On how (not) to counter the “road tax” argument

We looked at some brief points on “road tax” here: https://bangingonaboutbikes.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/on-why-the-road-tax-argument-is-bullshit/.

This post looks in a bit more detail at ways of dealing with the mouth-breathers who invoke that pathetic line of non-reasoning and seeks to debunk a commonly used retort.

1) Stating the frequently cited statistic that an estimated 80% of “cyclists” also have a car is not a good counterargument. The discussion will often unfold as follows:

Prick: “Bloody cyclists, don’t pay ‘road tax’.”

Person who cycles: “Actually I do. I have two cars, three motorbikes and a van. So I pay my fair share.”

Prick: *vague mumblings and gurglings*

Whilst well intentioned, and often effective, this line of reasoning is ultimately misguided as it itself perpetuates the notion that entitlement to road space is contingent on payment of the pollution levy. Even if the 80% of regular cyslists who own vehicles pay some level of VED, they pay it on those vehicles and not on their bicycle.

And it of course begs the question of the remaining 20%, which includes me. Indeed, asserting that you do have a right to the road on a bicycle because you happen to own other vehicles that are subject to the charge not only fails to acknowledge the perfectly legitimate interests of the 20% of non-vehicle-owning cyclers, it also runs counter to the basic legal position: we are all, whether a 10-year-old child who has never paid a penny of tax, a pensioner, someone on benefits, someone with a job or a millionaire with a fleet of luxury cars, entitled to ride a bicycle on the public highway without being liable for vehicle excise duty.

That’s the bottom line and it’s all we need to say. Bicycles are exempt. Get over it.

2) How much “road tax” do you think “cyclists” should pay? If a road charge were to be introduced for cycles, in order to be fair (and of course the calls for “cyclists” to pay their way are all about fairness, aren’t they?) it would have to reflect the respective impact of bikes as compared to motor traffic. Using realistic but rounded figures for simplicity, let’s assume that the average car weighing 1,500 kilos pays £150 in VED. An average bicycle weighing 15kg (yes, I know that’s heavy, but I’m a renowned carbon-bike sceptic) thus weighs 100 times less than the car, and by rights would pay £1.50 based on weight alone.

And that’s just when they’re stationary. Once you get a bike and a car moving, the car’s force on the road increases exponentially, and the differential in the wear-and-tear factor becomes several thousand, instead of a hundred. Which would either reduce the fair cycling levy to a fraction of a penny, or, if a higher cycle levy is deemed appropriate, the annual charge for motor vehicles would soar into the four- or five-figure range (now that would clear the roads of unnecessary traffic!). So once you start crunching the numbers, imposing a fair, reasonable charge on bikes would cost more to administer than it would bring in. Which has been the experience of every country ever to attempt and subsequently scrap it. The argument’s dead in the water.

3) If you resent “road tax” so much, why do you choose to pay it? Despite what the “road tax” morons believe, it is an optional charge. Not only can anyone (absolutely anyone) ride a bicycle on the public highway without being liable for the charge, there are also a wide range of zero-rated vehicles as well. If you prefer to drive a vehicle that poisons the air we breathe, it’s only right you pay a nominal charge to offset the damage you do. It’s your own choice, so don’t come bleating to me about it. Ride a bike, get the bus, get a cleaner car. It’s in your power to change it. And don’t try and fucking run me over just because you’re unhappy with your own choices.

To sum up, if you’re too stupid to understand the basics of how tax works, and if you’re so unbalanced that you wish vehicular death or injury on someone simply for making a different lifestyle choice, should you really be allowed to operate dangerous machinery in a public space? I would say not and you should probably consider surrendering that licence. Get a bike, you’ll be free from ruddy “road tax” for good and we’ll all be that little bit safer on the roads.


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