/ 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. 🙁

Phil says:
24 August 2017

They want dedicated cycle lanes and boxes at junctions. Only fair they should contribute towards the cost.

Unfortunately the eco-warrior claim doesn’t wash. Air pollution in London has got considerably worse in recent years, it might be the fault of cyclists slowing up traffic, it might be totally unconnected. Cyclists are also seasonal, you rarely see any in London if it’s cold or raining so saving the planet is obviously not worth getting wet for.

Digger Barnes says:
24 August 2017

Cyclists become more vociferous and demanding as time passes. Rather like over indulged children, they become more and more self entitled and self righteous because the government panders to them by creating facilities (which cyclists often fail to use) and neglecting to punish offending properly or at all.

We now have many cycling websites that abhor road traffic laws being enforced against errant cyclists and quite a few of these websites actively encourage law breaking. Cyclists will aggressively demand that others abide by the laws, but they will try to excuse their own lack of compliance, using the most strained and pedantic reasoning.

Paying road tax and compulsory insurance would be a very good idea.

Thanks, Wave; thought 5 miles sounded too much when I posted it. The Police are pretty hot on it around here.

Rear-Admiral Charles Belsoff QC (hon) says:
26 August 2017

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Rachael-jane says:
1 August 2020

As cyclists use and share roads with motorists…of course they should be subject to a road tax
and Insurance, and also an inspection check test (mot). Why are motorists always being penalised for travelling from A to B and cyclists are able to use what we as motorists have to pay so dearly for???

Rachael-jane – If there were no four-wheeled vehicles there would be no need for the types of road we now have. Cyclists could manage on pathways and tracks. Even slow moving horse-drawn waggons and stagecoaches did not have the benefit of high-quality and well-graded roads with roundabouts and fly-overs but they had to pay tolls for the maintenance of turnpike roads.

We pay for the roads through all forms of taxation including income tax and value added tax so cyclists are contributing too. Cyclists might also be paying council tax which pays for the maintenance of local roads and street lighting.

Cyclists can buy insurance but it isn’t compulsory since there is little perceived risk of them inflicting much damage or injury on other road users.

Bicycles are almost self-testing; if something is broken it doesn’t work.

There is no additional charge [other than the cost of fuel] to drivers for travelling from A to B however far apart they are or how frequently the journey is made.

Many [if not most] cyclists also drive cars so they already pay for the roads.

Should pedestrians pay to use footpaths and pavements?

I fail to understand why taxis can use bus lanes. Why should one form of car be so privileged? Do taxi occupants somehow deserve speedier journeys than the rest of us?

Thank goodness for a well informed, sensible comment. We can all tell stories of poor road and pavement use, but being hateful won’t help. Cycling Proficiency courses could be revitalised, my council has created a YouTube film on cycling safety. Creating separate lanes for cyclists keeps everyone apart and safe, Holland has invested in cycling and we could do much more. Great for fitness, well being and the environment. Fewer cars, less queueing for drivers. I drive, cycle and walk. I pay vehicle tax, fuel duty council tax and income tax. Many cyclists will contribute in the same way. And my own story is not one of self righteousness. I was knocked over by a cyclist who sped through a red light in a city centre. He really hurt himself and broke his bike. I was badly bruised and shaken. I don’t see cyclists as an inconvenience when I drive, or a danger, but a minority make mistakes, just as is the case with drivers.

Basil Shoot to Thrill says:
26 August 2017

David Attenborough, in his best whispery voice, takes a departure from his usual environment and investigates a more urban environment.

An increasingly emerging specie is his subject matter. This species is demanding, unreasonable and dangerously unpredictable in its road behaviour. It is known as “cyclist self entitlis”.

Mr Attenborough observed the species in its natural habitat (the pavement) and marvelled at its capacity to spit out insults when its unlawful supremacy is challenged.

Jonathan says:
24 April 2018

Cyclists should pay road tax, because they are generally freeloading and they don’t appear, by and large, to believe that the laws apply to them. For that reason, some sort of registration and third party insurance should also be introduced.

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

Why should I pay extra tax to bike some days instead of drive every day?

The notion that taxation and compulsory insurance will dramatically improve cycling behaviour is rather far-fetched in my opinion. If anything, it could cultivate a grudge mentality. We need to encourage responsible cycling, not add to cyclists’ woes.

Tim, that argument could be used for people who have more than one car, with each having to be fully taxed. Only one can be driven at once in many cases. (I am not proposing that we should change, though). However, I am not in favour of taxing, registering or insuring bikes. How, for example, would that work with children? We want to encourage them to cycle, for fitness, pleasure and to get to school instead of using the car.

Sven says:
27 April 2018

Here in Sweden we are seeing many cyclists but in UK they don’t follow traffic laws, so may be registration, insure and road tax is needed.

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

Sally says:
28 April 2018

I feel that the debate concerning road tax should be expanded to include all members of the public.

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Elmer Fudd says:
28 May 2018

Many cycliths lisp as they cycle throught red lights and on pavements, defying the laws that they scweam about when motowists and other road users fail to show the cycliths the wespect to which they feel self-entitled as they ride with gay abandon.

Fred Elliott says:
1 June 2018

The cyclists who ride with their bottoms high in the air must remain mindful if the saddle is missing, otherwise the saddle post could elicit a surprise which would be pleasant or unpleasant in accordance with the given proclivity of the day.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Peter Shaw says:
24 October 2018

It would seem that cyclists’ exemption from road tax is part of a wider problem arising from the lack of registration and compulsory third party insurance.

The escalation of cycling offences is a symptom of this. It is perhaps about time that our legislators gave some thought to closing the loopholes which allow cyclists to offend with impunity.

Civil action can be taken against a cyclist in the event of an accident. It would be in their interests to take out insurance to cover that.

Young children are also cyclists. How do you deal with them and where do you draw the line? Pedestrians can also be a source of accidents, particularly when inebriated. Should they have to have compulsory insurance? Hose riders?

I sympathise with the notion, but making a claim against another person who causes damage or injury does not require there to be compulsory insurance.

I may need to learn more about “hose riders” – is this the latest kidz craze 😉

…or did you mean “horse riders” 😀

W?C readers may be shocked to learn that bicycles can be freely purchased and ridden away from stores, into the the melee of local roads, cycle paths and pavements and without any compulsory PPE (e.g. crash helmets, light eye protection or gloves/knee pads/body armour).

There are no requirements for age and identity checks on the purchasers of these potentially dangerous devices, or for their retailers to hand over any written evidence of vehicle road worthiness at the time of purchase.

There also seem to be no mandatory requirements for the training or licencing of riders.

Unconfirmed reports here claim that, earlier this week, at a local charity shop, a certain middle aged W?C regular made an impulse purchase of a second hand bike, allegedly “for a friend”, and then just rode (or was it wobbled) off into Gloucester traffic.

Shame! These villains need locking up – bring back the stocks, I say.

Bill says:
25 October 2018

This was covered above, Malcolm. Perhaps it was even you who raised the matter of pedestrians; that point is a well worn item of misinformation put out by cycling groups.

As the members of these groups will know, pedestrians are not road traffic vehicles and they are not therefore subject to the body of laws which oblige cyclists and other operators of vehicles to behave in a certain way. Similarly, horses are not subject to the law either.

The “child argument” (another cliche from the anti-law brigade) could be dealt with by having a de minimis or supervised exemption or even by making “child cyclists” abide by the law. Let us not forget that sixteen year olds may ride mopeds. They are legally children and yet it is accepted that they should be subject to law.

I hope that this helps.

Bill says:
25 October 2018

Many cycle shops also seem to be in breach of construction and use regulations by selling cycles which are not fitted with a bell. More seriously, there is now a trend to sell machines with either one brake or no brakes at all.

A recent fatal accident highlighted this issue, yet no cycling group has yet taken the opportunity to educate its members. On the contrary, the various groups seemed to be more concerned with deflection tactics than with acknowledging any responsibility.

Modern bikes are extremely light so have impressive performance and the cyclists act to match.

It would not be appropriate to impose a ‘road tax’ on bicycles since they are not registered vehicles, and I can’t see the point of registering bicycles – the cost of the administration would be prohibitive and the database would be very unreliable unless you had the same sort of log book [V5] and compulsory process for changing the registered keeper details on transfer.

I think it would be interesting to see races today carried out on the sort of Raleigh Roadster Gentleman’s Upright with 28″ wheels that I used to ride. A sturdy machine if ever there was one, although once you got it rolling it was powerful and comfortable, but never speedy except going downhill. It was laden with weighty extras like the Sturmey Archer hub gear, a dynamo hub for the front and rear lights, rod brakes on the front wheel, chain guard, leather saddle bag, panniers and a carrier above the rear mudguard to which I fixed a box.

Richard Whitehead says:
29 October 2018

Road tax is paid by most road users operating vehicles, regardless of what the state calls the tax.

Cyclists don’t pay the tax and they also present a disproportionate number of offenders.

Road tax, insurance and registration for cyclists would make for a fairer and safer system for all.

The funding for highways comes from more sources than vehicle excise duty, including from people who do not own a vehicle.

Cyclists do pay tax – council tax and VAT to name but two forms that contribute to highway maintenance expenditure. Many cyclists are children, unlike car drivers.

Out of the millions of cyclists I doubt that a disproportionate number of them are offenders. I also doubt that a disproportionate number of offenders [on the roads] are cyclists.

As has already been said, the registration of bicycles and/or of cyclists would be an administrative nightmare, produce a very unreliable database, and would cost more than it is worth. Cars and other vehicles are recognisable by make, colour and registration mark [number plates]; that is not the case for bicycles.

There is no necessity to impose these burdens on cyclists; they do little damage to other road users, their vehicles or the highways infrastructure. If they ride in more hazardous areas, after dark, or in heavy traffic they will be sensible and insure themselves. Bicycle insurance [for loss or damage] is commonly available within household policies.

Neither are electric bikes subject to tax or compulsory insurance. In London I recently saw an electric scooter zipping along; it is, apparently, illegal to use one on the public highway but no one bothers. Quite right too. However it would be very sensible for the owners to have third party insurance.

You don’t need to tax and insure a horse drawn carriage either.

Let’s not make the world more complicated than it need be.

Simon Walters says:
31 October 2018

Cyclists don’t pay road tax, motorists, by and large do so. The fact that the tax is not ring fenced and that it may be supplemented by more general taxes is an irrelevance- the fact remains that motorists have to pay to use the roads, while cyclists don’t.

Then there is the issue of registration. An administrative task, perhaps (as it must have been when motor vehicles were originally made subject to the same thing), but it would curtail much of the offending by cyclists.

Also, pedestrians do not pay road tax 😉

HenryD says:
1 November 2018

That is true, Derek.

But then pedestrians are not road vehicles, are they?

Cyclists aren’t vehicles either 🙂 they’re real people too.

I just like to think of them as “mechanised pedestrians”.

Given the precedents under which certain eco friendly vehicles pay zero road tax, I think it is obvious that cyclists and pedestrains should not pay road tax.

Harold Nare says:
1 November 2018

That is true. Many cyclists like to describe themselves as mechanised pedestrians, usually in a bid to justify their failure to observe road traffic laws.

What is this widespread “offending by cyclists” that so concerns Mr Walters [above]? And how much damage do cycles cause to the highways infrastructure that might justify a payment? And what is the advantage of trying to register bicycles?

Before motorised vehicles arrived, our roads merely had to be satisfactory for horse-drawn vehicles and bicycles; there was no need for roundabouts and traffic signals, millions of warning signs, street lighting and white lines everywhere. Why should cyclists contribute to that when they have actually suffered heavily from the increase in motorised traffic?

I detect the whiff of revenge in some of these comments, that cyclists are somehow getting away with something by riding on the roads free of charge. A tiny handful occasionally ride irresponsibly or unsafely, but I reckon most of the contact incidents on the public highway are the fault of bad drivers in motor vehicles and the poor maintenance of motor vehicles and their loads.

In my opinion it is the dangers of bad driving and heavy traffic that are forcing cyclists to ride on the pavements which then puts pedestrians at risk.

Harry D'Robe says:
2 November 2018

Yes, there does need to be a rethink of road traffic- new cycle paths, funded by cyclists paying road tax and an obligation for cyclists to use the paths- zero tolerance of cycling offences in line with the approach taken to motorists. A win win.

A cyclist is one less person taking up a large amount of road space in a car, and produces no pollution (well, maybe a little 🙂 ). Cycling should be encouraged. It keeps people fit, they don’t damage the roads, and they are less likely to be late for work.

Should we impose tax on all electric cars? Why not – they still take up road space and help create jams; get them to use electric bikes instead? 🙁

I am lucky to be able to cycle into the village or into town on a shared pavement/cycle path. Thankfully there are rarely any cyclists that use the path as a racetrack.

I would be happy for public money to be spent on making cycling safer. Why discourage electric cars by taxation when they can help improve air quality in our cities?

Because they still contribute to congestion and use electricity whose generation produces pollution. They also create some administration costs at the DVSA. But I’d make it a relatively low tax.

Collecting low taxes might cost more than it raises. Of course generating electricity produces pollution but the priority must surely be to tackle the illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in our cities. I would like to see the dirty old diesels off the road – ones that produce soot during acceleration.

No doubt taxation of electric vehicles will come, but why hit the early adopters who are trying to do something positive?

They already benefit greatly from duty free and low tax fuel, as well as grants to buy their vehicles. So I’d suggest they can afford to make a (small) contribution to the costs of providing an oversight organisation and the means to travel.

The cost of electric cars is beyond the means of many who have to rely on old cars for their essential transport. Don’t we need to consider these people who might only be able to run an older diesel?

I’d rather see grants going towards providing clean, affordable and convenient public transport in our towns and cities so most don’t need to clog the roads with personal transport.

Scrappage schemes can help get rid of polluting cars, but to prevent exploitation these need to be restricted to those who have owned a car for a length of time and do not have access to another vehicle. We do have a recent topic on electric cars where this discussion would be more relevant.

Do you ride a bike, Malcolm? I’m going to get on mine to go down to the village.

If I’ve read the gov statistics correctly, there are 9 million diesel cars on the road that were more than 3 years old in 2017, so pre Euro 6 engines. That is an awful lot to scrap, and even if an unattractive £1000 was offered that would cost the taxpayer £9 bn. I’d suggest that money would be better invested in city and town public transport, with the most polluting vehicles banned from entering to reduce pollution.

What do you do with HGVs and other delivery vehicles, almost all diesel? Perhaps have them deliver out of hours?

Unfortunately the person I would travel with is disabled, so going by bike would be a bit tricky. Maybe I should think about getting one of these?

I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m sure there must be short journeys where you travel alone. You have frequently advocated bikes and electric bikes.

I have suggested it would be good if Which? reviewed electric bikes, including 2-seaters, to see which offer good range, durability and construction. I’d like to see a UK company making them, but not produced in Singapore – made at home.

Do you cycle at all, Malcolm?

I would be interested in an electric bike myself, but a folding one that will fit in the car. A Which? report would help me know what to look for but I would want to try before I buy.

I did look at buying a folding bike and was offered one (British made by AS Bikes) that is virtually unused. It has tiny 12 inch wheels and was hard to pedal – no doubt why it was donated to our society. By trying it, I was able to find out that it was of little use to me. I have a friend with a folding electric bike and he is happy to lend it to me for evaluation.

Further to this debate, I wonder if those in favour of “road tax for cyclists” might volunteer to answer some questions.

1. Given that the annual VED for a small motorcycle is £19/year, how much should the annual “cyclist” VED be?

2. Would or should “cyclist” VED (a) follow the car and motorcycle principles and practices of taxing vehicles that are used on public roads? or (b) tax members of the public who use bicycles on public roads?

2.a If (a) applies, would bicycles older than a given age be exempted from the tax? And would all road bikes have to be uniquely identified and registered in some way?

2.b If (b) were to apply, if challenged, how might bicycle riders verify their identity to the authorities, noting that the possession of national identity cards, driving licences and passports is not currently mandatory for UK citizens?

Well said, Derek. They’ll be asking for MoT exams next.

Will tandems incur double tax or one and a half times? And what will be the position with tricycles [both child and adult types].

I don’t think anyone has yet explained what cycle tax would be for.

They got rid of the dog licence because it cost more to administer than it yielded in revenue. VAT on dog food now does the business.

Perhaps we could tax all road and pavement users on the area (footprint) they occupy, and maybe tattoo a bar code on their forehead for identification purposes. Alternatively, leave well alone and let a healthy mode of transport continue without financial persecution. They presumably pay vat on the purchase of their cycle, which can be substantial, and on their cycling clothing and other accessories so perhaps they contribute enough?

malcolm, m’dear, I like your thinking but – in this day and age – there would be no need for tattooing unsightly bar codes onto cyclists. One could simply have them “chipped” as one has to do with one’s fox hounds.

…and the footmen, don’t ja know.

…wot – you already do that too?

Have to keep a rein on the serfs employees, y’know.

Perhaps cycles in future should be like the trade bikes that had a panel under the cross bar on which the shop’s name, address and telephone number were emblazoned.

Andy, Dorset says:
5 November 2018

A better way forward would be for cycles to have a small number plate, rather like those found on mopeds.

Registration and third party insurance would ensure an equal footing with other vehicles used on public roads.

But why do bicycles need to be numbered? – and why do they need to be on “an equal footing with other vehicles used on public roads”?

Bicycles are not vehicles, not motorised, generally travel at low speed and rarely exceed the limits, cannot cause much harm or damage [except to the rider when hit], do not require third party insurance, and do not justify the expense of a general identification and record-keeping procedure.

At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before someone suggests licensing umbrellas.

I thought we already did? I bought my brolly licence only last month; good discount, too, from a chap who operates the Government mobile licensing company. Tricky to find him, though; always moving around.

I see someone doesn’t like our humour, in here: both Derek and I have had our exchanges marked down. I wonder if some people have their sense of humour extracted surgically – at birth, perhaps?

Oh no – perhaps we’re being admonished for off-topic behaviour…

Back more on topic, voluntary bicycle numbering systems are often advocated as a means to aid the recovery of lost or stolen bicycles to their rightful owners.

If so, then perhaps VED need only be applied to those entering such voluntary schemes for road bikes.

Further to discussions on an fair and equitable value for the applicable charge, we have seen that:

Small motorcycles pay £19/year.

Eco cars pay £0/year.

Cars, even eco ones, cause congestion

Bicycles cause less pollution that even eco cars, because even EVs and PHEVs need the provision of power stations somewhere.

Those making regular use of bicycles are likely to be fitter and healthier than the general population, so will place less of a strain on the NHS.

For those reasons, I think a fair VED charge must be less than the lowest car VED rate, which is zero.

Hence, to achieve that, the VED rate would have to be negative, so that those registering bikes would, in effect, be paid to do so, as a subsidy and thank you for their consideration and greater eco savvy.

That’s good logic, Derek. I’m never understood why low emissions cars should have very low or zero VED.

I am sure it won’t last.

Penelope T says:
7 November 2018

The road tax which cyclists should pay would reflect the cost of administering the scheme and also the expenses related to the increasing demands for dedicated cycle ways. A proportion of the tax could also be applied either to insurance or to contributing to the criminal injuries compensation fund, which is often called upon to compensate persons injured by cyclists.

Another point to think about: electric/hybrid cars are usually heavier than their non-electric equivalents (because of the batteries) and so conceivably cause more damage to roads, widen potholes etc.; they also release plenty of polluting particulates from their brakes. Should they be exempt from road tax?

Penelope T says:
7 November 2018

a vehicle consisting of two wheels held in a frame one behind the other, propelled by pedals and steered with handlebars attached to the front wheel.
synonyms: cycle, two-wheeler, pedal cycle; More

a device consisting of a circular canopy of cloth on a folding metal frame supported by a central rod, used as protection against rain.
synonyms: parasol, sunshade; More

If memory serves me right, the dedicated cycleway between Abingdon and Culham was created as a road safety measure to protect cyclists from deaths and injuries caused by the drivers of cars and goods vehicles.

In general, I think cyclists as a whole suffer far more deaths and injuries than they cause:


Until someone can provide any justification for registering bicycles the administrative cost of doing so is irrelevant.

Cycleways are provided out of the general highways budget in order to reduce the conflict between vehicles and bicycles and make the roads safer for all users. An enormous number of cyclists don’t have a segregated cycle track within twenty miles of where they ride their bikes so why they should be charged for such provision?

I don’t know whether it is envy or revenge but this Conversation seems to give rise to an unpleasant desire for retaliation against cyclists.

Cyclists don’t pay road tax, whereas motorists generally do so. The tax is not ring fenced – but motorists have to pay to use the roads, while cyclists don’t.

The issue of registration would be an administrative task, as it is with other vehicles, but it would assist with dealing with the offending by cyclists.A review of the laws is under way following two particular incidents involving fatalities caused by cyclists.

It would be as well for cyclists to be placed on a level playing field and those who are responsible in outlook would agree with this.

I agree with John that this seems to have become a convo for the outing of cyclist haters.

As a long standing motorcycle lobbyist, I’m somewhat bemused by the current point and purpose of VED for light vehicles (vans, cars, m/cycles etc.) because I think fuel duty provides a more effective and fairer way of raising taxation from road users, hence VED serves little point, other than to force folk to keep up MoT’s and insurance certs.

And, now that VED discs aren’t required, couldn’t the same ANPR technology that just checks registration numbers for valid VED, just directly check the MoT and insurance data bases instead?

It could, providing there were sufficient resources put into identifying those who don’t bother with such niceties. On a local forum members have been gnashing their collective teeth at the number of uninsured and untaxed vehicle doing the rounds. Finally, some started to get clamped, but it’s taken quite a while.

It sounds more to me like an outing for those who dislike motor vehicles or who support offending by cyclists. I don’t know whether it is envy or revenge but this Conversation seems to give rise to an unpleasant desire for retaliation against the motoring community.

There is also a few who seem to have had a “sense of humour bypass” or who perhaps never had one at all!

RM, I don’t think anyone here has condoned offending by cyclists.

That said, I’d view motorists calling out cyclists for offending as a “pot kettle black” issue.

My personal experience is that getting behind the wheel of a car makes it all too easy for me (and, perhaps also, others…) to break the law, not least by means of minor (and sometimes not so minor) violations of speed limits.

I’m actually not aware of any recent posts here that seem to be seeking revenge against motorists (or if so, for what crimes in particular ???). From what I can see, most of those supporting arguments against VED here for cyclists are themselves either current or retired motorists.

I am glad that you spotted the irony, Derek.

I couldn’t spot any comments here seeking revenge on cyclists, but that did not stop at least one person from drawing that erroneous conclusion, hence the parody.

We can all have a sense of humour on here, unless someone has had a bypass of the same, so keep chuckling!

This Conversation has been going for about seven years now and there has been a full range of attitudes expressed and quite a bit of humour in places.

Another Conversation on whether cyclists should have to wear helmets also provoked very strong views for and against.

Latest cycling wheeze is to cycle straight across pedestrian crossings expecting other vehicles to slam on their anchors. What is confusing about the word pedestrian? Pedestrian crossings are for pedestrians not idiots in charge of road vehicles to cross. Dismount and then cross.

Kent Brockman-Prowler says:
19 November 2018

This is true- the cyclists need to recognise that red lights means ‘stop’ before they expect other road users to pander to them.

Well, we subsise the purchase of electric cars so perhaps we should do so for bikes, and electric versions.

Denat says:
4 January 2019

There’s no such thing as Road Tax. It’s Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) based on emissions. Bicyles produce no emissions so pay no tax.
Road Tax was abolished around 1937.

It is no longer called Vehicle Excise Duty, Denat. It is officially referred to as Car Tax.

The major benefit of bicycles is that they do not damage the roads but the safety issues involved lead to, and justify, significant public expenditure – largely due to the behaviour of drivers of motorised vehicles.

Phil says:
4 January 2019

It’s still officially VED although often referred to as Car Tax or more accurately Vehicle Tax as of course it’s not jut car owners who have to pay it.

HGVs cause something in the order of 80% of road damage and to paraphrase a popular US bumper sticker if you don’t like lorries on the road stop buying the stuff they transport.

Yes, Phil, technically VED remains in place, but from a consumer viewpoint, and for the normal car owner, the term “car tax” is now used by the DVLA in its literature and website, and VED does not get much of a mention unless you explore the inner workings of the vehicle taxation system where the complications of applicable dates, emissions, and vehicle classes are revealed. At our level, and for discussing the possible taxation of bicycle owners, I think Car Tax will do.

People are still entitled to refer to Road Fund Tax and Vehicle Excise Duty if they wish but they might increasingly find that they have to explain themselves!

Jane says:
13 January 2019

Road Tax was renamed in 1937, not “abolished”, in order to prevent those who paid road tax demanding a particular quality of road.

It still exists, although political sleight of hand means that it is called something else. It is only payable where a motor vehicle is used on the public highway. It is not payable where a motor vehicle does not use the public highway. It is a tax to use the road.

That might be so but cyclists hardly affect the surfaces of the roads. If the only road users were on bicycles or on foot the roads would last for ever with little need for maintenance and not much need for roundabouts, traffic signals, fly-overs, white lines, cats’ eyes, parking controls, or speed limits. Getting goods around might be more difficult but canals and the railways could come back into their own. There is absolutely no need to tax bicycles.

KH, Eltham says:
14 January 2019

The message did not say that there was any need to tax bicycles. so it might pay to re-read it.

It is not a bad idea, however, now that it is raised by you. Collection would be a problem, so perhaps the more sensible way forward would be a registration of cycles, in line with other vehicles and compulsory third party insurance. A small fee would be payable in order to cover costs and provide some contribution to road and cycle path upkeep.

I realised that Jane’s message did not say there was any need to tax bicycles but it did suggest that the use of roads was a taxable activity, so in the spirit of this Conversation – which is all about the notion of taxation on cyclists [with “road tax” in quote marks] – I thought I would reinforce the message that comes through the Conversation that there is no need to apply a tax to bicycles.

I appreciate that many people take a different view, and some vehemently believe that cyclists are a menace who should be taxed for riding on our roads, but there have not been many – if any – convincing arguments why that is necessary.

You mention the registration of cycles: I can’t see what that would achieve.

Third party insurance: What damage can a bicycle do to a vehicle or the highway infrastructure? Are cyclists causing injuries or death to other road users?

Road and cycle path upkeep: As I wrote above – what do bicycles do to our highways that requires a financial contribution from their riders?

A small fee: I suggest the cost of collecting and enforcing it would outweigh its yield.

Richard says:
14 January 2019

Cyclists don’t pay road tax, whereas motorists generally do so. The tax is not ring fenced, though motorists have to pay to use the roads, while cyclists don’t.

The issue of registration would be quite in order, as it is with other vehicles, but it would assist with dealing with the offending by cyclists.A review of the laws is under way following two particular incidents involving fatalities caused by cyclists.

It would be as well for cyclists to be placed on a level playing field and those who are responsible in outlook would agree with this.

I hope that, as fellow citizens, cyclists are not in any way exempted from the laws that bind us all.

Kent Brockman-Darren says:
12 September 2019

They think that they are, though.

2 July 2020

I don’t think I am.
I follow the law when cycling, I always wear a helmet and have full insurance.
What really winds me up is the amount of abuse I get for not paying road tax, believe me I want to but I can’t, it’s not the fault of the cyclists it the fault of the government.

tax on bicycles is a silly idea . How could you enforce it ? Bicycles do no harm to the environment

Cyclists should b made to pay road tax and have insurance they r a menace running red lights weaving in and out of cars causing drivers to brake hard and they r always blaming the drivers some not all cyclists are good but most just break the law and them that were head phones do not here you coming they have got away with this far to long let’s tax them and make them have insurance

G h, your argument seems to be that because SOME cyclists break the law, ALL of them should pay road tax and carry compulsory insurance.

I’m afraid I think that is illogical and unjust. I think those who break the law can already be prosecuted and those who cause damage or other losses or injury to other road users can already be sued for damages.

G h – I agree with Derek. Having insurance will not make the cyclists about whom you complain improve their proficiency or road skills.

The cost of administering an excise duty scheme with registration would far exceed the likely revenue from the duty.

Neither of these ideas would improve the behaviour of vehicle drivers, some of whom do not make sufficient allowance for cyclists or give them enough room on the road.

With an expansion of cycling being officially encouraged now to improve health and reduce obesity, the government is unlikely to impose any burdens on cyclists. Drivers will have to show more tolerance to cyclists as numbers increase, drive more carefully, and exercise more consideration for all road users. It is worth bearing in mind that neither cyclists nor pedestrians have an accelerator whereas a motorist can make up lost time quite easily. I feel sure that when cyclists consider that they are getting fairer treatment their own attitudes will improve.

Progress is already being made on new highway designs where conflicts can arise and this should make conditions much safer for both classes of road user.

Phil says:
1 August 2020

” because SOME cyclists break the law, ALL of them should pay road tax and carry compulsory insurance. ”

Well that would put them on a par with cars and motorcycles. Everybody has to carry insurance regardless. How is that illogical and unjust?

Phil says:
1 August 2020

” Drivers will have to show more tolerance to cyclists as numbers increase, drive more carefully, and exercise more consideration for all road users. ” No onus on cyclists to take more care and consideration then. All down to drivers.

Registration might temper the bad behaviour of certain cyclists and make it easier to track down those who are reckless and dangerous. I believe the Met are still looking for a cyclist who ran down and killed a pedestrian and the delightful character who head butted a pedestrian after running a red light on a crossing was never caught either.

Cyclists have to understand, we all have to understand, that a massive increase in bike usage is going to mean that the rules have to change and compulsory insurance and registration maybe two of those changes. Paying some sort of contribution to cycle super highways, many of which seem to be criminally underused, only seems fair.

It’ll be interesting to see how this new enthusiasm survives the onset of cold weather.

Phil, the traditional reason for charging VED to fund road maintenance, as opposed to the costs of policing errant motorists.

So a fair and reasonable approach to VED for bicycles ought to follow that approach.

Then, following the zero rating of the most eco friendly cars, it would be difficult to argue that bicycles should be charged more.

As regards the theme of this Convo, insurance (either compulsory or not) is a bit of a red herring.

I don’t understand what has given rise to the mass outbreak of cyclist hatred. I don’t perceive cyclists to be more or less law-abiding than any other type of citizen. Millions of crimes go unsolved; I cannot see how registration of bicycles would improve clear-up rates. It is, of course, a terrible tragedy if a cyclist kills someone through dangerous cycling and then evades justice, but such crimes are exceedingly rare so it would not be in the public interest to set up a complex and expensive registration system for all people who ride a bicycle and for all bicycles. We are already one of the most heavily surveilled countries in the world per thousand population; the chances of getting away with a serious crime have therefore been reduced considerably already.

Cyclists cannot be compared to motorists for taxation and insurance purposes. Drivers are in charge of complex high-powered vehicles of substantial mass and capable of high speeds. Cyclists are vulnerable, exposed and riding fragile machines, mostly at relatively low speeds. By all means let’s improve the behaviour of the manic types who take offence at any impedance to their journey, and let’s try to catch the criminal types who ride recklessly and dangerously and have no concept of law and order, but I reckon most cyclists are just ordinary folk getting on with their lives hoping to return home in one piece and looking out for their own safety and that of other people. Cyclists usually come off worse in a collision so they have an incentive to take care.

Lots of people have a citizenship bypass in some aspect of their life; legislation won’t change anything.

I am no longer a cyclist. I was knocked over by cars twice when I was a frequent cyclist, and one failed to stop, but I bear no grudge against drivers. I just don’t understand why so many bear one against cyclists [as G h appears to on quite trivial grounds]. Perhaps some drivers and bad cyclists should be made to go on anger management courses [there is quite a long list of candidates on Which? Conversation].

Some councils seem to have it in for cyclists when they lay pothole traps. They presumably are liable for substantial damages should a cyclist have a serious accident in a reported pothole.

Perhaps if we have more unemployed people on government benefits they could be recruited to help get rid of the pothole scourge?

Yes, that would benefit everybody because swerving to avoid a pothole can be as dangerous as hitting one. I wish more road users would stop and report holes in the road and other hazards. Whenever I have done so action has been taken quickly – presumably at the behest of the insurers to limit claims.

A particular hazard for cyclists is a sunken gulley cover. Cyclists are often obliged to ride close to the kerb and find it hard to avoid them if traffic is passing close by at speed.

I sometimes check highway reports for roadworks and temporary closures and on one short section of road through a village near Norwich there will be one-way working next week while about twenty gulley covers are raised and the road resurfaced around them to make it safer. It is a fairly narrow main road through the village with inadequate footways and the damage has been caused by heavy vehicles delivering material to a large housing estate under construction. The cost falls on the county council not the developer.

Phil says:
1 August 2020

” We are already one of the most heavily surveilled countries in the world per thousand population; the chances of getting away with a serious crime have therefore been reduced considerably already. ”

Neither part of that statement is true as the rising number of shootings and stabbings and the low conviction rate show.

A year or so ago I reported a local pothole online and received a prompt response saying that it had been examined and was not considered large enough to require attention, but would be kept under observation. The next time I checked it had been filled in.

I have received a survey via our council, headed: “Please help us improve local streets, roads, buses and cycling.” It’s produced by Ipsos MORI and includes a large number of tick boxes but no opportunity to provide a single word of explanation, which I regard as extremely unhelpful. I will complete the survey but there is no opportunity to identify areas that need attention.

I know a council employee who has offered to look into a problem with uneven and sunken cobblestones that are a trip hazard and result in water pooling. I did agree to send some photos.

Perhaps I am wrong, Phil, but it is frequently stated that we have a very high ratio of CCTV cameras to population, especially in cities. The way in which the Russian spies who are alleged to have carried out the Salisbury nerve agent poisonings were tracked every inch of the way from the railway station to near their destination is an example of what can be done when the will is there to do it.

My own view is that the prevalence of security measures does reduce the crime level from what it would be if they were not there. Crime is driven by powerful forces and for many criminals is a desperate situation so there are many reasons why the perpetrators do not get caught. Determined criminals usually get caught eventually, but the lack of police resources might be the biggest reason for the low conviction rate. I think the evidence is there if the police have the time and the will to look for it. Sometimes the police are fully committed but on the wrong crimes primarily for reasons of public satisfaction.

An interesting digression, but it doesn’t explain the irrational hatred of cyclists by some drivers.

As the main problem is lack of money for repairing potholes perhaps we should divert money from the new roads programme and get our existing roads in acceptable condition first

Maybe COVID and the reduced commuter traffic will make us think twice about what new roads we really need.

There doesn’t seem to be a funding problem in Norfolk. There are 6,000 miles of county-maintained highways in the county and most of them are not in bad condition. Flooding and subsidence in the Fens has created major problems which will cost nigh on a million pounds to rectify.

This is a quote from an announcement on 28 July 2020 “Work has started on one of the largest schemes made possible by the £22m highway funding for Norfolk that the Department for Transport announced in May. Norfolk received more than any other local authority in the East of England for maintenance and repairs to the county’s roads, bridges, pavements and cycle paths. The maintenance work will not only repair roads but help to prevent potholes opening-up. . . . The £22m funding award is in addition to Norfolk County Council’s existing highways capital maintenance budget of £38.6m for the year 2020-2021.

If £60m isn’t enough resources then I don’t know what is. Perhaps if councils don’t ask they won’t get. In fact I think spending it wisely will be the biggest problem. It’ll keep Tarmac and the other contractors and the temporary traffic signs and signals suppliers happy. Drivers will now moan about the hold-ups!

This was a report in the Express Jan 15 2020. Must be true.
“Potholes can cause devastation in the winter months and can lead to cars being damaged as they violently slam into the potent holes. However, industry experts have put the total repair bill at almost £10billion due to the level of damage across the UK.

Our roads are generally in good condition, in my view, but the council wastes money on patchwork repairs to the edges of country lanes, where vehicles veering off the carriageway to pass oncoming vehicles nibbles away at the tarmac. A proper concrete edge, like those on larger roads would avoid much of the need for repairs every year or two.

We have a combined footpath and cycleway between the village and the outskirts of the town, but little thought seems to have been given to the cyclist in the town, either on the road or provision of safe cycle storage.

Many have seen that they can sensibly work from home, at least part of the time, so if anything good is to come out of the coronavirus pandemic it could be less commuting and more cycling.

The £10billion repair bill for our roads is regularly trotted out but I am not sure it is truly credible. It is calculated by the Asphalt Industry Alliance which “is a partnership between the Mineral Products Association and Eurobitume UK, the two principal bodies which represent the suppliers of the raw materials used to produce asphalt, as well as asphalt producers and laying contractors”. No vested interests there then.

I think they ring round the municipal engineers every few months and ask for their wish list so they can build up a bid for the government. If a hundred or more highways authorities are spending as much as Norfolk then it won’t take long to spend £10 billion. All new resurfacing schemes should eliminate potholes for a considerable period as well.

In a few weeks time the Daily Express will be telling us there is a dreadful winter on the way with the risk of deep potholes everywhere.

It would seem not everyone agrees. ”The equivalent of nearly 20 million British drivers think the condition and maintenance of the roads they use every day has got even worse over the past 12 months, new RAC research has found. “https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/features/state-of-the-uks-roads-2019/

Well if people are going to use the roads every day they will wear out. Honestly! What do motorists expect?

Is that genuine research by the RAC or a snap opinion poll? It does appear to be a proper research exercise.

What is “the equivalent of nearly 20 million British drivers”? A reasonable statistical sample might be 2,000 provided they were distributed representatively and not asked a leading question. The RAC’s Motoring Report for 2019 states that “1,753 UK motorists were interviewed (i.e. those who hold a full, current driving licence, drive at least once a month and have a motor vehicle in their household). The sample was nationally representative of age, gender, socio-economic groups, all UK regions, and car ownership (company car drivers vs. private car owners).” Not bad, but we are not told how the interviews were undertaken to eliminate any bias.

Overall, the RAC’s article [see the link in Malcolm’s comment] doesn’t paint too bad a picture with the pothole problem declining in importance as the motorists’ major grievance and with road surface conditions, as reported by RAC patrols, improving throughout the UK.

As regards shootings and stabbings, should all legimate shooters be taxed to fund the costs of policing gun crime? Should all chefs, cooks , craftsmen, gardeners and other law abiding knife users be tax to fund the policing of knife crime?

I think the numberplate on cycles is the way forward, I also think if there is a cycle lane is available. Then the law should require that us cyclists and e-scooterers use it, that said as a driver I see really angry people day in and day out skipping the red light too, you only need stand at highbury corner at rush hour to see just how bad it really is, so numberplate on bikes and cameras on all traffic lights, there is bad form from both sides, people need to stop blaming others, start taking responsibility for their own behaviour and just be a little more mindful, and them deliveroo and just eat riders, well I suppose thats another discussion.

Everyone that uses the roads for whatever transport they use should contribute for the upkeep of them they also should pay for insurance and their form of transport should have an mot every year or some kind paid test that they should have to pay for especially horse riders

How would you want to charge keen walkers, such as myself?

Daflo – Could you please explain why you think that? I don’t understand the reasoning behind the proposal that everyone who uses the roads should pay additionally for their upkeep [doesn’t the council tax – which all households have to pay whether or not they run a vehicle – include a lot of money for local highway repairs, street lighting, cleansing, snow clearance, drainage, etc?].

Given that there is virtually no horse and wagon transport left these days, it’s only motor vehicles that have any impact on the roads. If we all went on foot or bicycles we would not need such wide roads, traffic signals, roundabouts, flyovers, street lighting, signal controlled crossings, white lines, and so forth. Even if we just had motor buses the road maintenance bill would be very much lower.

If walkers and cyclists paid for road use proportionately to their use the charge would be about £1 each per year which would be uneconomic to administer collect [you would have to exempt car owners from the walkers’ or cyclists’ charges] and would make hardly a dent in the charge to vehicle owners.

Furthermore, why should walkers and cyclists pay for insurance? What damage do they cause to other road users? To what expense do they put the police?

As for insisting on all forms of transport – even horses – having to have an annual inspection or test I have no idea how that would improve anything except at great expense.

There must be a perverse or revenge motive behind this somewhere. Thank goodness these ideas are going nowhere.