Does the Transport Secretary know how Britain’s roads are funded?

Car tax poster

You and I know roads are not funded by motorists but by all tax-payers. This basic fact seems to elude Philip Hammond yet he’s the UK Transport Secretary.

I have it on very good authority that a senior civil servant in the Department of Transport patiently explained the intricacies of roads funding to Mr Hammond when he was appointed to his role earlier this year. He was told that the term ‘cyclists don’t pay road tax’ is wrong on many levels.

Hammond, a petrolhead who eschews train travel, might not have been giving his full attention to this civil servant. According to respected transport journalist Christian Wolmar, Hammond has been having a poke at ‘freeloading’ cyclists.

“Phil Hammond has again asked why cyclists do not pay road tax. Does he not yet realise there is no such thing?” twittered Wolmar.

Wolmar told me the anecdote came to him secondhand but that Hammond’s ‘road tax gibe’ against cyclists was batted down by a familiar bike nut: “Boris apparently corrected him when they went on a bike ride together,” said the well-connected Wolmar.

Good old Boris!

And this video must be from that bike ride, a jaunt on one of the London Cycle Hire bikes:

No pictures from the ride itself but it’s good to hear Hammond say cycling is “a great way to go…and I’ll be doing it again.”

But should he do so, he’d better watch out. There are drivers out there who shout abuse at cyclists for “no pay, no say”. Some throw missiles at cyclists for the same perceived crime.

Should either Boris or the UK Transport Secretary want to broadcast the fact that cyclists don’t need to pay ‘road tax’, because nobody does as it was abolished in 1937, there are some fetching cycle jerseys they could wear…

Does new Transport Minister know who pays for roads?

Car tax poster

In an interview in tonight’s London Evening Standard, Phillip Hammond, the new Transport Secretary, said:

“People feel, rightly, that our present roads are something they have already paid for with their taxes.”

This was to poo-poo the idea of road charging and, technically, is dead right. The mistake would be if the Minister had said “motoring taxes.”

But, in an email, Dr. Robert Davis, chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, said:

“[Mr Hammond] doesn’t say that this is from VED or ‘road tax’, but it doesn’t help with the myth that motorists have ‘paid for the road’ while cyclists, implicitly, haven’t.”

Phillip Hammond is no Lord Adonis: no chance of him cycling to work, despite the Mayor of London’s tweet today pointing out that the Transport Secretary has agreed to go on a bike ride with Boris.

Hammond told the Evening Standard: “I’ve never actually cycled in London. I’d have to take a deep breath. I think you need to know what you are doing to cycle in London. Cyclists need to be more aware of the risks around them. It frightens me to death when I see them pull out around other cyclists, completely unaware there is a car behind. Maybe they need wing mirrors?”

Wing mirrors? He jests?

He is “not sure of the logic” of green bike-only boxes, ie advanced stop line reservoirs. He’s also in favour of separation: “We have to make [cycling] less risky. The more separation you can create between cyclists and motorists the better.”

One simple way to make cycling less risky – and, it’s free, something to be welcomed in the current age of austerity – is for the Minister to shout from the rooftops that ‘road tax’ does not exist; motorists do not pay for roads; and that cyclists have equal rights on roads.
Bloody Tax Dodgers