When motorists believe they’ve paid for use of the road, they can be dangerous

Some motorists believe cyclists are lesser beings, and shouldn’t get in the way of cars. Why? Because of the shockingly widespread belief that cyclists don’t pay for roads.

In fact, we do. We all do. Everybody pays. Every tax-payer, that is. Road maintenance, road building and road design are all paid for out of general and local taxation. Motorists do not pay for roads. Road tax does not exist, has not existed since 1937. It’s now car tax, vehicle excise duty, a tax on emissions.

In the Spring edition of ‘Good Motoring’ from GEM Motoring Assist, columnist Jane King said cyclists were “itinerant road users.”

Hating on horse riders, too (they also ‘get in the way’ of cars), King wrote:

“You’d think that cyclists, being at one with the elements, would be able to deal sensibly with [passing motorists]. Unfortunately, certainly of late, this group seems to consist of real and exacting enthusiasts who behave as if every training trip is a stage of the Tour de France. And, as such they have a narrow blinkered vision of how the road should be used at that moment – which is purely for them. The motor vehicle must, and will, take at least second place. Sorry – who pays road tax, exactly?”

Such ignorance of what and who pays for roads can lead to violence against anybody not in a motorised vehicle. There are legions of examples of motorists abusing cyclists for “not paying road tax.” (Although horse riders don’t get tarred with the same brush: it’s obviously a money thing. Some motorists assume anybody on a bike is a pauper, and can’t possibly own a car, too. Which is daft because cars can be pretty cheap, a lot cheaper than decent top-flight bikes, for instance).

In Brazil on Friday, one motorist took the law into his own hands and smashed into a peaceful, beautiful Critical Mass ride.

This helmetcam footage is horrific, showing a speeding VW Golf ramming its way through 150 cyclists.

Brazilian drivers pay Imposto sobre Propriedade de Veículos Automotores or IPVA, our equivalent of VED. However, this site for Brazilian newcomers calls it a ‘road tax’.

Who knows what went through the mind of the 47-year old male driver seen causing the carnage in that footage? He was held up for a few minutes by folks on bikes and he suddenly lost it, rear-ending unsuspecting cyclists in a few seconds of madness. Apologist commenters on YouTube videos of the incident have said he had a sick passenger in the car and was desperate to get past the cyclists, who were blocking just one road among many in this Brazilian city.

Do those who decry Critical Mass as “irresponsible” say the same about fuel protestors who block roads? Or how about taxi drivers blockading London for an hour? “We are sorry that we have to block the streets to make our voices heard, but we feel we have no other option,” said a London cabby last year, who very possibly rants when he sees the few minutes of disruption caused when Critical Mass rides past.

Thankfully, it appears none of the hit cyclists were killed, but they could have been. Many were badly injured and there was an ugly, sickening pile of smashed bikes. The driver absconded, but not before reportedly removing his number plates. So, did police chase him down? No, they are waiting for him to turn himself in, a promise made by the 47 year olds lawyer. In Brazilian media reports, the police are still calling the carnage an “accident.”

Back to the UK…
Motorists do not own the roads, nor do cyclists, or equestrians. We all have the right to pass and re-pass on public roads. Those motorists who truly believe their annual car tax payment is a fee to use roads are 100 percent wrong. Some who believe this, begrudgingly allow cyclists to “share the roads, paid for by motorists” but who knows how many close-shaves – the buzzing of cyclists – is due to this mistaken belief? Too many. Way too many.


iPayRoadTax.com 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.

Manchester’s Mr & Mrs Motormouth think cyclists should pay up or shut up

The couple in the helmetcam video below believe they pay road tax and that cyclists don’t.

They’re right. Cyclists don’t pay road tax. Can’t: it doesn’t exist. It was abolished in 1937, a process started 11 years earlier by Winston Churchill.

Just like the rest of Britain’s car owners, the motor-mouth couple pay Vehicle Excise Duty, a tax on vehicles (the clue is in the name). VED is not a payment to use roads or a payment to fix or build roads.

But that’s clearly how the couple see it. In their world, an annual payment gives them the overarching right to use the road. Cyclists are lesser beings, they don’t pay ‘road tax’ so have fewer rights, perhaps even none.

Using a stabbing, pointing finger, Mrs Motormouth – the passenger – told helmetcam-wearing Jobysp “You don’t pay road tax, you’ve got no right…”

She meant no right to tell her hubby to slow down: Jobysp reckoned the driver was doing 30+mph in a 20mph zone, and had voiced his opinions.

Mr and Mrs Motormouth didn’t like this. Not one little bit.

“You have no say on the roads whatsoever,” said Mrs Motormouth, with gusto.

Then the killer line, so pithy it might even be rehearsed, and projected at cyclists regularly: “No pay, no say.”

Mr & Mrs Motormouth are not rogue Mancunian petrolheads. Their worldview is shared by many. Cyclists don’t pay to use roads, motorists do, so cyclists are there on sufferance at best. At worst, cyclists can be nudged, shunted, shouted at and otherwise abused.

That somebody on a bike might also own a car – but choose not to use it for every journey – doesn’t register with some people. But, of course, a car-owning cyclist who pays ‘car tax’ has no greater right to the road than a car-free cyclist. Roads are paid for out of general taxation.

Who Pays For Britain's Roads?

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“Even though I pay me road tax, they treat me like a clown”

novelty pothole UK car tax disc - with my addition

I’ve been forwarded a round robin email containing a pic of a tax disc holder with the words ‘Yes I’ve paid my tax now go fix some f•••••g pot holes.’ The email had clearly done the viral rounds: the subject line is Fwd: FW: FW: I want this Tax Disk Holder. The pic above has been Photoshopped with a certain movement’s logo…

Most motorists will neither know nor care that potholes can’t be fixed by paying ‘road tax’. Pleasingly, the tax disc – which is available on eBay and direct from the maker – doesn’t make the common mistake about ‘road tax’. The Facebook fan page even calls it ‘car tax’, although most of the fans have made the mental leap to linking ‘road tax’ and fixing potholes.

On that fan page I found a disturbing music video. Disturbing because the music video is of an Irish comedic singer and the refrain sears into your brain. The singer – Seamus Moore – now runs a pub in Middlesex (he was done for drink driving in his homeland) but his music is set in Ireland.

His ‘Pothole Song’ makes no reference to CTC’s ‘Fill that Hole’ campaign but does fall for the classic ‘road tax’ mistake:

“When you go out driving make sure and fit a spare. Me little back suspension was bobbing up and down. Even though I pay me road tax, they treat me like a clown.”

Ah, but as the song is set in ‘holey Eire’ it could be accurate about Ireland’s way of paying for roads? Nope. Irish roads are paid for out of general taxation, just like in the UK. Ireland’s version of car tax is ‘motor tax’. It’s not a ‘graduated vehicle excise duty’, based on CO2 emissions, it’s based on engine size.

Mr Wheeler: “I paid for the road, I’ll use it!”

The brilliant Disney cartoon ‘Motor Mania’, is a classic from 1950. It stars Goofy as the Jekyll and Hyde character, Mr. Walker/Mr. Wheeler.

Watch it and weep:

I’ve embedded this video (and couple of years back sent it to iPods etc via iTunes) because it’s so painfully accurate about the attitudes of some motorists. It’s also a reminder that many motorists don’t just hate cyclists, they hate anything in front of them.


“Hey, you think you own the whole road?”

Mr. Wheeler: “Hurumph! Of course I own the road. My taxes pay for them…I got road bonds…I pay for the roads and I’ll use ’em.”

Mr. Wheeler: [yelling at passing cars] “Get off my road! Move over! Lemme pass!”

At traffic lights: “Aargh, 30 seconds gone of my life.”

Jeremy Clarkson on road tax for cyclists

Leather jacket Ridgeback rider

Jeremy Clarkson is a funny and intelligent guy. When he said cyclists should pay road tax, he probably meant it as a joke. Of course, Clarkson lovers – such as the folks on this (thankfully dormant) Facebook site, ‘Cyclists should take a test, pay road tax and take out insurance!’ – aren’t always funny and are often very much less than intelligent. But the lovers sure do love Clarkson’s quote:

“Trespassers in the motorcars’ domain, [cyclists] do not pay road tax and therefore have no right to be on the road, some of them even believe they are going fast enough to not be an obstruction. Run them down to prove them wrong.”

Clarkson was being Clarkson, but some of his idiot followers might think he means it, and might be encouraged to ‘nudge’ the odd cyclist here and there. Now, should a motorist try to nudge Guy Ritchie when he’s on his bike, the motorist might regret it. Ritchie is big. In the video clip below, Madonna’s former hubby – and director of the new Sherlock Holmes movie – tells Clarkson about his extensive collection of motors, but why he prefers a bike for 90 percent of his travel.