/ 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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Comments
Frank Hooper says:
30 August 2021

Are those advocating extending Vehicle Excise Duty (no such thing as road tax for many decades) to cyclists realise how much this would cost the government to issue reminders each year? And that, like electric vehicles, the cyclists would have VED set at $0 as they don’t pollute. In other words, and additional cost to the government with no additional revenue.

There is no point in taxing cyclists. Many wouldn’t pay it, it wouldn’t be enforceable . . . and anyway, what would the tax be for? What damage do cyclists do the roads, or to other people, or to other vehicles? As people they pay their other taxes so what is it about riding a bike that makes them a tax target? This question crops up from time to time from people who think cyclists are getting away with something and should be taxed for it. As you say, Frank, the cost of administration would be excessive in relation to the revenue.

Without motor vehicles we wouldn’t need wide highways, roundabouts, traffic signals, fly-overs, yellow lines, crash barriers, huge signposts — why should cyclists have to pay for all that?

We could also tax horse riders, and……. pedestrians, who also use the public highway. But hang on, we already tax them, don’t we?

Since many children cycle for leisure or to school are they also to be taxed, and just where do you draw the line?

As for insurance, a cyclist will be financially responsible if they cause damage, injury or death. It may well be in their own interests to take out public liability insurance. It does not have to be compulsory.

Phil says:
30 August 2021

There’s an argument for compulsory insurance and some kind of registration scheme so those cyclists who do break the law and endanger themselves and others can be traced. That said why should people who never cycle pay towards dedicated cycle lanes?

Why should people pay as much council tax for services they don’t use? There will always be such issues. How do you deal with child cyclists? we provide and maintain footpaths and bridleways but many never use them.

If there was evidence there was a big problem of claims and lack of insurance then maybe this is worth pursuing, but I don’t know that there is.