them. I’m afraid of knocking someone off their bike! Never in a million years would I do what this person has. She’s clearly a danger to all other road users, not just cyclists.

“I’m probably unlucky with my commute in that there are a fair number of cyclists but the roads are either very narrow, so I struggle to overtake or they are very steep so the cyclist is travelling very slowly while everyone on the other side of the road are streaming past at 60. It’s not the fault of the cyclist I know, but my problem is a lack of confidence in myself to deal with it. I would describe myself as a safe driver, but not a particularly good one – driving doesn’t come to me naturally and easily.

“I don’t think all of these young female drivers that ‘hate’ cyclists or pedestrians or horse-riders are seeing them as obstacles, but maybe of hazards that they should be wary of and perhaps haven’t yet gained the experience to deal with confidently.”

Perhaps the driving test could help out here? Maybe motorists should have to read and absorb a compulsory section on the highway access rights of *all* road users, not just the motorised ones? As I write elsewhere, Roads Were Not Built For Cars

Cyclists, pedestrians, horse-riders, and others, should not be portrayed as obstacles – things to avoid, as though they’re stray and alien – but as fellow road users to be accorded the same civility as expected to be given to motorised road users. And it would also be good if new drivers were taught that roads are not paid for by motorists but by general and local taxation. (The fact that the majority of cyclists own cars, too, doesn’t seem to filter through to some people, it’s as if we’re still in the 1930s when cycling was “poor mans’ transport”).

The belief that “motorists pay for roads, cyclists don’t” is ludicrously mistaken but fervently held by a shocking number of people; people with the power of hundreds of horses under one of their tippity toes. How many deliberate close-calls on cyclists delivered by some motorists, so-called “punishment passes”, are the result of thinking roads are just for cars? Roads believed to be paid for by “road tax”? This now famous #bloodycyclists tweet shows that some motorists really do believe their little tax discs are some sort of “road user fee” and give them superior rights on the road. Cyclists are perceived to be freeloaders, even though they also tend to own cars, often expensive ones, that are charged more for car tax – do they have more right to be on the road than low-emissions cars which pay zero car tax?

TWIT AND RUN
Emma Way, the motorist who started this twitter and media storm did hit a cyclist. In a TV interview she admitted her guilt. The guilt of writing a stupid “spur of the moment” tweet, that is. She also, fleetingly, said sorry to the cyclist she hit, admitted she probably hit him with her wing mirror but said she didn’t realize he might be hurt. Her solicitor was present during the interview and said he hoped the police would separate the road incident from the twitter posting.

In a radio interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Ms Way agreed she had been “stupid” to tweet as she did but was not pulled up on her beliefs in the non-existent ‘road tax’ or that motorists don’t have “right of way” on roads and do not pay road use fees.

An Iceni Velo cycling club member had been the first to alert folks that a cyclist was knocked from his bike by a hit and run motorist:

Club member @RabAusten said: “Police are on the case. They had already located her and were just waiting for the victim to come forward. He has contacted them…”

If, as the tweet claims, Emma Way did leave the collision scene without reporting it to the police, she could be in deep do-dah. And boasting about it on Twitter and claiming she had “right of way” because she believes she pays for the use of the road doesn’t exactly help her case.

TWEETS LIVE FOR EVER
Ms Way’s employer is now involved, too (in an earlier tweet the driver had mentioned who she worked for and Google cache knows all…):

“Thank you for taking the time to email Larking Gowen regarding the tweets posted by one of our employees on their personal twitter account.

“Please be assured that this is not a view held by the firm and we most certainly do not condone this behaviour. We are taking the incidents very seriously, and a full and detailed investigation will be carried out and appropriate action taken. We have already spoken to Norfolk Police.”

Ms Way was later suspended from her job (as a trainee tax advisor).

Norwich North MP, Chloe Smith , has also chimed in: “This may sound like a bit of dirty laundry being aired in public but actually it’s really important – road safety is crucial for all road users as is civility on the road.”

VICTIM NAMING
The cyclist who claims he was knocked from his bike was Toby Hockley, who was riding the Boudicca Sportive on Sunday, reports The Telegraph, basing its story on the Iceni club Facebook postings.

Hockley has also been interviewed by the BBC. He said: “”A car came tearing round the blind corner and narrowly missed a cyclist in front of me. She came on to my side of the road, I took the wing mirror off and I went flying off my bike into a hedge.

“She hit me hard, really hard. I am lucky to be alive.

“But I managed to get out of the hedge and stand up. The car was nowhere to be seen. She hit me, and she was gone. All I know is that it was a blonde girl driving.”

Over on Road.cc Hockley, a 29 year old trainee chef, gives a few more details:

“I have a sore elbow, a bruised knee, nettle stings from riding through the hedge, but nothing serious. The headset of the bike is loose from the collision, one of the levers got knocked round the bars and there’s bits of nettle in the chain, but I think the bike is intact.”

“Myself and my friend burst out laughing when we finally came to a stop, more out of shock than anything else. You count your limbs and carry on.”

On the interview with BBC Radio Norfolk, Ms Way disputes Toby Hockley’s version of events. She said:

“”He [Mr Hockley] and another cyclist were coming down the hill at quite a speed.

“He came on to my side of the road. I pulled to the left as quickly as I could. He was right in front me.

“I felt his handlebar just clip my wing mirror and my initial reaction was to brake, stop and look in the mirror.

“He did wobble slightly but he was upright, he was fine. I didn’t just leave the scene, because there wasn’t a scene.

I don’t really see I was in the wrong. If I had been in a bad accident I would have stopped.

“If I have hurt him then I am sorry. I am not against cyclists at all.”

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

Law firm drums up biz with entitlement syndrome car tax disc holders

Vantage Law, a “young, eager, professional and enthusiastic” firm of personal injury solicitors in Liverpool, is promoting itself on the company Facebook page by promising tax disc holders for those who ‘like’ the posting.

The tax disc holders have been available on eBay and Amazon for some years. 2618 have ‘liked’ the image posted by Vantage Law.

Some motorists – and, it appears, no-win-no-fee law firms – really do believe ‘road tax’ pays for roads. The fact that it’s local and national taxation that pays for roads, including the mending of potholes, seems to elude an awful lot of people, leading to entitlement syndrome where tax-dodgers – such as cyclists, yet, oddly, not drivers of e-cars – have to get out of the way of the supposed fee payers.

Here’s a fix for the error on the tax disc holder but as it’s nowhere near as hilarious as the original – facts don’t tend to be funny – it won’t be picked up by law firms looking to spice up their social media offerings.

"Yes I have paid my income tax & council tax now go fix some potholes"

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ipayroadtax toastie jersey

Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.

Why do people hate cyclists?

One of the reasons, of course, is because cyclists are deemed to be “free-riders”, and don’t pay their fair-share for use of the road. This erroneous belief is easily batted out of the park but it’s mentioned time and time again in newspaper letter pages, newspaper columns and on radio phone-in shows. The BBC is hosting just such a programme tonight and is asking “Why do people hate cyclists.” Mark Ames of ibikelondon is going up against Keith Peat, the former policeman who hates cyclists with all of his being (his multiple twitter feeds attest to this and he also writes to local newspapers, sometimes getting banned when making insensitive comments about cyclists killed by motorists). [[EDIT: After complaints on Twitter and elsewhere, the BBC has now amended Tom Stafford’s article: “13/02 UPDATE: We’ve changed a sentence in the third paragraph that readers said implied all cyclists break rules. This was not the intended implication of the original line, and we thank the readers who pointed this out.” Apparently, Stafford is a cyclist and didn’t mean some of the things he wrote.]]

{{A FURTHER UPDATE: Writers with platforms – such as blogs and columns hosted by the BBC – will always be scrutinised more closely than the loons who spout cyclist hate on Twitter or in local newspapers. Loose thinking is quickly pounced upon, and dissected to a degree that perhaps surprises the original author. This seems to be the case with Tom Stafford, author of the now-heavily-revised article which can be read below. To his credit he has penned a mea culpa on his own blog. “I screwed up,” he admits. “Unfortunately, I included some loose words in my article that implied things I don’t believe and wasn’t arguing.” Stafford added: “I should have been a lot clearer than I was…Lots of people thought I was a frustrated driver who hated cyclists. In fact, the bike is my main form of transport…For this article I was trying not to sound like the self-righteous cycling proto-fascist I feel like sometimes. I obviously succeeded. Perhaps too well.”}}

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The first answer should be an easy one for Mark. If somebody hates a large group of human beings, that’s irrational and should be lumped in with racism and all the other -isms. The BBC wouldn’t air a programme titled ‘Why do people hate Muslims?’

Perhaps the programme is linked to a rather strange article on BBC Worldwide? It’s not available to UK viewers but I’ve cut-and-pasted a chunk of it here. [[Also now available, in full, here.]]

It shows that the BBC can commission an article from an otherwise sensible, sane academic who – one assumes – wouldn’t come out with this kind of loose thinking on other topics. Tom Stafford, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Sheffield, appears to be talking about prejudices held by others but it seems rather obvious that he shares the belief system he’s writing about.

Why you really hate cyclists

The psychology of why cyclists enrage car drivers. By Tom Stafford.

Something about cyclists seems to provoke fury in other road users. If you doubt this, try a search for the word “cyclist” on Twitter. As I write this one of the latest tweets is this: “Had enough of cyclists today! Just wanna ram them with my car.” This kind of sentiment would get people locked up if directed against an ethic minority or religion, but it seems to be fair game, in many people’s minds, when directed against cyclists. Why all the rage?

I’ve got a theory, of course. It’s not because cyclists are annoying. It isn’t even because we have a selective memory for that one stand-out annoying cyclist over the hundreds of boring, non-annoying ones (although that probably is a factor). No, my theory is that motorists hate cyclists because they think they offend the moral order.

Driving is a very moral activity – there are rules of the road, both legal and informal, and there are good and bad drivers. The whole intricate dance of the rush-hour junction only works because everybody knows the rules and follows them: keeping in lane; indicating properly; first her turn, now mine, now yours. Then along comes a cyclist, who seems to believe that the rules aren’t made for them, especially the ones that hop onto the pavement, run red lights, or go the wrong way down one-way streets.

You could argue that driving is like so much of social life, it’s a game of coordination where we have to rely on each other to do the right thing. And like all games, there’s an incentive to cheat. If everyone else is taking their turn, you can jump the queue. If everyone else is paying their taxes you can dodge them, and you’ll still get all the benefits of roads and police.

In economics and evolution this is known as the “free rider problem”; if you create a common benefit – like taxes or orderly roads – what’s to stop some people reaping the benefit without paying their dues?

So now we can see why there is an evolutionary pressure pushing motorists towards hatred of cyclists. Deep within the human psyche, fostered there because it helps us co-ordinate with strangers and so build the global society that is a hallmark of our species, is an anger at people who break the rules, who take the benefits without contributing to the cost. And cyclists trigger this anger when they use the roads but don’t follow the same rules as cars.

Now, cyclists reading this might think “but the rules aren’t made for us – we’re more vulnerable, discriminated against, we shouldn’t have to follow the rules.” Perhaps true, but irrelevant when other road-users perceive you as breaking rules they have to keep. Maybe the solution is to educate drivers that cyclists are playing an important role in a wider game of reducing traffic and pollution. Or maybe we should just all take it out on a more important class of free-riders, the tax-dodgers.

This piece is stuffed with half-baked untruths that you’d think a psychologist would spot from a mile away. It assumes all motorists are law-abiding and play by the rules (we know that’s not true) and that a majority of cyclists don’t play by the rules (stats show that it’s a minority who run reds etc, and let’s face it, when High Court judges run reds in their fast cars, doing 64mph in 30mph zones, there are no newspaper columnists readying ‘I hate all motorists’ pieces).

If the BBC wanted a psychologist to do a good piece on why *some* motorists hate cyclists, they should commission Ian Walker. In an interview in The Psychologist Prof Walker said:

For a long time I wondered if the outgroup status of cyclists was compounded by two other known social psychological factors: norms and majority vs. minority groups. Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti- conventional and possibly even infantile.
But even adding these factors into the mix does not explain all the anger that cyclists experience. It’s easy to identify other minority outgroups whose behaviour similarly challenges social norms but who do not get verbally and physically attacked like cyclists do: vegetarians, for example. So there’s clearly one or more important variables that we’ve not identified yet. Any social psychologists looking for a challenge are very welcome to wade into this.

The lack of understanding of the cyclist outgroup seems to produce measurable changes in other road users’ behaviour. A few years ago I did a study which showed that changing the appearance of a cyclist led to notable changes in how much space drivers left when passing the bicycle. The specific changes seen make sense given the small body of research on non-cyclists’ stereotypes of cyclists. The two extant studies – the Lynn Basford et al. one, and research by Birgitta Gatersleben and Hebba Haddad, in 2010 – both found that non-cyclists view bicycle helmets as an indicator of an experienced rider, and in my data we saw riskier behaviour from drivers when they passed a cyclist who was wearing a helmet, which fits the idea they saw the rider as more capable.

The positive lesson from this, I feel, is that drivers do adjust their behaviour to the perceived needs of the non-drivers they are interacting with. The problem is that they do not always understand how to read these other people and judge their needs.

It’s give and take out there, but some motorists are better at taking than giving. As we all have to share the road it would be nice to think common decency overrode these destructive feelings of hatred of one group.

Not all cyclists are angels, just as not all pedestrians (or motorists) are angels. But there’s zero room for hatred on the roads. And might is never right. Here, from another of my sites, is an illustration of why sharing a finite space (roads) sometimes makes people angry and full of irrational hatred:

"Get Off The Road!" Fougasse 1935

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Road tax doesn’t exist. The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys.