/ Travel & Leisure

Should cyclists have to pay ‘road tax’?

Man cycling in busy London traffic

That’s one suggestion for dealing with people who whizz through red lights on bikes, along with cycling tests and number plates. Is this going to make roads safer or simply curb our enthusiasm for sustainable travel?

Just last week, I let out an audible gasp, loud enough for a few strangers to turn and look at me quizzically, as I watched a cyclist nearly collide with a motorbike. Why? The cyclist didn’t stop when the light turned red, instead choosing to push his luck on one of London’s busiest crossroads.

I expect most people have a similar story – especially those who live in a city. As a fair-weather cyclist (I cycle to work in summer, tube it in winter), I probably have more than most but, as I’m not the fastest cyclist in the world, I don’t generally race through traffic lights in a bid to shave seconds off my journey.

Road safety and sustainability

I can see how tempting it is to ignore road rules, though – especially if you cycle for miles into work and have picked up a decent speed – but the reality is that roads are dangerous. Last year, more than 17,000 road accidents involved cyclists – 75% at, or near, a road junction, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).

Still, my initial reaction to today’s headline, ‘25% of drivers want road tax for cyclists’, was one of horror. What about encouraging people to ditch their cars and get fitter? As Gareth Berry sarcastically (but sensibly) pointed out on Twitter this morning:

‘Good thinking, let’s raise the barrier to entry for sustainable, cheap transport as high as possible.’

The story was based on a survey by Confused.com, which asked motorists and cyclists their views about one another, with results showing both groups could brush up on their safety skills.

While drivers complained about cyclists skipping red lights and cycling on pavements, 65% of cyclists said that they felt less safe on roads than they did a year ago and 24% have been sworn at or beeped at by a motorist on the road.

What’s the solution?

In an attempt to find a solution to these problems, the survey asked drivers how misbehaving cyclists should make amends. Of those who were annoyed by cyclists, 25% said cyclists should pay ‘road tax’ (12% of the total asked), 44% thought they should pass a formal test before being allowed to ride and 43% wanted to see compulsory insurance for cyclists. The winning idea with motorists, however, was punishing cyclists caught running red lights.

But hang on a minute, haven’t we been here before? A quick Google search shows that the police have been handing out on-the-spot fines to cyclists in the capital for a good few years now. So, while this would personally be my preferred method out of all those mentioned above, perhaps it’s not working?

Another idea was to go one step further and give cyclists number plates – which went down well with some of our Twitter followers.

Dan Muir didn’t think a ‘road tax’ would work, ‘but perhaps the license plating would, as they’d have an easier way of the authorities catching them,’ he said. Starlight’s Dad agreed: ‘Cyclists should have number plates so that pedestrians can report them for riding on the pavement.’

Are cyclists a safety problem in your area, or do you think that drivers have just as much improving to do? Do any of the ‘solutions’ cited in the report above sound sensible to you?

Do you think that cyclists should pay some kind of 'road tax'?

No (59%, 594 Votes)

Yes (30%, 304 Votes)

I think other measures would be more effective (please tell us in the comments box) (10%, 102 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,002

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Bob Wilson-Riou says:
24 August 2017

It’s about time that they started to pay their way.

They are the only general class of road vehicle which does not pay road tax.

They should make a contribution and while we’re at it, let’s make sure that the laws are properly enforced for them as they are for other road vehicles.

[Sorry, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines/. Thanks, mods.]


How kind, Bob. I absolutely agree that they should comply with the law.

In my view, cyclists are making a valuable contribution by not polluting the atmosphere or using up our reserves of fossil fuels. If they cycle to work, they are not going to be commuting long distances either.

I’m not sure how we do get cyclists to comply with the law. I have had to jump out of the way on the pavement too many times.


Horse riders who use the roads don’t pay tax. Other exemptions are agricultural, horticultural, forestry, electric, steam vehicles, vehicles for the disabled, mowing machines. As electric vehicles are exempt it seems to be reasonable to exempt other non-polluting transport – like cycles. Should pre-1/1/77 vehicles also be exempt?


VED must be paid for agricultural vehicles etc. unless they cover very short distances on public roads, for example between farm fields. I looked into this in connection with using dumpers and a small crane.


You wonder how well this is observed. When on the road, with or without trailers, they can be a hazard to other traffic if they are not well maintained “ imposing MOT tests on standard tractors and livestock trailers, used by thousands of farmers, would mean more needless red tape as well as increased costs in return for little safety benefit.. As other road users must have roadworthy vehicles I wonder why these should be exempt.


I share your concerns, Malcolm. I mentioned before that anyone can check the tax and mot status of vehicles online using the registration numbers: https://vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk


Tractors have to pay the tax if they drive on roads further away than 5 miles from the farm centre. At least, that’s the case here.


Officially: “Vehicles used just for agriculture, horticulture and forestry
This includes tractors, agricultural engines and light agricultural vehicles used off-road. It also includes ‘limited use’ vehicles used for short journeys (not more than 1.5 kilometres) on the public road between land that’s occupied by the same person.”

Of course what happens and the rules often differs. Cycling offers many examples. 🙁