Two letters have been published in the Belfast Telegraph recently on the subject of forcing cyclists to pay “road tax“ like other road users. There is a commonly held (but entirely wrong) view that since cyclists don’t pay this tax they somehow have a reduced right to use the roads compared to car drivers.
I invite you to now take a few minutes to read the letters and the accompanying online comments.
Cyclists should have to pay road taxes
Should cyclists pay road tax? In my opinion they should! Every day I journey to work and back home again and I am sure to encounter cyclists who have total disregard for the road and others who use it.
A second letter, from a cyclist’s point of view, was published a few days later in response to the first:
Move over motorists, we cyclists also have rights on our streets
If we cyclists were to pay, would people like your correspondent treat all cyclists on the roads as equal, giving us the same room and respect that they expect from every other road user? Somehow, I don’t think it would.
Somewhat unfortunately, the first letter suffers from a belligerent tone, contains a number of misunderstandings and serves mainly to highlight the author’s selfishness and ignorance of cyclists’ issues. I made several attempts to reply to all the problems I have with it, but try as I might I couldn’t keep within the 1,000 character comment limit.
I have too much to say.
I’d like to return to examine (pick apart, correct) Tricia’s letter in more detail in later posts, but until I get around to that I’ve settled for responding as follows (you can read this online on the Belfast Telegraph site too):
All but the last paragraph of your letter reads as an ill-informed, childish whine about having to share your precious roads.
You paint yourself as a selfish, inconsiderate and dangerous driver who is ignorant of the issues faced by cyclists traveling on busy roads and of the benefits cycling can bring to the individual and society as a whole. I suggest you educate yourself by cycling to Belfast a few mornings before commenting further on something you clearly know little about.
“road tax” is an environmental tax that cycles are exempt from. Do you also think it’s unfair that electric vehicles pay no road tax? Or that large cars and lorries pay more? What of passengers on public transport?
I agree though that better training for cyclists and motorists is required, for everyone’s safety, and that insurance protection should be in place. Mandatory insurance for individual cyclists would be a backward step; some kind of Norwegian style blanket scheme would be a better solution.
Looking past the tone and the errors, Tricia does in fact raise a number of valid questions. Is it fair that cyclists don’t pay Vehicle Excise Duty but still get to use the roads? Should a system of mandatory testing, licensing and insurance be put in place for cyclists? What form should it take?
For the record, I believe:
- “road tax” or VED is irrelevant to cyclists
- Cyclists have an equal right to the road and it’s entirely fair that this is the case.
- Cyclists are subject to the same basic rules as other vehicles, including not cycling on pavements.
- Many cyclists need better training on how to share busy roads with motorists, and vice-versa.
- A blanket insurance scheme for cyclists would be a progressive step.
- Mandatory testing, licensing and individual insurance would be regressive steps.
What’s your take on these often contentious subjects? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!