Cyclists are hit with sticks when they should be fed with carrots

Driving while distracted with cellphone

There’s a strong economic argument for paying people to cycle (it happens in Denmark, for instance), and to raise fuel taxes to force motorists to drive less.

Cycling is healthy, green and low impact; driving leads to obesity, is carbon-wasteful and destroys roads.

‘Smart taxes’, first advocated by early 20th Century English economist Arthur Cecil Pigou, need to be levied to correct such imperfections. Activities that have high external costs to society – such as getting in a car for every short journey – need to be reined in by being made much more expensive.

Cycling, which has many benefits to society, needs to become much more financially attractive. The UK Government’s Cycle to Work salary sacrifice scheme is just the start. Let’s pay cyclists to cycle. Let’s put a monetary value on the concept of One Less Car.

Pie in the sky, of course, no Government – not even one with a commuter cyclist as Prime Minister – would ever dare risk the wrath of the motoring public. But without financial – and infrastructure – disincentives, motorists will continue to clog up the roads; kill fellow motorists, cyclists and pedestrians; and burn precious fossil fuels.

Petrol should be a lot more expensive than it is. Vehicle Excise Duty should be massively hiked. As it is now, it’s a blunt tax. It costs the same to tax a car that drives 150 miles a year as a car that drives 15,000 miles a year. VED is no disincentive to driving. [And, as the rest of this site was built to point out, VED is not a ‘road tax’, it doesn’t fill a ‘road fund’ to maintain or build roads].

And it shouldn’t be the motor industry propped up with ‘scrappage schemes’ it should be the bicycle industry.

All airy-fairy, lentil-loving ideas, of course. Daily Mail readers would have punched through their computer screens by now. Or wet themselves laughing.

But our finite globe can’t cope with more and more cars.

Higher ‘gas taxes’ might seem a radical concept but it’s relatively mainstream among economists, especially those who admire Arthur C. Pigou. Members of the so-called Pigou Club – including cross-party, big-hitter economists – advocate taxing “negative externalities” and subsidising “positive externalities.”

A good, recent example of a Pigovian tax was the new ‘green road tax’ system to be introduced in the Netherlands. It was later withdrawn following complaints from motorists (the Netherlands isn’t just a country of bicyclists, it has a severely congested road network). Motorists would have had to pay according to distance driven. The reasoning was that it’s only fair that heavy users of the road (in both senses of the word) pay more than those who often leave the car at home. Congestion and the environment were both taken into consideration in the putative scheme. Driving a 4×4 on a city road in rush hour would have attracted more of a charge than driving a 2CV out in the sticks. The system should have started in 2011 for freight transport and was to be expanded to include cars in 2012.

Drivers were to be charged an average 3 Euro cents per kilometere. The tax should have increased every year until 2018, when it would have cost an average 6.7 Euro cents per kilometere to drive in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Government argued its new tax would have benefitted 6 out of 10 drivers, with those driving the most and at peak hours bearing the greatest burden. But Dutch motorists talked down the plan and so will be faced with extra road congestion for all in the years ahead.

Pig off
Economics teacher/blogger and time trial cyclist Tejvan Pettinger, found via Rainmiles, is a proponent of a Pigovian subsidy for cyclists. On his blog, he writes:

“Cycling creates positive externalities (Benefits to the rest of society, not felt by the personal users). This means the social benefit of cycling is greater than the private benefit. If I cycle, other people benefit in the form of less congestion, less pollution, healthier society…

“Cars should pay road tax and petrol tax because they create negative externalities; the social cost is greater than the private cost. The tax system is a way of making motorists pay the true social cost.

“I would argue that lorries and heavy goods vehicles should pay extra taxes because they create the most negative externalities and the social cost is higher than driving.

“If cyclists were subsidised it would encourage more people to take up cycling to work. This would help city centre transport systems and quality of life.”

On a blog posting about iPayRoadTax.com, Pettinger said:

“Cyclists are often criticised for not paying ‘road tax’ and [iPayRoadTax] is a worthy campaign to raise awareness that we all effectively pay for the road and its maintenance. It helps to provide a defence against aggressive motorists who would like to see cyclists pushed off the road, because occasionally they have to slow down to overtake someone.”

He also quipped he’d like to see a jersey emblazoned with his economic manifesto: “Higher Pigovian taxes for motorists! Subsidies for cyclists! Let’s try and achieve a Pareto optimal outcome on our roads!”

Not all cyclists own cars

My other car is a bicycle

I’ve taken a bit of stick on a variety of cycling forums – including comments on stories on this site – for appearing to suggest that only those cyclists who also own cars (and hence pay Vehicle Excise Duty) are covered by the iPayRoadTax.com campaign. I apologise if this has been the impression given.

The site is not about taking sides or making sure only one sub-set of cyclists can assert their “rights” on the road. iPayRoadTax.com highlights that ‘road tax’ doesn’t exist; motorists do not pay into a ‘road fund’. As road tax doesn’t exist, those cyclists who do not pay VED are not disadvantaged by the iPayRoadTax.com concept.

iPayRoadTax.com is a useful, shorthand way of expressing a number of interlocking concepts, it’s not a campaign for “motoring cyclists”.

Government bodies disagree on ‘road tax’

DVLA prize draw

“There has been no direct relationship between vehicle tax and road expenditure since 1937.”
Policy and External Communications Directorate, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Swansea, August 2009

The DVLA – Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency – now gets it right every time and calls Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) a tax on vehicles, not something that pays for roads.

However, the Driving Standards Agency – like the DVLA, a part of the Department for Transport – doesn’t seem to know the difference and, in the Directgov video below, allows the actresses to call VED, ‘road tax’.

Why is this important? Because far too many motorists believe stumping up for a token annual ‘road tax’ pays for Britain’s road system: the maintenance, the new roads, the bus lanes, the painted white lines laughingly called cycle lanes.

And paying for something confers the right to use that something. So, if cyclists don’t pay ‘road tax’, they have lesser rights to use the roads paid for by motorists; or perhaps no rights at all. This leads to aggression against cyclists from drivers ignorant of their rights and responsibilities.

But if a Government video gets it wrong, what hope motorists?

Who Pays For Britain's Roads?

VED & kit FAQs

IPayRoadTax.com Zero BED

Shouldn’t it be iPayVED.com?
Yes. But too few people know what VED is. Everybody knows what road tax is. Or they think they do. ‘Road’ tax really ought to be known as ‘car’ tax or, more accurately, ‘vehicle’ tax (er, except that a bicycle is a vehicle in law…and bikes don’t pay VED).

As a bicycle is a low emissions vehicle it should be in Band A. These cars pay nothing for their VED. But what’s BED?
Yes, if cyclists had to pay VED, their bicycles would not attract a fee, just as pre-1973 cars get their tax discs for free, as do low CO2 cars, such as the Toyota Pious. BED is Bicycle Excise Duty. Just like road tax, it doesn’t exist.

Why aren’t bicycles taxed?
Unlike cars, bicycles cause little damage to the road surface. Some cyclists ride on the pavement, illegally, but when doing so they cause no damage. Cars routinely park on pavements, blocking the way for pedestrians and damaging flag-stones. In fact, pavement parking is so endemic, few motorists give it a seconds thought. Not only do their cars have superior rights on roads, it seems, they want unfettered access to pavements, too.

Setting up a cyclist registration and taxation scheme would cost more than it raised, and for what? As bicycles have no tailpipe emissions (ahem, cyclists on the other hand..) and therefore don’t pollute, they would attract a duty of £0. Do motorists really want to pay extra VED to pay for the costs of printing and distributing free tax discs for bikes?

How do other European countries pay for roads?
Most European countries operate VED-style schemes.

German automotive expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer complains that such schemes don’t take actual road usage into account.

“You pay the same in taxes for a car that drives 100 kilometres per year as you do for the same car that drives 100,000 kilometres,” points out Dudenhoeffer.

Such unfairness is set to come to an end in the Netherlands, a ‘polluter-pays’ system is to be introduced. Motorists will pay according to distance driven. The reasoning is that it’s only fair that heavy users of the road (in both senses of the word) pay more than those who often leave the car at home. Congestion and the environment are both taken into consideration in the forthcoming scheme. Driving a 4×4 on a city road in rush hour will attract more of a charge than driving a 2CV out in the sticks. The system starts in 2011 for freight transport and will be expanded to include cars in 2012.

Drivers will be charged an average 3 Euro cents per kilometere. The tax will increase every year until 2018, when it will cost an average 6.7 cents per kilometere to drive in Holland. The rate can be adjusted if it fails to change driving habits in the country.

The Dutch Government believes its new tax would benefit 6 out of 10 drivers, with those driving the most and at peak hours bearing the greatest burden. Politicians are expecting the number of cars on the roads to decrease by 15 percent, as more people would switch to public transport and bicycles.

Will there be women-specific jerseys?
Yes. Mighty fine nice ones.

When will the jerseys and arm-warmers be available?
Third week of February. Pre-order from the iPayRoadTax shop.

Can I sign-up for email updates?
Sure you can. Simply pop your email addy into the form below and you’ll get sent info on the iPayRoadTax products as they become available.

“Cyclists don’t pay road tax, they shouldn’t be on the roads; roads are for cars.”

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It’s not just right-of-Genghis-Khan taxi drivers who spout such piffle. Sensible and otherwise sane motorists also like to trot it out. “Why should my road tax pay for cycle facilities or bus lanes?” is another common complaint.

Yet road tax doesn’t exist. Hasn’t done since 1937. Those little perforated discs pay for Vehicle Excise Duty. VED for short. It’s not a road tax, it’s a car tax, a tax on vehicles with motors. (Not all vehicles subject to highway rules and regulations have motors; bicycles, for instance).

Vehicle Excise Duty is based on the level of a vehicle’s tailpipe emissions. The bigger and more carbon-wasteful the car, the more the car’s owner pays for a VED licence (perhaps it should be renamed Vehicle Emissions Duty?).

Cars which spew less than 100g/km CO2 don’t pay any VED so should motorists be seeking road bans for the VW Golf BlueMotion or the Toyota Prius because, just like bikes, they are “tax avoiders”?

Scot Cops' Road Fund Boo-Boo

Scot cops’ VED boo-boo: “You must have a valid road fund licence”
iPayRoadTax.com was so-named because very few people know the difference between Vehicle Excise Duty and road tax. Even MPs, Government departments and police forces don’t always know the difference, as the screen-grab above shows. Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary even mention the ‘road fund’, an entity that has been pushing up the daisies for the best part of 70 years.

Every citizen has the right to use public highways for free; and that includes motorists, equestrians, wheelchair users, pram pushers, pedestrians and cyclists. Vehicle Excise Duty does not pay for roads and nor does it assign any greater rights for VED payers to use those roads.

Many motorists fume when held up for a millisecond on “their” roads by a vehicle that doesn’t apparently contribute to the upkeep of said roads. Cyclists, it’s often voiced, are ‘tax-dodgers’. In fact, the majority of adult cyclists in the UK also own cars. They just choose not to use them for every journey. Motorists ought to applaud such two-wheeled altruism: less cars on the road means less congestion for all.

If VED doesn’t pay for the roads, what does? That’ll be general taxation and council tax. So, even cyclists who don’t own cars are paying for the roads, and for road services. This gives cyclists no more right to the roads than motorists. We’re all equal in law. As general taxation pays for all roads, cyclists pay for a type of road they can never use: motorways.

Asphalt nation
Motorists may be surprised to learn that the tarmac they so love wasn’t spread on the UK’s dirt roads for the benefit of cars. In fact, it was lobbying from 19th Century cyclists – who wanted smoother surfaces to ride along – which hastened the black-topping of Britain.

The country motorised rapidly during the post Great War period and successive Governments ploughed cash into slapping tarmac on Britain’s ancient network of highways. It wasn’t until the 1950s and beyond that lots of new roads were created. Prior to that, existing roads were given weather-proof surfaces but they had long been used by pedestrians, carts, horses and, from the 1870s onwards, bikes, and only much later still, cars.

To pay for the tarmac, the Government created the Road Fund in 1910. Money from this pot went direct into road improvements. This is called ‘hypothocation’, a posh word for ring-fencing, when a charge goes direct to a cause it’s said to be fund-raising for.

While the Road Fund monies went direct into the road improvement pot, not enough money was raised to pay for all the commissioned improvements. For a start, there weren’t that many paying customers. Then, just like now, road ‘improvements’ were heavily subsidised from the public purse.

Cyclists, it can now be seen, are not interlopers on roads paid for by the motorist. Some people might even argue that cycling ought to be State-subsidised: using a bike reduces congestion and pollution; bikes and their riders are featherweights, causing negligible wear and tear on road surfaces; and cyclists are healthier so, with less degenerative diseases, are less of a burden on the NHS. Paying cyclists to cycle? It’s not such an odd concept, after all, motorists are subsidised to drive. Motorists may feel beleaguered because of fuel price hikes, congestion and a crumbling road infrastructure but, in real terms, driving has never been so cheap. The true costs of motoring are never met by motorists directly. Fuel duty and vehicle excise duty doesn’t go anywhere near to ‘paying for the roads’.

The 1920s Road Fund, paid into only by motorists, was abolished because there were fears – well founded fears, it turns out – that motorists would believe the paltry sum they paid each year was the whole amount required by the State and this therefore gave motorists more right to use the roads than those users who didn’t pay. The politician who, in a parliamentary debate in 1926, had the foresight to realise this was a Toad of Toad Hall worldview was a certain Winston Churchill. In 1937, when he was chancellor of the exchequer, he abolished the Road Fund (quick, somebody tell Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary).

Foska to bring campaign to life

foskajerseys

NEW: vote for your favourite jersey (choice of 3) on Foska.com (until December 31st).

iPayRoadTax.com was born and raised on Twitter.com, in November. It snowballed faster than I could have ever imagined. Interest in the jerseys was so great I knew I’d struggle to meet demand so, six days after Twittering the first concept, I signed a partnership agreement with Foska.com.

Foska is Britain’s largest manufacturer of bespoke and brand-licensed cycle jerseys, the company behind the jerseys from Marmite, London Pride, The Simpsons, London A-Z, Dennis the Menace and many more iconic cycle jerseys.

This company will produce a number of different jersey styles for iPayRoadTax.com, including short sleeve, long-sleeve, and women-specific. Foska will also produce water bottles and arm-warmers.

Everything will be sold via Foska.com and through bike shops, enabling me to concentrate on the website and campaign rather than design, make, bag and ship a ton of product.

Foska will take the fake tax disc graphic and turn it into a great looking jersey and this will be placed on Foska.com soon. You’ll be able to pre-order the jersey or arm-warmers on Foska.com, or drop in an email request for a reminder when product has landed. Here’s how Foska is currently taking pre-orders for its new Wallace & Gromit jerseys.

Producing the items will take time. We’ve got to produce the design, agree on wording, get in samples, and then put in a first order. I would have loved to have had product available before Christmas but, then, I’m not a manufacturer and have little appreciation of the graft that goes into a big production run like this. (When I first mooted this idea I thought there would be about 30 jersey orders and I would put in a herding-cats, club-style order to Impsport or similar – the immediacy and size of the demand knocked me sideways).

What will be available before Christmas is a line of t-shirts, mugs, and other items, all produced using print-on-demand technology. I’m using Spreadshirt for the majority of products. I’ve bought t-shirts from Spreadshirt before; the quality is first class.

Now, following news stories on Road.cc and Bikeradar.com there were lots of forum postings, both for and against the iPayRoadTax.com concept. I’m not going to be able to please everybody all of the time but earlier today I posted some video evidence of a driver shouting at a cyclist to “buy some road tax”. This is why the campaign was started; we’ve all been on the receiving end of such misinformed opinions. So, thanks for your faith in my fledgling idea. I’m chuffed to bits that the iPayRoadTax jerseys and armwarmers will get out there and start spreading the message that cyclists have every right to be on the road.

iPayRoadTax.com shop
iPayRoadTax.com shop

To help spread the iPayRoadTax.com message there’s a bunch of Spreadshirt-made badges, t-shirts, wickable base-layers and a messenger bag, all featuring iPayRoadTax.com graphics.

test

A variety of bespoke, cycle-specific jerseys, arm-warmers, water bottles and other accessories will soon available to pre-order via Foska.com soon. Originally, the way to pre-order was to send an email expressing interest but so many were sent it became clear a retail partner was needed. The cycle clothing – similar to the jersey examples above – will likely be available in late January, although Foska.com can log your details once the iPayRoadtax.com designs have been added. Sign up for the Foska newsletter via ‘SafeUnscribe’.

Or use the form below to get the iPayRoadTax emailed newsletter (this won’t hit your inbox a thousand times a year, and your details will not leave the building):

Twitter inspires iPayRoadTax.com

TaxDisc2

Alongside the ‘all cyclists blow through red lights’* canard from motorists there’s the classic ‘we pay road tax, cyclists don’t.’ This is an objection voiced the world over. This morning on Twitter, Nick Bertrand said:

“I pay road tax/VED for the car I rarely drive. Should I wear a copy of the tax disk on my jersey?”

I replied, telling him that’s a great idea, and others agreed. I then went on a bike ride. On the road to Dunston – Damascus being too far for a hill-climb quickie – I had a light-bulb moment: jerseys with tax discs printed on them.

And arm-warmers, so cyclists thrown the ‘we pay road tax’ argument can counter by simply pointing to an upper-arm. It’s sure easier than getting a tattoo.

When I got back from the ride I registered iPayRoadTax.com and iPayRoadTax.co.uk. I commissioned Luke Scheybeler to produce the fake tax disc above. This will be used on the jerseys and arm-warmers. For product updates, follow iPayRoadTax on Twitter.

IPayRoadTaxRough2

The fonts and colours for the jersey and arm-warmers aren’t set in stone. Others on Twitter suggested headset spacers and topcaps, too. Oy, could do loads of things. Like mugs, badges, t-shirts? Or how about, ahem, a tax-disc holder for your car, emblazoned with bicycle symbols?

When I twittered the fact I’d registered a domain-name and who would like some arm-warmers and jerseys, the response from Twitterdom was immediate. Within seconds I got firm orders. Really. Seconds. Amazing. From inspiration to product idea to mock-up to orders within minutes. Who says Twitter is a waste of time and thence money? I may have just created a micro-business thanks to picking up on a 140-character message.

If you’d like to express interest in items from the forthcoming I Pay Road Tax collection, have a look at this.

* Just cyclists blow through red lights, huh? Two wrongs don’t make a right but there are plenty of online examples of motorists doing things they shouldn’t. This video of motorists smashing into other motorists (and, at the end, a motorcyclist) is shocking:



NB Road tax was abolished in the UK in 1936. Since then we have paid ‘Vehicle Excise Duty’ and, as every fule knows (except the majority of motorists, it seems), this does not pay for the upkeep of roads. This comes out of general taxation. Cyclists are tax-payers…And, of course, the majority of adult cyclists also own cars so pay VED, too. It’s just that many cyclists prefer not to use their cars for every blummin’ short journey.

iPayRoadTax.com shop
iPayRoadTax.com shop

To help spread the iPayRoadTax.com message there’s a bunch of Spreadshirt-made badges, t-shirts, wickable base-layers and a messenger bag, all featuring iPayRoadTax.com graphics.

test

A variety of bespoke, cycle-specific jerseys, arm-warmers, water bottles and other accessories will soon available to pre-order via Foska.com soon. Originally, the way to pre-order was to send an email expressing interest but so many were sent it became clear a retail partner was needed. The cycle clothing – similar to the jersey examples above – will likely be available in late January, although Foska.com can log your details once the iPayRoadtax.com designs have been added. Sign up for the Foska newsletter via ‘SafeUnscribe’.

Or use the form below to get the iPayRoadTax emailed newsletter (this won’t hit your inbox a thousand times a year, and your details will not leave the building):