What do motorists really mean when they say “cyclists should pay road tax”?

Mark Cavendish was victim of some road rage yesterday, while out on a training ride in Essex with Russell Hampton. Although the episode was mentioned on Cav’s Twitter account the story was billed as an “Exclusive” in The Sun and was then picked up by Yahoo/Eurosport. Naturally, the @cyclehatred lovers started piling in, accusing cyclists of causing danger on the roads and all the usual guff. And it wouldn’t be a hate-fest if there wasn’t a mention of “cyclists should pay road tax.” But this particular commenter is more honest than most: he lets slip why he wants cyclists to pay road tax, so there would be fewer cyclists on the roads. Nowt to do with financial fairness (everybody pays for the roads, not just motorists) and everything to do with wanting roads to be for cars only.

This, deep down, is what many road-tax fixated 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 excise 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 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.

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Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.

The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.

  • Swinster

    Maybe they are paying for the amount of crap they throw out of their windows into the grass verges, oh wait that’s lorry drivers.

  • Paul M

    You refer to road-tax-fixated motorists, but is that really where it ends?  The true origins of all the anti-cycle propaganda is the motor industry itself.  They are the ones who promote the idea of sports cycling or off-road cycling, as seen in a numnber of car ads (like the one for a Vauxhall Corsa which has a cycle carrier built into its rear bumper) because they want to draw attention away from bicycles as a form of transport.  It is not so much because bicycles take up road space or don’t pay tax – those are just convenient sticks to beat is with – but because every cyclist is a lost car customer, or at least partially lost for those short journeys or work commutes.

    The car industry is a pretty desperate business.  It didn’t take long after the first motor companies were founded before the first motor companny bankruptcy arrived.  Just about every single motor companny, large or small, since then has gone ot the wall and either failed totally, or been rescued with taxpayers money.  Look at BMC,  Leyland, a number of times including the BAe/BMW era when secret grats or tax concessions were given.   Saab survived through military contracts for its aircraft.  GM was propped up most recently by Obama.

    So, it operates on a knife edge and to stay balanced on that knife edge it has to attempt to eilminate all competition.  It has to grow relentlessly bigger, because business which don’t grow are doomed to die in our current economic model.

    In some ways it has parallels to Big Tobacco.  It has to hide the evidence of the damage it does in order to recruit young replacements for the customers it loses through natural old age but also road death, obesity, cardiovascular disease etc, and when it is no longer able to suppress the truth (we are not there yet) it will, like Big Tobacco, focus all its marketing attention on the developing world, where the message will still sell.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Protista-Amoeba/100000817399571 Protista Amoeba

    One reason car drivers are so angry, is because they believed the car adverts. Adverts that feature empty roads, save only one car – the one being advertised.

    The irony is in this crowded world that we can’t have a smooth-running transport system, when each person takes-up vastly more space than necessary by sitting mostly alone in a car. Yet motorists are always whining and moaning about bicycles. Are they stupid, or irony-impaired?
    The next time an irony-impaired motorist complains you are holding-them up on your bicycle, politely point-out that the queues they sit in every day are >95% comprised-of cars.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Protista-Amoeba/100000817399571 Protista Amoeba

    One reason car drivers are so angry, is because they believed the car adverts. Adverts that feature empty roads, save only one car – the one being advertised.

    The irony is in this crowded world that we can’t have a smooth-running transport system, when each person takes-up vastly more space than necessary by sitting mostly alone in a car. Yet motorists are always whining and moaning about bicycles. Are they stupid, or irony-impaired?
    The next time an irony-impaired motorist complains you are holding-them up on your bicycle, politely point-out that the queues they sit in every day are >95% comprised-of cars.