For letters pages: free ‘who pays for roads?’ text

To some, ‘road tax’ is a stick to hit cyclists with. Sometimes the metaphorical stick is wielded on the road, but mostly it’s waved about on online forums and the letters pages of local and national newspapers. Should you wish to reply to those who bang on about motorists paying ‘road tax’, while cyclists don’t and so should get off the roads, feel free to use some or all of words below. No copyright problems, use as you see fit. (But definitely adapt and personalise so it’s not too boilerplatey). If you’re just after a page to link to there’s this light-hearted take-down of who does and doesn’t pay ‘road tax’.

A number of recent correspondents to [insert local newspaper here] have suggested that cyclists should pay ‘road tax’. However, road tax was abolished 75 years ago. It’s now car tax, does not pay for roads, and is not a fee to use roads.

Roads are paid for by local and national taxation not vehicle excise duty. Motoring taxes haven’t been ring-fenced to pay for roads since 1937 when the Road Fund and ‘road tax’ were abolished. The terms, however, have lingered and many people assume that the ‘road fund licence’ still exists and that ‘road tax’ pays for roads. This mistaken belief leads some people to think cyclists have lesser rights to be on UK roads because they do not pay ‘road tax’. In fact, motorists and cyclists have equal rights to be on UK roads.

Low-emission cars attract zero car tax. Bicycles do not have exhaust pipes so would fall into the same category and would also pay £0.

Motorists and cyclists are often the same people: most cyclists own cars. 87 percent of British Cycling members are car owners.

Should your readers wish to find out more about who and what pays for roads, and why organisations such as the AA, the Post Office and the Plain English Campaign never use the phrase ‘road tax’, they should visit

  • Casalotti

    “97 percent of British Cycling members are car owners.”
    That seems too high.

  • carltonreid

    Yes, it’s 87 percent, now changed. Thanks.

  • MarkDangerousElf

    Looks more like the VED is a PENALTY for gas-guzzling, smog-belching vehicles, to me. Might want to promote THAT point of view…..

  • Matthew

    fair enough cyclists don’t technically have to pay but when they get involved in car accidents for riding their bikes retardedly and theres massive pot holes in the roads… whos gunna fix it? if its not a road tax anymore then its no wonder the roads are in terrible condition. TBH it is country roads that are worse affected, which just happens to be where cyclists ride their bikes the most. The only roads the government cares about is the main dual carriage ways and motorways. You see road works all the time but no one ever sees any difference, the money they spend hiring all them people every week could fix hundreds of country roads that clearly need maintainance far more than the main roads.

  • JD

    Cyclists don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty, as a bicycle isn’t a motor vehicle, but we do pay Income Tax, National Insurance, VAT, duty on alcohol, Council Tax etc. … as well as Vehicle Excise Duty and fuel duty where we also own cars (as I do).
    Funding for road works comes out of the same pots as funding for education, the NHS, defence, local planning and everything else that funded by those general taxation receipts outlined above, and spending on them is prioritised alongside everything else paid for out of those funds.
    If we (collectively) want more money spent on road maintenance, we need to campaign for a change of priority from government … whether or not cyclists pay VED (or all the nil rated cars for that matter) is not going to make any difference whatsoever.
    Also … I don’t dispute that *some* cyclists might ride “retardedly” from time to time, but the same applies to some drivers. And they damage the roads far more than cyclists do.