In this paper I look at some of the practicalities of cyclists paying road tax and explain why it is not a good idea.
“cyclists should pay road tax” is not a new or uncommon call by some but what does it actually mean?
Currently there is no road tax levied in the UK. Some people call vehicle excise duty road tax but that is a different thing. VED is a duty (or tax) levied on each vehicle based upon its emissions (for vehicles less than 3.5T) So no emissions then no duty payable. I don’t think that those calling for cyclists to pay road tax mean cyclists should be subject to these same rules.
So the only logical conclusion would be to introduce a road tax but on what basis?. If this was a tax only paid by cyclists there would be much uproar. Three major problems faced by our society are obesity, congestion and pollution – all three are mitigated by encouraging people to cycle so charging them is likely to have a detrimental effect on the wider society greater than the charge value.
If a new road tax was introduced it seems to me only fair that the amount of tax should be proportional to the amount of road damage that each user causes in which case cars would pay significantly more than pedestrians or cyclists.
Given that each vehicle is subject to VED should each cycle be subject to road tax? or should the tax be levied on the individual? If it is on the cycle then either a tax disc is required or each cycle would need a registration number.
Bristol Cycling have done some work on calculating the various costs associated with tax and the cost of having a roads network. It turns out that every taxpayer (including cyclists and pedestrians) is paying on average £2,500 in tax so that the country can maintain a roads network.
To pay road tax the government would need to introduce a new tax and enforce its compliance meaning more red tape. Roads are paid for out of general taxation which cyclists contribute to as does every other taxpayer. If the governement needs to raise extra revenue there are probably better, cheaper and fairer ways than the introduction of a new “road” tax.