/ 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
Member

Amoeba – Please do not misuse science. Earlier in the discussion you said:

“Mass
Remember, a cyclist is effectively a fast-moving pedestrian. A bicycle’s mass is at most 10kg, (often less). A car has a mass of between 700kg (small electric) to 3,000kg (large).

Kinetic Energy = ½ x mass x velocity^2

Many motorists egregiously underestimate the enormous destructive-power excess (Kinetic Energy) of a car versus a cyclist.”

The kinetic energy is not the mass of the bike but that of the bike plus rider. There is still a large difference in kinetic energy even if you use the correct figures. The argument would still be valid if you compared a small car with a Boris bike and an overweight rider.

If you want to use science to support an argument, the best approach is not to overstate the case.

Member

Wavechanger
What planet are you on?

A fit rider will go faster. A fast Boris bike? Are you joking? Did they ride them on the TdF?

I have no figures for a Boris bike, I have never ridden one, I believe they have three low ratio gears, they are not fast.
I cannot include all eventualities.
Cargo bikes are heavier, but are much slower and very rare in the UK..

Member

I’m on planet Earth and I’m concerned about the behaviour of ordinary cyclists. If you want to cycle in towns and cities where there is a risk of pedestrians being injured you need to forget the idea of high speed cycling.

Member

Wavechanger,
How did I misuse science? I try very hard to stick to the facts. The one thing I’ve learned is that people really don’t like facts that show they’re wrong. I don’t like being wrong. When people try to ‘correct’ me, they normally do so by themselves being wrong.

It is a fact that a cyclist is effectively a fast pedestrian.

The mass of a ‘person riding a bicycle’ is dominated by the mass of the rider. The mass of a ‘driver and motor-vehicle’ is dominated by the mass of the vehicle. This is a fact and will remain so, as far as I can tell, for the foreseeable future. Yes bicycles vary in mass, but the reality is that fast bikes are light, heavy bikes are slow. 10kg is a reasonable figure. A roadster can weigh 18-20kgs or so, but at 0.1kW riders are likely to pootle along at ~12 mph and often slower.
On a racing bike ‘on the tops’ 0.1kW gives 14.5 mph.

You can direct all the specious and misleading rhetoric at me you like, but the facts aren’t going to change – because they’re facts. How inconvenient of them.

Member

It is quite simple. The kinetic energy of a moving bicycle is not that of the bicycle itself but the bike plus rider. You made no mention of the rider in your earlier post, hence my criticism. You have now acknowledged the significance of the mass of the rider but criticised me. 🙁

Obviously the kinetic energy to be dissipated in an impact is that of the bike plus rider.

Member

Wavechanger,
“If you want to cycle in towns and cities where there is a risk of pedestrians being injured you need to forget the idea of high speed cycling.” I believe that high-speed cycling is largely a myth. I don’t see any really fast cyclists, they’re just a bit faster than me.

Whereas motorists can’t wait to overtake me, it’s not unusual for them to start hooting, driving dangerously close and revving their engines, sometimes shouting obscenities or incoherent drivel, (I have been spat at once) or they’ll even overtake across double white lines on a narrow bridge with a blind summit, it’s all rather dangerous and quite pathetic, there’s a roundabout over the bridge and almost without exception, I catch them without trying and by timing, I can keep-up with them pretty effortlessly for the next three sets of traffic lights. They’d get there if they just waited and drove safely in accordance with the Highway Code, which they either ignore or seem to have never read.

The reality is that most cyclists are not fast. I’m certainly not, I ride a commuter-equipped bicycle with robust tyres, dynamo lights (lots of lights), carrier, mudguards mudflaps and none of these make for high-speed cycling (none featured on the TdF). Cycling is far more pedestrian-friendly than motoring as the statistics have shown year on year. As road-casualties have fallen, what’s changed is that vehicle occupants have become safer, while vulnerable road users – cyclists and pedestrians have continued IIRC to rise (haven’t got the figures to hand). But here’s a newspaper article that essentially supports what I’ve said:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/9479965/Rise-in-vulnerable-road-users-being-killed-and-injured.html

http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk/UsefulReports/SWOVReports/FS_Vulnerable_road_users.pdf

Member

Wavechanger,
“The kinetic energy of a moving bicycle is not that of the bicycle itself but the bike plus rider. You made no mention of the rider in your earlier post, hence my criticism.”

It never occurred to mention that anyone would be so incredibly foolish not to realise that a bicycle needs a rider.
So, I wasn’t deceiving anyone. So your criticism was specious nonsense.

Member

What I said was: “The kinetic energy is not the mass of the bike but that of the bike plus rider. There is still a large difference in kinetic energy even if you use the correct figures. The argument would still be valid if you compared a small car with a Boris bike and an overweight rider.”

That should have read: “The kinetic energy is not DEPENDENT ON the mass of the bike bu