‘Road tax for cyclists’ proposal kicks up stink, again

CAPSroadtaxgraphic

In the summer of 2009, a civil servant is believed to have added a line to the Scottish Government’s Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) consultation document. This line – no doubt innocuous to the bright spark who inserted it – kicked off an almighty stink in the Scottish press and totally obscured the positives in the rest of the document, which was meant to be about finding ways of increasing cycle levels in Scotland.

The line in question was: “Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?”

Almost as soon as it was raised it was shot down by politicians, civil servants and cycle campaigners alike but, as journalists like a good fight, the issue was flagged in Scottish newspapers and, today, has been flagged again thanks to the release of the responses to the consultation document. True to form the positives in the responses document have been ignored, with the Scotsman newspaper instead focussing on just one issue: road tax for cyclists.

iPayRoadTax.com is all about the fact there’s no such thing as ‘road tax’; motorists do not pay for roads, we all do, via general and local taxation. Road tax was abolished in 1936. It’s now Vehicle Excise Duty. The Scotsman journalist appears to know none of this. And, of course, nor do the majority of those commenting on the online forum. Sadly, some of the commenters see the cyclists’ mythical non-payment of ‘road tax’ as a mortal sin, worthy of severe punishment.

Gdgy wrote: “If they don’t pay road tax then we should be allowed to shoot [cyclists] when they break the rules.”

Trolling for effect perhaps but, as many cyclists can attest, the threat of violence from motorists who claim they pay ‘road tax’, and cyclists don’t, is not unusual. Many motorists believe VED is a tax that pays for road building and road maintenance and therefore those that don’t pay ‘road tax’ have fewer or no rights to be on the road. Clearly, this is nonsense. For a start, cars in Vehicle Excise Duty Band A pay a big fat zero yet motorists don’t clamour to ban Toyota Prius models from the roads

VED rates

On 8th January, the Sustainable Transport Team at the Scottish Government published Cycling Action Plan for Scotland: Analysis of Consultation. Report author Dynesh Vijayaraghavan said:

“For many respondents, a road tax on cyclists was seen as a bad idea, pointing out that cyclists did not pollute the air or damage the roads, and already contributed to the roads budget through general taxation. The idea of all users paying tax was also criticised on the basis that its premise meant pedestrians and child cyclists would also have to pay. It was pointed out that a tax on cyclists would be inefficient to collect.”

“A lot of respondents pointed out that the current system of taxation is based on emissions and that either by this logic or by the logic of taxing according to damage done to roads, cyclists would not qualify for any form of tax. Some respondents went further in pointing out that even current taxes on cars don’t actually account for all externalities caused by driving. A considerable number of respondents also pointed out that many cyclists own cars and pay Vehicle Excise Duty in any case.

“Most respondents pointed out that cyclists did not emit any pollutants and that by cycling they were making a positive contribution to congestion and the environment. A number of people pointed out that roads are damaged far more by cars and Heavy Goods Vehicles than cycles as damage to roads is proportional to the weight of the rear axle of the vehicle. Some respondents even felt cyclists could be given rebates on the basis that they were contributing in a good way to society.

“If such a tax was implemented, most respondents were worried that administrative costs would be more than what the tax raised. A number of people pointed out taxing on the basis of road damage would mean the level of tax would be between 2p and 10p thus making it completely inefficient to set up a system to collect this tax.

“It was also pointed out that road maintenance is paid for from general taxation and cyclists contribute to this via Income Tax, Council tax, VAT and so on. Furthermore many respondents felt that the term ‘all road users’ would by definition have to include pedestrians and child cyclists, thus making it unlikely a tax of this form would be accepted.

“A number of stakeholders and all Local Authorities who responded were also against any form of cycle tax.”

All fine points, and all of them discussed at length on iPayRoadTax.com. The subsidies afforded to motorists are also discussed on Do the Right Thing and CyclingInfo.co.uk.

But these points need to gain wider acceptance. In September last year, an editorial in the Scotland on Sunday, somehow managed to link ‘road tax’ for cyclists with the perceived smugness of cyclists:

“On the face of it there is merit. Cyclists use the roads, why should they not face a tax as other road users do?

“There is perhaps even a view, half in joke and full in earnest, that a minority of cyclists’ cavalier attitude to the rules of the road would mean that the move would find favour among the non-cycling electorate. But that would be as wrong a reason for deciding on tax as simply deciding to tax on smugness alone.”

The issue of a tax on cyclists is one that raises its head often. Last year a web analytics company in Portland, Oregon, plastered a commuter train with the question “Should cyclists pay a road tax?”. This led to a storm of protest The web analytics company knew this would happen: Portland has a large population of cyclists. Jonathan Maus, editor-in-chief, of Bikeportland.org, said raising the issue of ‘road tax’ for cyclists was deliberately divisive and could ignite passions against cyclists from some motorists: “this type of thing can have a tangible, negative impact on public safety.”

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  • Anonymous

    I was trying to be polite but yes… sounds about right :)

  • Anonymous

    Why the ‘ish’? On the curries and beer again?

  • Anonymous

    I’m more than happy to have a tax disc displayed on my zero (ish) emmision mode of transportation.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent idea. I’d carry a (superficially authentic looking) tax disc on my bike so that when the next bullyboy yells the usual rant at me I could then point *smugly* at the “tax disc”, smile sweetly and ride away.

  • Anonymous

    Quite.rnrnPerhaps the artwork for the fake tax disc ought to be u00a30? I could rncertainly make some badges or stickers saying people have ‘paid’ their rnVED. What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    Of course we should pay VED.nnThe scheme is emissions based, and appears to exclude the passengers and drivers withing the emissions calculations.nnThat means that my bike, excluding my emissions, emits fewer than 100g/km and therefore attracts a VED of u00a30 per annum.nnI’m happy to display a badge to prove that I’ve paid too.

  • Steve

    Of course we should pay VED.

    The scheme is emissions based, and appears to exclude the passengers and drivers withing the emissions calculations.

    That means that my bike, excluding my emissions, emits fewer than 100g/km and therefore attracts a VED of £0 per annum.

    I'm happy to display a badge to prove that I've paid too.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Quite.

    Perhaps the artwork for the fake tax disc ought to be £0? I could
    certainly make some badges or stickers saying people have 'paid' their
    VED. What do you think?

  • http://bikingbrits.blogspot.com/ WestfieldWanderer

    Excellent idea. I'd carry a (superficially authentic looking) tax disc on my bike so that when the next bullyboy yells the usual rant at me I could then point *smugly* at the “tax disc”, smile sweetly and ride away.

  • http://www.biking2work.co.uk/ jobysp

    I'm more than happy to have a tax disc displayed on my zero (ish) emmision mode of transportation.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Why the 'ish'? On the curries and beer again?

  • http://www.biking2work.co.uk/ jobysp

    I was trying to be polite but yes… sounds about right :)

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Goes with the headline, mate.

  • http://www.biking2work.co.uk/ jobysp

    I’m more than happy to have a tax disc displayed on my zero (ish) emmision mode of transportation.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Why the ‘ish’? On the curries and beer again?

  • http://www.biking2work.co.uk/ jobysp

    I was trying to be polite but yes… sounds about right :)

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Goes with the headline, mate.

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  • Mr B J Mann

    Mr ReidnnOn your:nu00a0nhttp://ipayroadtax.com/videos/when-motorists-believe-theyve-paid-for-use-of-the-road-theyre-dangerous/#disqus_threadnu00a0nThread:nnI have pointed out it’s not very not very nice to broadcast people’s personal details to the world at large.nu00a0nI’ve pointed out it can lead to certain types of individuals using that information to make cyber, and real world physical, attacks on people.nu00a0nI’ve now, twice, flagged up the offending posts.nu00a0nKindly remove the offending material.nu00a0nOr is there a particular reason you want the cuddly cycling fraternity to know where I live?nu00a0nWorse, are you the individual who spent so much of his time trying to broadcast my personal details on other fora?nu00a0nThat was used to make cyber and personal attacks on me and my family.nu00a0nI think we should be told.

  • Mr B J Mann

    By the way, why your incessant obsession with who does or doesn’t pay for the roads?nnYour argument seems to be simple:nnThe roads are for everyone.nnEveryone pays for the roads (a few u00a3bill a year, less than the subsidy on trains, trams, buses and cycle paths).nnBut no one pays to be a road user.nnBut motorists pay nearly u00a350 BILLION each and EVERY year in extra ADDITIONAL Road RELATED Tax on TOP of their ORDINARY citizens taxes for the PRIVILEGE of being ALLOWED to use the roads.nnSo:nna) NOBODY subsidises motorists.nnb) Motorists SUBSIDISE taxpayers by nearly u00a350 BILLION pa.nnSo why the big downer on motorists?nnAre you Prescott?

  • Mr B J Mann

    Incidentally:nnDespite the fact that motorists aren’t supposed to be paying for the roads.nnAnd the roads are supposedly paid for by the taxpayer.nnAnd we’re supposed to have a free health service.nnIf there’s an accident the motorist, assuming his insurance is OK, through his insurance company:nnPays for police attendance.nnFire service attendance.nnRoad and road furniture repairs.nnAnbulance attendance,nnAND EVEN NHS TREATMENT!nnnIt’s a good job we’re not expected to pay for the roads too!

  • Mr B J Mann

    By the way, why, also, the obsession with the current, CO2 based, VED?nnWhy nothing about the PRE CO2 VED?nnAnd what if it changes again and they drop the CO2 “pollution” element:nnIf they decide to charge all road users an equal amount (because we all have an equal right to the road, right?!), will you be posting about how we should all be paying the same amount:nnBecause that’s what the VED is?!?!?!