Why do some from the motorised majority want cyclists to be taxed, licenced & have number plates?

Why should cyclists pay for the use of roads when motorists don’t? And if cyclists did pay it would only be 3p a year at most so why bother?

licensed to cycle

The UK’s Department for Transport is pretty good on registration for cyclists: the standard reply is along the lines of “if we required cyclists to be registered and carry number plates we’d have to do the same for pedestrians.” Drivers of cars and HGVs and vans require licenses and identification plates because they are no longer benign road users: strap on an engine and you become a potential danger. Road users without engines pose little risk to others. However, some motorists feel cyclists should be regulated because “they’re all tax-dodgers”. And the “you don’t pay road tax” gibe is just one of many arguments used against cyclists by some motorists. Another is “you all ride through red lights” and “you all ride on pavements.” Now, a simple tit-for-tat response would be to reply that motorists routinely drive through stop-lights on red; and the motorists’ habit of parking on footways is now so commonplace it’s seen as perfectly legal. However, two wrongs don’t make a right and, while the social identity theory will always mean the “out” group is demonised by the “in” group there’s little point in dwelling on this so how about examining some of the arguments about compulsory registration, compulsory training and testing, a “bicycle tax”, and compulsory licensing for bicycles?

Calls for bicycle licensing are frequently voiced. It’s official policy for the UK Independence Party, which wants all bikes to carry ‘Cyclediscs’ to prove riders have insurance “to cover damage to cars” and which would “deter dangerous cyclist behaviour.” (You know, like licenses and number plates make all motorists drive below speed limits). UKIP also wants cyclists to be forced to dismount when there are signs saying so.

But there are calls for licensing from friendly quarters, too. For instance, a graphic in the extensive ‘cycle safe’ campaign in The Times, in February 2012, seemed to suggest that bicycle licensing would be a requirement if cyclists ever wanted to be shown “consideration” on the roads. Such a concept may be attractive to legislators seeking easy and cheap “solutions” but is bicycle licensing worth the expense, and would it work? And do calls for bicycle licensing – and cyclist testing – reflect a genuine desire to improve road safety or is it a means for the motorised majority to reduce cycling levels with regulations?


It’s true. Some countries have had bicycle registration and licence schemes. Japan still does (all bicycles sold in Japan are registered with the local government as an anti-theft measure). In Switzerland, until recently it was compulsory to have a CHF-5-10 ‘Velo Vignette’ (bike sticker) ‘license’ but as well as being a registration scheme it was a way of getting cyclists to purchase third-party liability insurance. However, in March 2010, the Swiss parliament started to debate whether to abolish the licenses, and then did. Political bean counters said the costs of the scheme far outstripped the revenue.

Lots of countries used to have bike badge registration schemes: from Argentina to the Seychelles. In fact, the little tin badges are collectible, and can be found on specialist websites and on eBay. The schemes were discontinued for the same reason dog licences were discontinued in the UK: administration of the schemes, such as the bicycle licensing by-law in Toronto (created in 1935, ditched in 1957 and suggested but rejected in 1984, 1992 and 1996), always costs way more than the income.

Jersey was looking into registration of cyclists but as the Deputy of the States – Jersey’s parliament – made a major gaffe in his submission, the idea never got off the ground.

In July 2011, councillor Monette of Ottawa asked the City Operations team to evaluate whether it would be worth creating a bicycle licensing scheme. In January 2012, the answer came back no and non.

The City Operations team said:

Given limited benefits and significant challenges, and primarily based on the fact that bicycle licensing would act as a significant barrier to cycling, it is recommended that bicycle licensing not be implemented in the City of Ottawa

But, for sake of argument, if a bike registration scheme was introduced in a city, how much should cyclists pay? It could be argued cyclists ought to be paid by the state to cycle. OK, that’s not going to fly, so how about if cycle licensing costs £0?

That’s how much it costs in Milwaukee. Residents are required to obtain a license for each bike they own. The scheme appears to be mostly a deterrent to bicycle theft, similar to the voluntary bicycle registration schemes in the UK such as BikeRegister.com.

Despite having the most cyclists in Europe, neither the Netherlands nor Denmark have bicycle licensing schemes. Copenhagenize.com’s Mikael Colville-Anderson said licensing of bicycles is “folly”:

“There’s no licensing here. I’ve heard from city officials in a number of cities that they have worked out the cost of a bike licensing scheme and none of them have found it cost efficient. Toronto was one of the cities.”

Marc van Woudenberg of Amsterdamize.com said:

“No licensing scheme here. I did a bit of research with cycle organisations Fietsberaad and Fietsersbond on whether it has ever been suggested in the past, but couldn’t find any reference.”

The argument “they do it in other countries” doesn’t hold water: other countries in Europe have ‘strict liability’, the insurance concept that, in a small way, helps to protect cyclists and pedestrians, but the UK has chosen not to opt in to this (and the mainstream press can be whipped up into a frenzy of hate when the idea is broached).

You know who really liked bicycle registration schemes? The Nazis during World War Two. The bicycle on the left is a French semi-recumbent and features a WWII bicycle number plate, as required by the occupying army. (The bicycle belongs to the Embacher collection and is a screengrab from the wonderful Cyclepedia iPad app).

The Nazis liked bicycle registration? Not according to the very funny Downfall spoof below:

Er, like car registration plates, and motoring training and tests, stop motorists from speeding, talking on mobile phones and blowing through red lights?

The cyclists most likely to break traffic rules (rules, it has to be said, designed to lessen the lethal potential of motorised vehicles and moderate the bad behaviour of motorists) are those most likely not to wander into the Post Office for bicycle licences and third-party insurance, or seek out cycle training.

[Young lads, for instance. And it's young lads who don't buy car insurance either. According to the Motor Insurers' Bureau, of the 1.2 million drivers aged 17-20, a whopping 243,000 (20 percent) are believed to be driving without insurance.]

When he was still mayor, Ken Livingstone said he would introduce bicycle operator licences for London cyclists.

“I think I’m now persuaded we should actually say that bikes and their owners, should be registered. There should be a number plate on the back so that the ones breaking the law, we can get them off the cameras.”

Bicycles with number plates big enough to be read by traffic cameras? The idea was dropped.

If a pedestrian or driver spotted a youth doing something illegal on a number plated bike, what would the police do with that information? Likely, nothing. Because that’s what they do for pretty much all ‘minor’ highway infractions. Try this at home: ring the police and report a speeding car. Give the number plate and say you saw the driver doing 40mph in a 30mph zone. What do you think the reaction would be?

Even with GATSO cameras it’s not a dead cert that a speeding motorist will be nabbed. There’s lots of wriggle room, and plenty of lawyers happy to be paid to do the wriggling.

Go to the police with just a license plate number and expect short shrift: whether that plate is on a car or a bicycle. But why stop at cars and bicycles? Why not prams? Or horses? Or pedestrians?

Driving while distracted with cellphone

To drive a car in the UK you must be licensed, must pass a test and be 17 or over. To ride a bike you merely have to balance. Children aren’t allowed to drive cars, but they are allowed to ride bikes for the simple reason that bicycles are not killing machines. No-one in their right mind would allow an eight year old to drive a car on the public highway, but children, quite rightly, are allowed to ride bicycles on the public highway.

If a licensing system were brought in, would children have to have ‘child cycling licences’? At what age would the cut off be? 16, 8, 4? If children were exempt from licensing, would that preclude them from using roads on their bicycles? It’s already happening: in the name of safety, a school in Watford has linked up with the police to create ‘bike passports’ for pedalling pupils.

“Any pupil who fails to meet…conditions will not get a bike passport and will not be allowed to cycle to school.”

One of the reasons for Toronto not reinstigating its bicycle registration bylaw was the netting of children. The City said “licensing of bicycles [should] be discontinued because it often results in an unconscious contravention of the law at a very tender age; they also emphasize the resulting poor public relations between police officers and children.”

Motor vehicles are licensed because of the threat they pose to other road users. Motorists who drive recklessly can cause severe damage to property and people, yet, because of airbags and crumple zones, can climb out of their vehicle unscathed. Cyclists who ride recklessly risk, for the most part, only their own life and limb. Hit a car; risk death. Hit a pedestrian; risk serious injury. Cyclists pay attention; self-preservation polices itself.

Many beginner cyclists lack basic skills, and their road sense leaves a lot to be desired. But cycling is a tough teacher: get it wrong on the road and you’re toast. Cyclists therefore have to get skilled quickly.

Training sessions would help in this regard and – with Bikeability – such sessions are more widely available than ever before. But it isn’t compulsory for motorists to take driving lessons: all they need do is pass a test. And just the one. For the rest of their life, that’s it.

OK, so why shouldn’t cyclists have to pass a test? Simple: cyclists do not operate heavy, powerful, fast, frequently-lethal machines. Cyclists, like pedestrians and equestrians, use the road by right of way. Drivers use it under licence. Under licence because, unfettered, drivers are dangerous. Heck, even with loads of rules and regulations, drivers still cause the roads to be dangerous for other road users.

In 1998, 904 pedestrians and cyclists in the UK were killed by motor vehicles; two were killed by bikes. In 2001, 825 people were killed by motor vehicles; none by bikes. In 2004, 669 by cars; one by bike. The highest level of deaths was in 1999 when five pedestrians were killed by bikes. In same year, 863 were killed by cars. Yes, there’s a very good reason why motorised vehicles are licensed, and bicycle aren’t. (And, of those deaths caused by cyclists, only about one every four years is of a pedestrian struck on a footway; most of the rest of the time it’s pedestrians hit by cyclists on the road and, as every bike rider knows, pedestrians seem not to realise getting hit by a cyclist is gonna hurt).

Restrictions on the rights of motorists have a long history because the danger posed by cars has a long history.

This is probably the most persuasive argument for bicycle licensing and bicycle taxes. If cyclists paid a bit of cash each year it would get motorists off our backs: we could say ‘but we do pay for taking away ‘your’ parking spaces for bike lanes.’

Thing is, we already do pay. Bicycle infrastructure is paid for by general and local taxation, not ‘road’ tax. Motorists may feel they get no benefit from bicycle infrastructure they wrongly assume they’ve paid for via ‘road’ tax but there are lots of examples of tax payers’ money going on amenities only a portion of the community will benefit from. Schools, for instance. Child-less tax-payers pay for facilities they’ll never use. Hospitals: stay healthy and you’ll never get the benefits from your tax money. Motorways: cyclists aren’t allowed on them, but adult cyclist tax-payers still pay for them.

Nevertheless, asking cyclists to pay a token amount – a pedalling peppercorn – is something that will come up time and time again. Being able to wave a piece of paper proving there’s been a payment is something many cyclists would welcome. On another story on iPayRoadTax.com, ‘Neilwheel’ writes:

“I cycle a lot on the canals. Come summer, hardly a ride goes past without someone coming out with the ‘cyclists don’t have any right to be on the towpath’ line. But up my sleeve I’ve got a British Waterways Cycle Permit. Most people have never heard of, let alone seen, a canals bike permit. It’s an instant shutter-upper.

“A Band A tax discs for bikes would have the same effect. Rather than save the government money, the scheme should be argued for. Plus you have a National Cycle Register at no extra charge. Call for the ‘disc’ to be an embedded chip and you’ve also got an theft deterrent.

“Play them at their own game, that’s what I say.”

But “paying our way” with usage fees or taxes creates a pot of cash that, were it to be ringfenced for bicycle infrastructure, could become seen as the only pot of cash for cycling. The fund would never be big enough.

For instance, in Maine, USA, legislators want to impose a 2 percent surcharge on new bike sales. State lawmakers say proceeds from this new tax, mooted in March 2011, would go toward a Bikeway Construction Fund.

According to Nancy Grant, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, about 10,000 bikes are sold in the state each year. “If the average price of a bike is $400, the total funds collected would be $80,000. That would hardly cover the engineering and design costs of a typical bike/pedestrian project, much less the construction. Subtract the cost of administering this tax, and there’s even less,” she said.

Jerry Porter, manager of the bike shop inside of Ski Rack Sports in Bangor, Maine, asked why the bill targets just cyclists because bikeways are also used by runners, joggers with baby strollers and dog walkers, as well as others. “I don’t know why they’re targeting us,” he said. “We’re already paying taxes as it is.”

And, back in the UK, cyclists already pay some cash. The UK bicycle industry has a levy fund. It’s called Bike Hub: a tiny fraction of the money spent in bike shops goes into this fund and helps pay for pro-cycling programmes such as cycling-to-school initiative Bike It, the Bike Hub smartphone navigation apps, and Bike Week.

Paying for infrastructure is a whole different level of funding and requires tax-payer’s cash: just as road building and maintenance requires tax-payer cash.
Ah, but what about if the ‘ring fencing’ was uncoupled from infrastructure spend and, say, went on teaching programs and the like? Sounds good in practice but legislators can do the funniest things and there’s never any guarantee their promises will be kept. The key thing to get across here is that ‘car tax’ is not a user fee, it’s a tax on cars. Nobody pays user fees to use roads, exempt for some bridges and the M6 motorway toll. As bicycles attract VAT, they already contribute to the national purse.

A common argument for a ‘bicycle tax’ is that it’ll get motorists off our backs. No, it won’t, those who wish to complain about cyclists aren’t really fussed about what we pay – many think we’re all paupers! – they just want us to get the hell out of their way. No amount of bike tax payments will appease these folks.

So, via VAT – and things like the Bike Hub levy – cyclists already do pay taxes. And, via income tax and council tax, cyclists also pay for roads, bike paths, hospitals, the defence budget etc etc.

Not a lot. About 1/5000th of what a motorist pays for the emissions tax that is vehicle excise duty. About 3p a year.

Here’s why, thanks to James Valencia over on a silly poll on the Daily Mail (amazingly, it’s actually The Guardian).

The fair tax payable would be so ridiculously low compared to car tax.

DISTANCE: A typical habitual bicycle user might to about 2000km per year for an average 10km daily ride on working days excluding holidays. The car equivalent would be 10000 to 20000 based on typical stats., so let’s cut it in half (15000km/annum) to be generous and call it 7.5 times more distance covered. Alright, let’s be even kinder to the car and round it off to a factor of five: The average car covers five times more kilometres than the bike.

FORCE: The car surface/area is about 140mmx 50mm x 4 wheels weight about 1500Kg. The bike equivalent is 20 x 10mmx 2 wheels, for weight about 80Kg including average rider. The ratio of force exerted by the car and by the bike is the ratio of the product of surface and weight (proportional to the force). That gives you a force exterted by the car on the road 1312 times greater than the bike. Let’s call it a thousand since this is a gross approximation. So, the product of distance travelled and force exterted is (1000 newtons relative) x 15000km for the motor, and (1 newton relative) x 2000km for the bike.

Though as I said, we were kind to the car and rounded this down to five times the distance for the car, at a thousand times the force exerted on the road per kilometre.
All in all, this means (multiply the two) that the average car wears down the road five thousand times more than the average bike.

Then, one should consider the extra road furniture and general expense that cars require, and which bikes do not.

But continuing our exceptional niceness to cars, let’s ignore all that and say that bikes should pay just as cars do, and charge them the absolute maximum possible, which is in proportion to how much they wear out the roads, with no consideration given to other road services. The bikes should, in this case, pay one five thousandth of what the car pays. In my case (my car is cheap), this is 3p per year.


Bicycling’s Bob Mionske feels that calls for licensing of cyclists and the erosion of our rights to the road “are vindictive in nature, and rooted in a deep-seated desire to remove us from the roads.” He wants recognition for cyclists:

First, policies that promote the safe integration and expansion of cycling into our transportation infrastructure must not only be adopted, they must also be implemented. Second, traffic laws should be sensible, actually recognizing and reflecting that the needs of cyclists are different from the needs of motorists. Third, the traffic laws need to be enforced, by officers who actually understand the laws they are enforcing, with attention shifted away from petty violations, and focused instead on the most dangerous violations. Finally, when cyclists are injured or killed by negligent drivers, the statutes, and enforcement, should reflect the seriousness of the incident, with law enforcement attention directed to the behavior that actually caused the harm.


Perhaps that’s the actual goal of those who want compulsory cycle training, registration and licensing schemes? But cycling ought to be encouraged, not stifled. Cycling is clean, quiet and green. It’s healthier than sitting in a car. More cyclists equals less urban congestion.

What do motorists really mean?

A national bicycle registration and cyclist licensing scheme would cost a lot more to run than it would bring in; and would fail to prevent traffic law transgressions. (The gert big numbers on the side of Boris Bikes in London have not been used to report naughty Cycle Hire scheme riders).

In the UK, the Government has shown it is not minded to make cyclists register before hopping on their bikes. In 2006, Lord Davies of Oldham said:

The Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 provides for the registration of mechanically propelled vehicles so it would not be possible to register bicycles or cyclists under that Act. To enable the Government to administer the registration of cyclists, changes in legislation would have to be considered along with extensive changes to computer systems.

There are more than 20 million bicycles in Great Britain—many of which change owners frequently—and one in three adults owns a bicycle. To register them would entail the establishment of a system parallel to that presently existing for motor vehicles.

The cost of such a system would, in the Department for Transport’s view, outweigh any possible benefits and so we do not propose to take this idea forward.

Making people register to use bicycles would mainly serve as a barrier to greater levels of cycling.

And this, deep down, is what many motorists probably want. They want us out of “their” way, off “their” roads. Cyclists are pesky and slow, goes the unthinking thinking. They ride two or more abreast; they wear Lycra; they slow down legitimate – ie motorised – road traffic.

Those who want cyclists to be registered, want them to display their registration details on big number plates. They may also want bikes to carry signal indicators. Maybe another two wheels would be good, too. And an engine. Oh, hang on, that’s a car.

When you hear a call for compulsory cycle training, bicycle licensing and bike taxes (“just pennies a day, why would you object to that?”) it’s not a call for fair-play, it’s a call to drive everywhere.

Those who want cyclists to be trained, registered, pay ‘road tax’ and a bike tax, and apply for licences to cycle don’t want to share the road with lots of licensed, fee-paying, trained cyclists, they want less cyclists full-stop. The ‘no pay, no say’ crowd would use any payment as a “but you don’t pay enough” argument.



Suggesting that cyclists to pay ‘road tax – which, in the UK, is an emissions-based tax and for which cyclists would pay the same as Band A motorcars, i.e. £0 – is as ludicrous as asking pedestrians to pay a ‘pavement tax’. Just as it’s not cyclists wrecking the roads, it’s not pedestrians cracking pavement slabs. In both cases it’s motorists.

TheSpoof.co.uk says:

Pedestrians will be issued with a sandwich board fitted front and back with a number plate, so they can tracked when they cause accidents. There will, of course, be space on the boards for advertising of the governments choosing in order to keep the costs down for the pedestrian.

•Pedestrians will have to have liability insurance cover of three million pounds before they can legally take to the streets. Government statistics have shown that pedestrian accidents cause millions of pounds worth of damage to expensive vehicles every year.

In 2009, Dr Ian Walker wrote a great piece about ‘pedestrian tax’ and license plates for pedestrians:

If pedestrians want to walk on our streets, which we pay for with all our driving taxes, then they need to pay their share and take their part of the responsibility. Anybody who walks anywhere should undergo training, should have to pay an annual tax towards the facilities they enjoy, should display a license plate so they can be identified, and should each be made to carry insurance in case they are ever involved in any accidents.


  • Annoyingcyclist

    All that needs to be said is said right there. Thanks Mike.

  • http://free-english-people.blogspot.com/ Paul Perrin

    And car drivers pay 200% or more of those supposed costs…

    Cut cars and you’ll need to make up the gap you created…

  • Daniel

    I think a lot of people here are confusing “reduce” with “eradicate”. No, speed cameras don’t stop people speeding and red light cameras don’t stop people running them but on my average cycle I see many motorists slowing down for speed cameras and stopping at red lights. I can’t help but think that if there was no penalty attached to ignoring these traffic flow changing devices, more people would just ignore them.

    Additionally, the number of cyclists I see going through red lights here in Cambridge far outweighs the number of motorists I have seen doing it. Now, we can assume that the proportion of “no hopers” (that is people who will always break rules, i.e. motorists who go through red lights and use lawyers to get off having their licence revoked) is the same for cyclists and motorists. This means that, from my admittedly limited sampling, seeing more cyclists going through red lights than motorists means that a significant proportion of those committing this offence would not do so if there was some penalty attributable to them breaking this rule.

    I also feel that people are missing the point by saying that cyclists don’t kill people, which of course they are unlikely to; their momentum is far less than that of a car. As a pedestrian, being hit by a bicycle is still going to ruin your day and bicycles tend to be far harder to hear and see than cars. Furthermore, is it not fair to say that running a red light on a bicycle can actually kill someone – the person doing the red light running? Now you could say that this is just their fault but what about the poor person who has to live with having driven over someone, or the added expense to the NHS of treating the cyclist, if still alive, when that money could have far better served treating cyclists injured in less avoidable ways?

    A final point is that part of the arguments voiced here revolve around bicycle licensing being a waste of money in that it won’t make any revenue for the government. While I agree that in these financially constrained times, extra spending is probably not ideal, would you not say that viewing the NHS in the same way would lead to its abolition as it can hardly be said to make any direct revenue for the government (I accept that it has wide ranging benefit to the economy through things as simple as decreasing the economy’s revenue lost to sickness etc.).

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    It’s not that bicycle licensing won’t be very profitable but that it costs to run such schemes and the revenue never covers the costs. This has been the case in most legislatures where it has been tried (and quickly dropped).

  • Daniel

    Most government schemes never recover their costs, that’s why the government is funded by other sources, such as tax revenue. I.e. redistribution of money to non-exclusive/non-direct-benefit initiatives, like roads, public buildings etc. Obviously in the current economic situation, any extra cost is frowned upon but then with the same, narrow, view on things one could argue that the billions spent to reduce CO2 emissions are a similar waste of money in that the possible benefit will only be realised far in the future and clearly have detrimental influence on today’s economy and industrial efficiencies. (Please don’t misconstrue this as meaning that I think that energy and emissions policies are a waste of time/money, I am just illustrating a point).

    Whether the non-monetary benefit is worth the cost is another matter entirely but it seems that where it has been tried in the past, by foreign governments, it has been a rather half-hearted effort and focuses less on penalising cyclists for committing civil offences and more on 3rd party insurance and theft reduction, two arguably questionable and, at very most, minor benefits.

    What I am trying to say is that I don’t necessarily think that this is in any way a cost effective idea but that it is good to have a more rounded picture of the situation than is presented in the above article.

    An idea would be to have the cost of registration partly included in the price of a new bike – in this way people might not notice £5 (plucked out of thin air) on the price tag of a bike that may go up by an inflationary percentage each year/season anyway.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    This site has a long and detailed article on the pros and cons of bicycle licensing. The cons far far outweigh the pros, and not just from a cost perspective.

  • Phil

    I know this was posted some time ago but…
    I obey the law when cycling but I still get car drivers trying to throw the rule book at me simply because they often don’t know the rules themselves. Like the guy a couple of days ago who directly violated rule 163 so he could get close enough to me to tell me to get out of his way, even though I was only avoiding drains sunk 2 inches into the road surface.
    Drivers are typically licensed and insured but it doesn’t stop them killing and maiming many thousands of people every year often as a result of arrogant carelessness which many drivers think only exists in the cycling community.

  • Phil

    99% of drivers are not disabled but is unfortunately the sort of exceptional argument used by some to oppose logic.

  • Phil

    Licensed and insured drivers doesn’t prevent them killing and maiming 1000s every year.

  • Peace and harmony to all

    Dear Sir, I have been told that I am stupid because I said, “humans and machines do not mix, and ,anything man made can and will go wrong as err is human.
    A well oiled machine will run smoothly but a badly mainted machine will cease to function correctly.
    So my argument is Keep everything separate in the transportation catagory, car’s do not mix well with HGV’s on Roundabouts and Motorways, Cars do not mix with Cyclists on Roads, and cyclists do not mix well with pedestrians on pavements.
    Our road’s pavements cycle routes are jammend packed into ever narrowing motorways roads and space we are being squwashed into a tube of toothpaste and all the stress is coming out of the opening under pressure.Look at india and many other countries with population growth and their roads
    So why don’t we try to get people to wise up on driving using machine of all road using types on a more regular bases?
    Why don’t the government place more road safety adverts on the telly during peak viewing times inbetween soap’s and drama programmes.
    I see they put them on at 3 am in the morning which is stupid as most people are asleep then.
    Advertising boards on roads should be filled with road awareness posters.
    Radio channels should have verbal awarness broadcasts.

  • qwerky

    ” at least third party insurance, then at least should you decide to undertake and clip my vehicle I can recoup the costs.”

    This has nothing to do with insurance. Anyone who damages your property is liable to pay for it, whether they are insured or not. Motor vehicles require insurance because they’re capable of doing damage costing more than most people can typically afford. Bicycles aren’t capable of writing a car off, or knocking a building down – the worst case might be a hundred pounds for a paintwork scratch.


  • Phil

    Sorry if this sounds a bit blunt, but when one does their homework properly, it is plain to see that the cost of running the roads goes way beyond just maintenance. There are all sorts of externalities that the “pay your way” brigade are oblivious to.
    When you consider the centralisation of taxes, and as a higher-rate tax payer and car owner, I have probably paid more to finance our infrastructure than most of those that complain about cyclists.
    So I will continue to cycle, I will obey the rules and I will be guilt free whilst doing so.
    If there’s any car drivers here that still think cyclists have it easy financially, then my advice is to get out of your car onto a bike and enjoy the freedom instead if moaning about it.
    (That does not go for those who have no choice such as the disabled who there should actually be concessions for).

  • Pablo Murphy

    these concerns over cyclist behaviour are merely rationalisations to disguise their resentment and to justify what is nothing more than a good old fashion prejudice. Ask your most people what they dislike about cyclists and two golden phrases crop up time and again; “they get away with murder” and “they think they own the roads”.

    This second phrase is particularly revealing for me as it betrays that motorists underlying belief of his (as it’s so often a “him”) should have first rights to the road and cyclists, and pedestrians, should wait their turn. This is the rationale for the road tax complaint; “You haven’t paid tax so your not a legitimate road user – get out of the road or wait your turn”.

    The “getting away with…” claim is more about the frustration car drivers feel about the steep cost of motoring, the congestion we all face on the roads and an over zealous state just waiting to pounce on any mistake, than it is about misbehaving cyclist.

    But calls for taxing, registering, compulsorily insuring cyclists, are making things worse for cyclist because it is really a way of maintaining this negative attitude; that cyclists are 2nd class, an underclass, which shouldn’t use the roads. You are invited to use our space, but at our discretion. It needs to be challenged for what it is.

    The key problem is the right of way assumption on London’s roads. Any city in the western hemisphere that has seen improvements in cyclist and pedestrian casualties will have had success at challenging the car drivers right of way belief, putting the pedestrian at the top of the right of way hierarchy, with cycles and non motorised (including personal mobility devices) just below and motorised transport coming last. Other benefits, such as reduction in speeding and impacts between vehicles, tend to follow the shift in attitude as drivers and cyclists are forced to pay more attention to pedestrians and road conditions.

    Attitude change doesn’t come easy, or overnight, We all know the advantages cycling brings to a society like ours and should do more to underline these advantages; reducing congestion on roads and volume on public transport, reducing air and noise pollution and improving health and Wellbeing (assuming we don’t all end up in casualty). It really is a benign mode of transport. But, it is neither healthy nor helpful to engage with these attempts to nudge cyclists to pay tax in order to upgrade to fully legitimate road user status. I believe attention would best be focused on driver attitudes to all the other road users and changing the right of way belief too many drivers hold dear.

  • Mark M

    So mentioning that disabled people, like me, NEED to drive to get anywhere opposes logic? You are typical of self important cyclists who think they are more important than anyone else.

  • Mark M

    As cyclists can quite easily cause accidents through their own carelessness, surely they should have some kind of identifier on their bikes. If some cyclists think they have a right to go round with cameras strapped to their heads so they can “catch” drivers out, surely car drivers should have the privilege of being able to do the same if a cyclist does something which is ultimately dangerous.

  • Mark M

    Cyclists cause lots of accidents, themselves often being the biggest victim, through careless, sometimes dangerous driving.

  • Mark M

    Some cyclists think THEY own the road, going by the way they cycle in groups side by side.

  • Mark M

    If cyclists aren’t willing to have number plate (or similar) then I would suggest it is because they know they are the type of cyclist who does break the HIghway Code and if caught on camera, would face penalties. I hope a plate is brought in – cyclists deserve to be every bit as accountable for any accident they cause as car drivers are.

  • Mark M

    So how are old and disable people meant to get around? I assume you would rather these “problem” people stay out the way so that cyclists are free to do what they want.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    In which case, you’d also be in support of number plates for wheelchairs and for pedestrians?

  • Phil

    No Mark, you misunderstood what I am saying. And it’s a pity you jumped to the conclusion I am a typical self-important cyclist without engaging in the debate a bit more first. You have unfortunately done what most do and judge an entire transport type based on a small [misunderstood] snippet of information.

    I have heard many able-bodied people use the disabled argument to justify their personal over-use of cars. It is these same people that are likely to illegally park in the disabled spaces if they think they can get away with it (which winds me up immensely).

    I work with disabled people, and many would like nothing more than to be able to get up and walk a mile or two to the shops unaided. So you see, I get very angry with able-bodied people who think walking a mile or two to the shops is an inconvenience when the disabled don’t even have the choice.

    The point I was originally making, is that prioritizing cycling would be a very logical thing to do for so many reasons. It will even free up the roads a little for those like your good self who need to use them. It will also reduce the thousands of newly disabled people this country sees every year as a result of the abundance of institutionalised non-disabled drivers.

    So you see, my argument above is indeed logical and I apologies if the point I was making wasn’t clear enough. But whether you think I’m of a typical self-important nature or not, it would be better if people like me were on the roads riding bicycles than half of the psychos I encounter on a daily basis driving 1.5 ton of steel around residential zones while talking on their mobiles.

    It might be worth mentioning that I am also a driver and advanced motorcyclist but only average about 1,500 miles per year now using such methods since being committed to cycling. The turning point for me was personally witnessing a child being hit by a speeding car in Asia in 2007.

  • johnsutton

    Car drivers kill and seriously injure 1000s per year. Cyclist kill on average less than 2 people per year. Far more pedestrians are killed or injured ON pavements by motor vehicles than by cars. Let’s get this into proportion, nobody is denying that a minority of cyclists ride recklessly and cause accidents but the simple fact is that they are risking their own necks much more than those around them. Far more deaths and injuries are caused by careless drivers than by careless cyclists.

  • johnsutton

    Read the Highway Code, this is entirely legal, and in some circumstances much safer.

  • Spencer

    So, would a bicycle that looks like a horse (or unicorn) make a difference? I’ve seen pictures on Google.

  • Phil

    Mark, you’re on quite a role here aren’t you with your anti-cyclist sentiments? (Like jumping to conclusions about me last night on the disabled front).

    If you’re so miffed about cyclists carrying helmet cams, then (as you mentioned) I suggest you start carrying one yourself in your car to prove your argument like us cyclists have to. The trouble is, most people in cars that drive dangerously are stuck in the same queue of traffic as other drivers and largely go unnoticed. Their dangerous behavior is more likely to only manifest itself when sharing the road with the vulnerable such as cyclists.

  • Phil

    Licensing for powered vehicles and training for drivers don’t stop thousands of deaths and many more thousands being disabled a year does it? Besides, like I said elsewhere, for every third-party killed by a cyclist, around a thousand are killed by powered vehicles.

    And as far as being “accountable” is concerned, HAHAHA, what a joke… This is the England we are talking about here. It is quite easy to kill someone (cyclist, pedestrian or another driver) with a car and get off with just a ban and community service.

    And finally, I don’t have a real problem with registration for cyclists. In fact it would get the anti-cyclist brigade of my back and might offer me some protection.

  • Phil

    I think Mark M is a troll because he has made many posts here recently but never replies when you put him right.

  • Greg Garrard

    Hi Daniel. I’m a regular cyclist, and I very often run red lights. Unlike a car driver, though, I don’t accelerate towards a red or amber – I slow down, and treat it like a yield sign. I only stop if there are pedestrians on the crossing.

    I know it’s illegal – I may well get nicked some day if seen by a police car – but I put my own safety first. Carefully running a red light not only saves time, but more importantly keeps me out ahead of the traffic where I can be seen by motorists. I don’t run red lights at junctions, obviously, because I’d get killed.

  • Muppet

    Requiring all cyclists to carry ID and present it when asked by the police would be much simpler that a reg plate. At least for discouraging red light jumping, cycling on pavements and similar behaviour.

  • Maz

    This article makes only 10% sense. The rest is silly.

    Cyclists should be licensed for free with plates like any other road user but zero road tax.
    Just pay insurance incase of an acciddent.
    Most cyclists accidents happen either to not being clearly visible or due to lack of knowledge of the Highway Code.

    Why do so many cyclists die on the inside of a lorry ? It’s their lack of on knowledge of how the road works.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Much blame is attached to cyclists “going up the side of HGVs” but when an HGV overtakes a cyclist the cyclist is automatically “up the side of an HGV.”

  • PJManats

    Very good. Only thing I’m not sure about is “No-one in their right mind would allow an eight year old to drive a car on the public highway, but children, quite rightly, are allowed to ride bicycles on the public highway.” Really? Not sure how clever it is for an 8-year old to quite rightly be allowed to ride on a public highway. Local roads under adult supervision, sure. Highways? You’re asking for trouble. Kids are kids.

  • Tim Neal

    Im disabled, I walk with canes. I ride most everyday. Dam sight easier .My walking stick also comes in handy to slap the side of motorcentrics when they chose to behave like an arsehole….

  • Tim Neal

    whats gets my goat is paying for school for kids, probably yours, or even you? Why should I pay for your education? And what about sick people? Why should I pay for them to get new hips??? Hu tell me why?

    **face palm**

  • Tim Neal

    Im disabled physically….doesn’t stop me riding my bike.

    once you get past being disable in the body and become abled in the mind there’s a gulf of change to be enjoyed. Oh I’m also Old…..

    Ain’t life a bugger when the rhetoric fails to meet the reality?

  • Tim Neal

    I wish you wouldn’t. I get your point and the reasons you do, but every time you do, I seem to hear about as they see me & think Im you….

  • Tim Neal

    Can you please produce some actual facts to support that most?

    Here’s my counter argument to your most:

    Cyclists get hit by cars because people in cars simply don’t look.

  • Tim Neal

    that would require a law change and a national ID card….I think George Orwell discussed something similar.

    There is no legal requirement to carry any form of ID, its personal choice. You do how ever have to be able to produce a license to drive.

    So what you have in a round about way is said cyclists should have a license.

    So share with us how will this work? Who will administer these tests? What will be the age limits, will there me a restricted period during which the kids won’t be able to carry newspapers…..

    add to this that probably the majority of people who chose to cycle are adults, most likely with a licence, most likely in their wallet, which is with their cash card/money which they use to buy a coffee or lunch at some point, on which they will pay VAT, as they did on the parts for their bikes…

    Yea I know , rambling, but just trying to point out that when you have a bright Idea you need to stop and think it through before declaring it a solution.

  • Tim Neal

    I pay tax so everyone can get an education….

    so what happened to the tax dollars spent on you?

    how hard is it to write a simple sentence and check the spelling. Hell you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to spell:

    I , plates, commit, they, would, **some garbled grammar** ID, when, they stolen, returned, their….

    I’ll give you an F+, the plus only for trying, next time try harder FFS.

  • Tim Neal

    what? In English please!

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Public highways are defined as roads, streets, footways, Bridleways etc.

  • Remo A. Peter

    “strap on an engine and you become a potential danger.” This happens a lot now with e-bikes and pedelecs.

  • Remo A. Peter

    Have you ever watched a slo-mo of a bike vs. car crash? The damage can easily write off an older/cheaper car.

  • Remo A. Peter

    The income from fines might largely outweigh administration costs. If cameras today are capable of identifying a face from 50 meters, they should be able to read a 5×5 cm licence plate.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Go the whole hog. Have reg numbers tattooed to everybody’s foreheads so we can catch naughty pedestrians, too.

  • Remo A. Peter

    Might as well happen in a not-so-far future. RFID chip.

  • Vet

    I would like to have bicycles and owners have to purchase insurance and licensed. A person on a bike came down a hill hit the side of my van with his hand.he couldn’t stop, hollowered I sorry and keep on going. A small dent in van from his hand.

  • Christopher Morfill

    One issue not mentioned here is that motorists can be identified by their registration plates should they be using threatening behaviour, i.e. exhibiting road rage which is an all too common problem – cyclists have quite rightly used registration plates to report reckless drivers whom have caused injuries or dangerous situations. The issue here, is that when a cyclist does the same – be it ANYTHING, neither driver, pedestrian or fellow cyclist for that matter has any recourse. Not all cyclists want to wear cameras, no pedestrian would be able to wear a camera, and motorists don’t seem to be aware of such technology. So how do we let authorities and/or other individuals know that a certain cyclist is a “menace” on the road. I’ve witnessed many a driver threaten others, and have taken their reg plates down and reported them. I noticed a cyclist behave threateningly toward a pedestrian that walked across a pedestrian crossing in London this morning… and as a fellow pedestrian, how would I report him? “Oh, that fellow on the blue bike with black hair”.


    Think about it. It’s not just about how much it costs, it’s about accounting for all highway users, and them working together along with the authorities to make the roads safer. Anything on the road controlled by a human, be it two wheels or four, engine or no engine, should be identifiable so if any wrong is done, people can be held accountable so that they do not do it again and put others at risk. This isn’t an Us vs. Them, this is going by DfT’s motto of #sharetheroad.

  • Chris

    If I break a law I can be held accountable through my registration plate. I see cyclist run red lights even jumping on foot paths when it suits , riding in the middle of the road and I can not remember the last time I saw a hand signal.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Do you want all pedestrians to carry number plates, too? Pedestrians also use roads. And how about equestrians? Number plates were introduced because of the harm done by large, fast motor vehicles – cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians don’t pose the same risk to others.