‘Charge cyclists road tax if they want to share roads with motorists’

Telegraph 'Road Tax'

Yesterday, over on Quickrelease.tv, I asked what is it about the internet and the internal combustion engine that makes some folks so callous? A number of thoughtless commenters had peppered a forum with ugly comments following the death of a cyclist at the hands of an inattentive motorist. The forum commenters were all American, but motor-myopia is global.

Old joke: What’s the most dangerous part of a car? The nut behind the wheel.

Here in Britain we have our fair share of nuts behind wheels. ‘KeepCalm’, a TelegraphOnline habitué, is one of them. Dunno where he’s from, but I wouldn’t want to cycle in front of him. He believes – like way too many drivers do – that cyclists should only be allowed on roads when we pay ‘road tax’, a duty abolished 73 years ago.

In a pre-election debate about transport, the Daily Telegraph website asked: ‘How can we make British cities more cycle-friendly.’

Getting more Britons cycling would help to improve fitness, to reduce congestion and to ease fears about dwindling oil reserves and climate change. But many people in urban areas are worried that it is unsafe to cycle and that bicycle theft is rife. How can government help make cycling safer and more pleasant in British cities?

KeepCalm’s suggestion was to “Charge cyclists Road Tax if they want to share roads with motorists.”

I’d be a lot friendlier to cyclists if I thought they were paying a share of the costs of the roads they are using. Why should we have to pay all the road tax as well as the additional driving costs incurred by having to swerve and brake around cyclists?

KeepCalm wants cyclists off the roads, and on to footways:

Why can’t we ask cyclists to share the pavements with pedestrians rather than the roads with motorists? Removing cyclists from our busy roads would be welcomed by every motorist.

Sure, KeepCalm is a loon – thanks to the indecision over the current hung parliament, he wants a military coup in the UK – but he has a driving licence and is out there somewhere. Most motorists are not as extreme as KeepCalm but many view cyclists as irritants, slowing their progress, blind to the fact it’s other motorists slowing them down, not slim, easily-passed two-wheelers.

Part of the problem with road aggression from motorists is clock-watching, a desire to be somewhere sooner than it’s probably possible, but there’s also a great deal of selfishness involved.

Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins nailed this point in December last year:

Of all human activities that bring out the selfish in mankind, nothing compares with travel. The externalities of travel economics should be on every school curriculum. We see mobility through our own eyes alone, with no view of the similar demands of others. I am a free and independent spirit innocently enjoying the right to roam; you are a travel-mad lemming who thinks he has a God-given right to tarmac, train or plane just when I am there. Get out of my way.

Everybody thinks it is cars, trains and planes that cause gridlock – when in reality it is people.

Travelling must bear the global externalities that it imposes on other users of the planet. There is no absolute right to roam. There is no free trip.

Cyclists can be selfish too, of course (not all red light running is done for safety reasons) but a selfish cyclist has the propensity to do little harm. It’s a question of mass: cyclists don’t have much of the stuff, motorists have lots, and lots of mass, travelling at speed, equals danger. Not enough motorists drive in such a way to minimise their impact on the road, on congestion and on squishy sentient beings.

Selfishness is hard-wired in motoring, it seems. And you don’t have to be a bicycling Bolshevik to believe this.

Here’s what Maxwell Gordon Lay has to say on the subject:

The car’s high speed, particularly relative to walking, creates an aggressiveness that must be constrained. Certainly it has not been possible to rely on the self-restraint of the individual motorist, whose motoring decision-making is usually singularly self-centred.

Lay is a former Executive Director of the Australian Road Research Board and was Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria. In his book Ways of the World: A History of the World’s Roads and the vehicles that used them, Maxwell Gordon Lay also has a lot to say about roads funding, but more from him later.

  • Anonymous

    I use a Bicycle dailyand living in a smallish town i have been luckly not to meet and aggressive driver yet most seem to give me the time of day as i normally have a trailer hooked to the bike,nnVED (Commonly known as car tax) should be applied to bicycles not for the fact that they are on the road but to shut the drivers that say “I PAY ROAD TAX” up even if it is a token tax like the new low emmition cars (is the van driver going to run them off the road next?) Licencing should be used to bicycles as i nearly hit another cyclist today riding on the wrong side of the road coming towards me,nnInsurance: well sorry to say guys if you use the road i think you should have insurance on whatever mode of transport you use (bike, car etc) nnsorry if people dont like my views but i feel them a needed part of culture to help the bicycle rider get along better with the motoristnnP.S. Maybe make it mandatory for motorists to have a bicycle licence so they can see what it is like for us

  • Anonymous

    How can we make British cities more cycling friendly? Introduce a cycling test – and I don’t mean a cycling proficiency, I mean one that takes the learner through the heart of a major city – as a prerequsit to a driving test. rnrnAll drivers with points on their licence should qualify to sit the new test (which our cycling PM David Cameron should be seriously thinking of introducing) and also, only responsible people need apply – no bullies, no wife beaters, no peados or rapists, no drug addicts or traffickers, no pimps or fraudsters, no alcoholics or binge drinkers, no football hooligans or vandals. That should get the number of cars on our roads down to pre-war numbers should it not?

  • Anonymous

    Wish this article had come to my attention earlier!!rnrnAs i continue to point out in my blog “drivers multi task behind the wheel ” and neglect the most important job of all, being aware of their situation(situal awareness), they are always in a rush to make their smash repair happy and annoy their insurance company and guess what, the rest of us pay higher premiums for their neglect!rnRoads were surfaced for the cyclist in the old days , then along came that 4 wheeled montrosity that people prefer as it is a “mobile coffin” that keeps them alive until they push their luck just that little too far. rnLast week in Italy an “uninsured,unlicensed,illegal immigrant tried to rearrange my features, fortunately i ricochetted off his car with “broken” helmet” and severe bruising and asphalt adjustments to knee and elbow skin surfaces. More in the blog or @skippydetour, claim of not seeing me became “he was travelling too fast” amongst the catalog of excuses in his turko/ilalian vocabulary. Caribiniere did not come as i refused to go to hospital as they would not transport the bike and i had 25+km to Novi Liguri on the etappe route still to go!rnWhere ever you are, there is a “keep calm” lowlife ignoring common sense, blaming “All “for their lack of intelligence and respect for the rules of the road.rnrn

  • Anonymous

    Also means tireder Joby :)

  • Anonymous

    As fuel prices rise and as the number of cars increases, aggression is going to get worse.nnPetrol prices are not yet at a level that deters car journeys. Driving, relatively speaking, is cheap.nnhttp://rdrf.org.uk/2010/05/a-very-moderate-suggestion-part-2-%e2%80%93-increase-the-price-of-petrol/

  • Anonymous

    Think positive: longer journey = fitter Joby.

  • Anonymous

    He’s right… Cyclists always slow down cars: http://www.youtube.com/jobysp#p/a/u/1/u5bttfbapbsnnHe sounds like someone I really wouldn’t want to meet on my journey. The sad fact of the matter is, that recently I’ve changed my route to work because I don’t want to be bumping into people like this on my journey. I now travel an extra 3 miles to work and home through back streets and side streets because, as you already know, I meet my fair share of tossers.nnI had a run in with a chap just last night as I was doing 30+ in a 30, and he was adamant he wanted to overtake me and pull into a gap that wasn’t safe enough for him, never mind me, as he couldn’t see past his own nose and the fact that I was being slowed down by the car in front on me.nnI shouldn’t have to be making these adjustments to my journey, but I feel obliged to, because I’m gonna get hurt otherwise by people like KeepCalm.nn

  • Anonymous

    Cyclist holding up cars eh? Not from what I see on my daily commutes and sometimes the opposite as I get held up on my bike due to poor positioning of other larger vehicles on the road. In fact this morning I went riding past a queue containing around 100 cars due to a closed level crossing – I did my best to try and not look to smug :-)

  • http://twitter.com/bassjunkieuk Mark Skrzypczyk

    Cyclist holding up cars eh? Not from what I see on my daily commutes and sometimes the opposite as I get held up on my bike due to poor positioning of other larger vehicles on the road. In fact this morning I went riding past a queue containing around 100 cars due to a closed level crossing – I did my best to try and not look to smug :-)

  • http://www.biking2work.co.uk Joby

    He's right… Cyclists always slow down cars: http://www.youtube.com/jobysp#p/a/u/1/u5bttfbapbs

    He sounds like someone I really wouldn't want to meet on my journey. The sad fact of the matter is, that recently I've changed my route to work because I don't want to be bumping into people like this on my journey. I now travel an extra 3 miles to work and home through back streets and side streets because, as you already know, I meet my fair share of tossers.

    I had a run in with a chap just last night as I was doing 30+ in a 30, and he was adamant he wanted to overtake me and pull into a gap that wasn't safe enough for him, never mind me, as he couldn't see past his own nose and the fact that I was being slowed down by the car in front on me.

    I shouldn't have to be making these adjustments to my journey, but I feel obliged to, because I'm gonna get hurt otherwise by people like KeepCalm.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Think positive: longer journey = fitter Joby.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    As fuel prices rise and as the number of cars increases, aggression is going to get worse.

    Petrol prices are not yet at a level that deters car journeys. Driving, relatively speaking, is cheap.

    http://rdrf.org.uk/2010/05/a-very-moderate-sugg

  • http://www.biking2work.co.uk Joby

    Also means tireder Joby :)

  • skippydetour

    Wish this article had come to my attention earlier!!

    As i continue to point out in my blog “drivers multi task behind the wheel ” and neglect the most important job of all, being aware of their situation(situal awareness), they are always in a rush to make their smash repair happy and annoy their insurance company and guess what, the rest of us pay higher premiums for their neglect!
    Roads were surfaced for the cyclist in the old days , then along came that 4 wheeled montrosity that people prefer as it is a “mobile coffin” that keeps them alive until they push their luck just that little too far.
    Last week in Italy an “uninsured,unlicensed,illegal immigrant tried to rearrange my features, fortunately i ricochetted off his car with “broken” helmet” and severe bruising and asphalt adjustments to knee and elbow skin surfaces. More in the blog or @skippydetour, claim of not seeing me became “he was travelling too fast” amongst the catalog of excuses in his turko/ilalian vocabulary. Caribiniere did not come as i refused to go to hospital as they would not transport the bike and i had 25+km to Novi Liguri on the etappe route still to go!
    Where ever you are, there is a “keep calm” lowlife ignoring common sense, blaming “All “for their lack of intelligence and respect for the rules of the road.

  • Allan Ramsay

    How can we make British cities more cycling friendly? Introduce a cycling test – and I don't mean a cycling proficiency, I mean one that takes the learner through the heart of a major city – as a prerequsit to a driving test.

    All drivers with points on their licence should qualify to sit the new test (which our cycling PM David Cameron should be seriously thinking of introducing) and also, only responsible people need apply – no bullies, no wife beaters, no peados or rapists, no drug addicts or traffickers, no pimps or fraudsters, no alcoholics or binge drinkers, no football hooligans or vandals. That should get the number of cars on our roads down to pre-war numbers should it not?

  • Shaddaz

    I use a Bicycle dailyand living in a smallish town i have been luckly not to meet and aggressive driver yet most seem to give me the time of day as i normally have a trailer hooked to the bike,

    VED (Commonly known as car tax) should be applied to bicycles not for the fact that they are on the road but to shut the drivers that say “I PAY ROAD TAX” up even if it is a token tax like the new low emmition cars (is the van driver going to run them off the road next?) Licencing should be used to bicycles as i nearly hit another cyclist today riding on the wrong side of the road coming towards me,

    Insurance: well sorry to say guys if you use the road i think you should have insurance on whatever mode of transport you use (bike, car etc)

    sorry if people dont like my views but i feel them a needed part of culture to help the bicycle rider get along better with the motorist

    P.S. Maybe make it mandatory for motorists to have a bicycle licence so they can see what it is like for us

  • Shaddaz

    I use a Bicycle dailyand living in a smallish town i have been luckly not to meet and aggressive driver yet most seem to give me the time of day as i normally have a trailer hooked to the bike,nnVED (Commonly known as car tax) should be applied to bicycles not for the fact that they are on the road but to shut the drivers that say “I PAY ROAD TAX” up even if it is a token tax like the new low emmition cars (is the van driver going to run them off the road next?) Licencing should be used to bicycles as i nearly hit another cyclist today riding on the wrong side of the road coming towards me,nnInsurance: well sorry to say guys if you use the road i think you should have insurance on whatever mode of transport you use (bike, car etc) nnsorry if people dont like my views but i feel them a needed part of culture to help the bicycle rider get along better with the motoristnnP.S. Maybe make it mandatory for motorists to have a bicycle licence so they can see what it is like for us

  • Chris

    Is it just me or do they always seem to miss the point that cars are charge vehicle excise duty by the amount of CO2 produced. I claim a bike produces less than 100g/km and thus under the current car charging rules would cost £0 to tax per year….