Cast an eye down any newspaper column or radio discussion show about cyclists and there’s a chance that the words “road tax” won’t take long to crop up.
An argument frequently trotted out against cyclists, spending on cycling infrastructure, better protections for cyclists etc. is that cyclists don’t pay road tax, whereas motorists do. Right? Well…
What is “road tax”?
Great question. If you’re a hard-working motorist paying hundreds of pounds each year on road tax, then it’s time to have a word with your accountant as there’s been no such thing as road tax in the UK since 1937.
Yes, that’s right road tax, which was first introduced in 1909 to fund the building of roads only lasted 28 years before being abolished as part of the 1936 Road Traffic Act.
So what’s the tax I pay on my car?
Ah ok, we get what you mean now. What you’re talking about is officially called Vehicle Excise Duty (VED for short), which is collected and enforced by the DVLA and often, rather unhelpfully, referred to as road tax.
But the important thing to note is that VED doesn’t actually help to pay for the roads – well not directly anyhow. Instead all the money raised from VED goes into the Treasury’s central coffers, where it is then used to pay for the NHS, defence, welfare etc. It is not directly to pay for road improvements.
VED, road tax, whatever you want to call it… shouldn’t cyclists pay it anyway?
The thing is that the same level of VED is not paid by all vehicles on the road, instead it is linked the vehicle emissions. This means that drivers of the most polluting vehicles have to pay a whopping £1,065 each year, while drivers of electric cars have to pay nothing (as do disabled drivers, drivers of cars built before 1977, farmers, government ministers, veterans, and a whole load of other people).
On that basis even if cyclists were included in VED, they wouldn’t have to pay anything anyway as bicycles don’t have any emissions.
The other thing to think about here is that the vast majority of cyclists (around 85 per cent or so) are also drivers. So that cyclist you shout out for not paying road tax (or VED or whatever) most likely is, just on the car sat in their driveway rather than holding you up on your way to work.
Finally 100 per cent of cyclists will also be paying their taxes (well, we hope so anyway) just like, and a portion of that – around 0.24 per cent in 2018 – will be coming out of the Treasury to be spent on the roads that we all cycle and drive on.