Question – Should cyclists pay road tax?

My answer – yes of course we should, why shouldn’t we? How much road tax do you want cyclists to pay?

Motorist – usually silent by that point.

The “smart Alec” cyclist response to that – “But there is no road tax, that was abolished in 1937, nobody pays road tax”.

My response to that – correct, but cars are still subject to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), even if they no longer have to carry a tax disc to display it. In order to qualify for the lowest band, ie Band A, a car must emit less than 100g of CO2 per 100 kilometres. Since regular everyday cycling is merely emitting carbon dioxide from food that has already been consumed, usually to excess, the net emissions from cycling are zero. So the natural response is that cyclists should therefore just pay none of this mythical “road tax”, just like Smarts and other fuel efficient cars.

That is fine, except that a bicycle is not a Smart. It does not require any petrol or diesel to make it move, nor does it need electricity, most of which still comes from coal. If you look at how the banding works, and see how each band is progressively discounted from the top rate, then actually, as cyclists, by the same logic, we should be getting a rebate of more than £200 per year per bike.

So there you have it – yes of course we should “pay road tax”, because we’d actually get a rebate. And no, I’m not proposing this as policy, because it would be too easy to fiddle, but I do think it is always worth pointing out that simply saying “cyclists shouldn’t pay VED” doesn’t actually go far enough.

Why Cyclists should "pay road tax"

Why Cyclists should “pay road tax”

8 thoughts on “Why Cyclists Should Pay Road Tax

  1. There are significant wider benefits from cyclist e.g. Reduced congestion and reduced pressure on health services.
    Accordingly the payment to cyclists should be much greater. Perhaps a per mile congestion charge for those with engines should be engineered to pay cyclists?

    At minimum, there is surely a case to make cycling as cheap as possible so reducing VAT on bicycles and bicycle equipment would be sensible.

    • So do cars. I have seen so many recently.
      Harm if cyclist jumps…to themselves. Only.
      Harm if car jumps? Major crash, road closed, multiple people hurt.

      I rest my case

      • Damage to insurance-paying motorist’s vehicle?
        Substantial.
        Likelihood of recompense to motorist?
        Low.
        Road traffic laws apply to everyone; you can’t defend a cyclist committing an offence by claiming that sometimes people in cars do it!
        You might want to take a peek back in that case.

        • Phil,

          You are talking about a situation that happens, but not very often, but please don’t take my word on this, try asking an insurer.

          It is also possible that I could damage something in my house, which could in turn damage one of my neighbouring properties.

          Am I required by law to have liability cover for such an event? As far as I’m aware I’m not, but I do have buildings and contents cover, and it keeps my mortgage provider happy.

          Equally, you are not required to have first party cover on any car you drive, if you own it outright, but most people have it, because it makes good sense.

          Separate cycle liability only policies are available, and I’m sure you could find a few offers out there, but you would basically be paying around £25 per year, with most of that being admin and commission. Just try asking for a quote, and see how many questions they ask you.

          The one policy I looked up basically asked me two questions – how much cover do I want, and “had I been in an incident in the last five years that resulted in a pay out of more than £50,000”.

          In other words, the insurers don’t really care about my risk profile. Why not? Because they are banking most of the premium.

          I’m not saying cycle insurers are greedy, there’s just no competition for it, because there’s no market for it.

          Most adults who cycle will have liability cover as part of their household policy, or they may well have it through membership of a cycling organisation such as British Cycling or cycling UK (formerly CTC).

          How much do they charge us for this service? Well they don’t charge anything – it’s included with the membership.

          So if you would like to see compulsory insurance for cyclists, ask yourself what you are really asking for.

          All you would do is create a nice little goldmine for insurance companies to issue almost worthless pieces of PDF file.

          If you want to protect yourself from the uninsured, might I suggest a swift letter to your local MP, asking them why insurance companies continue to pay out first party claims when drivers have been using their phones?

          Does your policy not, after all, ask your to act responsibly at all times? I’m sure you do just that, but every day I go around town, I see tens of drivers making the choice to use their phones, voiding the spirit of their policy, and putting themselves and hundreds of others in danger.

          I trust that you can find a few minutes to mention that to your MP, and look forward to reading any reply you get.

        • I refer you back to the Motor Car Act 1903, where from the outset of motor car legislation it was recognised that a motor car could cause substantial harm, on a scale that the driver or keeper would not have the resources to settle a civil claim, this has evolved (section 22 RTA 1930 >> section 170 RTA 1988 making it necessary for a vehicle driver to provide details of the insurance and keeper of the vehicle). What a lot of folk don’t realise is that you don’t actually need to have insurance for a motor car BUT only if you can deposit a substantial bond in readily available cash to settle any potential claim.
          The scale of harm and the ability of cyclists to avoid colliding with each other and other road users means that there is no need to have a special policy for all cyclists. Most are covered by household insurance or through membership of a cycling group, or you simply make a civil claim. In a serious crash it seems unlikely that the rider will be fleeing anyway

  2. Thanks for this! A few years ago my advisor broke his collarbone when a car door opened into the bike lane, hitting him (he’s fine now, and still riding his bike to school). Since then, I’ve been extra paranoid, both as a cyclist and when I’m in a car about the possibility of car doors hitting cyclists.

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