posted 1 year ago

Why cyclists don't pay 'road tax'

Let’s play Bicycle Bingo.

Let’s play Bicycle Bingo. Open any story on that features cycling (Bicycle Bingo also works on national and local newspapers) and scroll down into the comments section. Within seconds you’ll happen upon scores of comments that are trotted out so often they’ve been marked on a handy bingo card. And it’s not just forum habitués who can be predicted so accurately – newspaper and magazine columnists also rely on the same arguments. You win Bicycle Bingo by marking comments which feature at least five of the predictable arguments. I’ve already covered some of them in previous articles, including “cyclists always ride in the middle of the road” and “cyclists always blow through red lights”, but there are another two which always score highly, and if you’ve got them on your bingo card you’re almost guaranteed to win. These are “cyclists don’t pay road tax so have no rights to ride on the road” and “cyclists don’t have insurance.” (The insurance one is easy to answer – most household insurance policies cover occupants for third-party claims and any cyclists who are members of clubs are covered by club insurance policies). Here’s a comment from forum member Paul Stevens which would have had you shouting “house!” almost as soon as you’d started playing:

“Cyclists do not pay road tax nor do the vast majority have any form of 3rd party insurance, nor any form of proper riding qualification (yet can ride at over 40mph!), thus they have no rights on the public road. I get so annoyed by the cyclist self opinionated view that they are always in the right and all other road users are wrong. Now lorry designs are having to be changed because idiot cyclists who think they can ignore red lights, use pavements, ignore the rules of the road and put themselves in the wrong places through ignorance are getting injured. You don't pay tax, you don't have insurance, you don't have a riding licence, you don't have any rights on the road. Get out of the way!"

Before I get into the facts and some historical background is it not strange that Mr. Stevens believes highway rights and legal protections should be based on how much a road user pays? Using that analogy, drivers of Band L motor vehicles would have more say on the roads of Britain than those driving Band B vehicles. In other words, BMW drivers could force “lesser” motorists to make way for them because they pay more vehicle excise duty. (And, no, I won’t slot in the obvious joke there, many of my best friends are BMW drivers).

Winston Churchill started the process of abolishing “road tax” in the 1920s in the first of his infamous “raids on the road fund.” The Road Fund had been set up in the 1909/10 Finance Act, part of Lloyd George’s ‘People’s Budget’. No new roads were ever built using the Road Fund. Much the largest part of its grants (over 90 percent in all) went towards small scale improvements in road surfaces. The Road Fund – aka “road tax” – was abolished in 1937, and motorists ceased paying directly for road improvements. Or, as the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) puts it: “There has been no direct relationship between vehicle tax and road expenditure since 1937.”

So, if motorists don’t pay for roads, who does? We all do! Roads are paid for by local and general taxation – that is, council tax and income tax. And anybody who buys anything in Britain also helps to pay for roads because VAT contributes to the national coffers. Businesses which pay business rates also contribute into the national coffers. And that’s where the money for roads comes from: the consolidated fund, the treasury’s pot of cash that pays for everything. The only taxation in the UK that’s ring-fenced, i.e, raised by one set of users and ostensibly spent on that set of users is the TV licence fee. “Road tax” should be more accurately described as “car tax” as it’s a tax on tailpipe CO2 emissions. It’s not now, and never has been, a fee to use roads. If car tax was a fee to use roads, electric cars and low-emissions cars wouldn’t be able to drive on UK roads. Motoring taxes go into the consolidated fund, they don’t pay for roads directly. If taxes did pay directly for amenities, drinkers could say their booze taxes should pay for bigger pubs, or childless people could opt out of paying for schools which they clearly won’t ever use.

We live in an “information age” but despite the ease of finding out what actually pays for roads far too many people rely on hearsay. Bicycle Bingo isn’t just an indoor thing. It can also be played on the roads, especially in warmer weather when car windows are open. Here’s the transcript from a helmetcam conversation that took place in 2013 in Brixton. YouTube user “themitsky” could have shouted “house!” at any time but, instead, chose to politely stand his ground when the passenger and driver of a Vauxhall Astra decided to use the “road tax” ploy when arguing that themistky ought to get out of the way of motorists because he was riding a bicycle:

Passenger: "…the car have priority over you because we pay road tax." themitsky: "…there is no such thing as road tax." Passenger: "What do you mean there’s no such thing as road tax? [indicating car tax on windshield] This is road tax." themitsky: "That’s not road tax." Passenger: "What is it?" themitsky: "It’s a Vehicle Excise Duty disc. It’s based on how much your emissions are on the car." Passenger: [silence] themitsky: If you have less emissions on your car it’s cheaper or it’s free." Passenger: " Is it really?" themitsky: "Yes." Passenger: "Is that what you say?" themitsky: "Yes." Passenger: "So your one is free cos it’s a bicycle?" themitsky: "Yeah … You’ve got environmental cars which are cheaper because the emissions are lower." Passenger: "So why don’t you buy a car then?" themitsky: "I’ve got a car at home, I don’t need to use it now ‘cos I’m on my bike."

Now, that conversation would be hilarious if it wasn't so serious. The driver was later issued a warning by the Metropolitan Police. A Met Roadsafe officer told themitsky: “Very well done. Nice calm conversation and, I think well put to the passenger and, hopefully, driver. Clearly, she is misinformed…”

It would be nice to think that being confronted by facts from two different sources, one of them from the boys in blue, the Vauxhall Astra driver now gives cyclists more room on the road because she realises that road tax doesn’t pay for the roadspace in front of her.

Carlton Reid is the executive editor of He drives a Nissan Note "but not very often." He's writing a history book on motoring's cycling beginnings, Roads Were Not Built For Cars.


It is all a bit of a storm in a teacup - a constant argument without any real foundation and if motorists and cyclists alike were patient, considerate and well-mannered it would mostly peter out. Arguments like this are just a symptom of what is happening and has been happening in society for a long time and is not exclusive to drivers or cyclists. The government should stop trying to turn every kid into an Einstein and turn school and teaching resources to encouraging kids to be less arrogant, less competitive and much more diplomatic. Do that now and in thirty years time our country will be improved... When I was a kid on a bike doing cycling proficiency tests which were conducted by the local police on school premises we were told we shouldn't overtake anything unless we could give a safety margin of six feet. I am not sure if it was in the Highway Code or not but it was good advice and should be rigorously applied today to both cyclists and mororists just as the four mph speed limit on pavements, sidewalks and footpaths should be enforced.

@Mike Andrews: I wish i had known that when i saw two uniformed police officers cycling along the pavement, instead of the clearly marked cycle lane just three feet to their right... one rule for us...?

So all the tax payers money that gets spent on putting in cycle lanes to give cyclists somewhere safe to cycle is basically being wasted as they choose to block up the roads instead... Why am I not surprised!? :-O

Cedders B: Cyclists will never be fined for using the roads when there's a cycle path as, unlike it being LEGALLY required that you drive a car on the road, a cyclist is NOT legally required to use cycle paths/lanes, therefore, no crime, no fine, HOWEVER, just like a car, it is LEGALLY required for cyclists to ride on the road as the bicycle is defined under English LAW(and UN law) as a ROAD vehicle.

If motorists encroach on pavements or cycle paths they get fined. Why do cyclists not get fined when they use roads where cycle paths are available ?

Philip Di Sotto: if I crashed into someone or something I doubt I'd happily cycle away- I'd probably be hurt myself. That is why I, and many other cyclists, take care to avoid collisions!

Interesting argument! Leaving aside the road 'tax' issue, One thing I'd personally like to see is some sort of registration number displayed on a bicycle so that they are accountable for their actions in the same way as any other road user (excluding pedestrians) is. Might just stop the antisocial behaviour of some cyclists who insist on riding at speed on pavements and completely disregarding the rules of the road with which other road users must comply. Just a thought!

Everybody pays road tax, Even if they don't have a car or bike. The council repairs the roads with money from your council tax that you pay to them every year.That's when they get round to doing it,They say that they don't have the money to repair the roads and other things because of government cut backs.

The easy answer to insurance is not easy at all, if a cyclist causes and accident or damages your property or worse, injures you, and then happily cycles away, how do you trace them? they have no registration plates and don't have to register the bicycle by law. This should be changed.

Goods not goofs!

@Mick Denny and Shaun Murray- you do realise by taxing fuel for larger vehicles such as lorries, which are basically always companies transporting goofs, the higher cost of fuel will then be reflected in their overheads and therefore their prices for customers. Take tesco for example. If their fuel costs go up 10% that's not going to stop them from using the lorries they have which are fit for purpose. Well all just end up paying more for milk and bread.

I 'm luck to drive BMW 520 and pay 'road tax'. My wife drives an audi A1 and pays er none. These fools who use the road tax argument to rubbish cyclists are just too ignorant. Then there are the others who think they win an argument against cyclists saying they break the law. Presumably they also believe motorway repairs should be stopped because most drivers exceed the 70mph speed limit. I cycle a lot less than I drive but I get exasperated by the moronic level of debate by people who seem to resent people who ride bikes

I think to have reg plates for cycles is too much. Like others have said most folks are both a driver and a cyclist. Myself included. I cannot understand those who do not wear helmet or reflective waistcoat, preferably one not obscured by rucksack.

'Road tax' issues aside, cyclists simply don't obay the laws of the road., causing traffic and accidents. Anyone that disagrees should come to Surrey and try and navigate their way around the leisure cyclists who treat our roads like a private cycle track, cycling illegally in large packs spread across the road having casual chats as they go, completely oblivious to anyone else on the road. On a different note: whenever I come across mountain bikers when out walking in the woods they couldn't be more aware and courteous to others using the space!

@IAN STAFF, Most cyclists already have taken some kind of test and are issued with a licence for which they have to pay since most cyclists also own cars. You don't get on a bike and immediately have your driving licence revoked and knowledge of your driving test expunged from your brain.

@Mick Denny. Absolutely right. Abolish VED and put the tax on fuel. It'd then hit those that have inefficient vehicles or that use them excessively. It'd also completely remove the misguided sense of entitlement some motorists have that because they've paid some mythical 'road tax' that they are then entitled to more rights than any other road user.

@Robbie Russell, The Swiss abolished their registration and insurance scheme in 2012 as it cost far more to run than the revenue it generated and discouraged cycling, particularly amongst the poorest. Encouraging cycling has the opposite economic impact reducing costs on health services and reducing congestion in towns and cities.

I think road tax/vehicle tax should be abolished and put on to the fuel we purchase then the vehicles that use the fuel i.e. lorries, big 4x4s, reps e.t.c will have to pay more because of the amount of fuel they use, where a vehicle with an economical engine or not used very often (I.e. horsebox/year) will have to buy a lot less fuel for the same period of time (per year), it will only add 2p/litre or so unless our beloved government choose to be greedy, and every one should be happy. ps. make foreign lorries pay to use our roads and pay the speeding fines, which apparently amounts to £millions.


Why are Astra drivers always such retards? I now carry pepper spray to cope with the `Mister Angrys` of this world. They`re always so surprised when they`re on the ground and crying. `Simple people`, simple solutions!

Cyclists increase emissions! There CO2 increases. There energy level increases, therfore they need to eat more, therefore more lorries to deliver the food they need to eat! However, my biggest bug bear is not the one guy going to work, it's when there are about 20 of them together that like to dress up in there gay looking lycra and sunglasses, (even in rain and low light?) and then proceed to ride 2 abreast so that it can be virtually impossible to pass. We don't all have a siren on our cars to make them pull over. It's about time the police charged them for riding 2 abreast. They are like little children pretending to be in the tour de France or something. It should be legal to drive through the ones on the outside!

If this is the case "Vehicle Excise Duty" is charged for emmissions, why are vehicles over a certain age exempt?? Sure the emmissions are higher on older vehicles. There is also tge argument that if i am not driving my vehicle then i should not have to display nor purchase a VED license as there are no emmissions from my vehicle while the engine is switched off.. we pay enough duty on fuel, which is similar to pay as you go.. therefore there is no requirement for VED. Charge an emmissions tax at the pumps..

Wrong argument. Forget the semantics about Road Tax, VED etc, all road users should have insurance. If a cyclist injures a pedestrian or damages a car they should have to pay compensation to the injured party. Currently they shrug their shoulders and say 'So sue me' and ride off. No trace of them as they do not have registration plates. All road users, motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians should take responsibility for their actions and be held liable for their actions. And the best way to start is to have a license after training to a minimum standard like CBT for motorcyclists. Whatever happened to taking responsibility for your actions.

It's pretty sad reading some of these comments. More drivers playing Cyclist Bingo. Just take a moment to share the road... It's NOT your road. I have a car, a motorbike and a bicycle. I use all in London. It is properly scary riding in London with lots of drivers ignoring the Highway Code. I feel MUCH safer on a motorbike, and that's scary enough. Remember most cyclists have cars and licences. Stop being so blinkered, it's make you look really stoopid.

Cyclists, think! Riding 2 abreast holding up traffic,ignoring red lights, scratching cars, sneaking up the inside of lorries... Seen 3bad injuries and a fatality... Woman under a truck.. Motorists are fed up with your ignorance! Government adds should not only be think' bike 'etc. target bikes and say think car!

Note to admin... It would be much more fun if you could reply to individual posts. So the really stupid ones would have their own nest of replies! :)

Some of the comments about cyclists not reading or abiding by the highway code "like motorists have to" are laughable, given the large proportion of motorists I see ignoring every rule in the highway code. You take a test once then promptly forget or ignore many of the rules, how many motorists have also never taken a theory test ? I suggest motorists read & learn the laws & highway code properly including Road users requiring extra care (204 to 225), including cyclists & pedestrians 124 You MUST NOT exceed the maximum speed limits for the road and for your vehicle 147 Be considerate. Be careful of and considerate towards all types of road users, 149 You MUST NOT use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, when driving. 145 You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property. Those who show a blatant disregard for these laws & rules, despite the "test" they once passed, should be taken off the roads, or maybe a retake every few years is needed ?

I think cyclists should pay their way to some degree by paying a road users Tax. It works perfectly well in Swizerland and each Bycicle has a tax number plate which must be fixed to the Bycicles for all to see.

My car has been scratched three times by bikes at traffic lights who then go down a side road and get away. They should have dedicated insurance and pass a cycle road test. In winter I spend all my time trying to avoid bikes with no lights on dark roads. They must have lights and the police do nothing. Yes let bikes on the road but the dice are loaded against the driver and must be changed to make make cyclists responsible!

These videos of people riding bikes and having an argument with people in cars is really starting to annoy me now. They are publicly giving out a car registration which means they can be tracked and given a warning by the police which is fine when the driver is in the wrong. However there is nothing on a bike in which us drivers could do the same, they can do what they like without risk of being tracked down.

Not got a problem about bicycles not paying road tax, but I do have a problem with the amount of bicycles with no lights at night, having no brakes and the speed that they are sometimes driven at on footpaths especially with those with no brakes and bells to warn people.

@brian m.....agreed quit correct . think weight, mass, speed, now factor in torque+mass+speed. tank at 1 mph = nasty mess on road...bullet=hole. but both equal death. or look at it this way. a yard of water will stop most bullets. drop 18 stone vehicle in same water you get big splash and water moves out of way. bullet put hole in chair crush every bone in foot and render it possibly useless forever more.....anyway I am digressing from the topic at hand. "all" road users should be alert, considerate, and obey the laws of the roadway, pedestrian pathway, cyclist pathway. if you cant your either braindead (or soon will be) or you don't respect authority and common sense. its so simple3 I cant understand the point of all this debating. except for the fact that some of us are plain stupid in a so deadly of a situation.

So what are the excuses for cyclists running red lights, Undertaking, Entering box junctions and stopping when they not turning right and never reading and abiding to the Highway code? OK maybe your arguments about vehicle excise duty are valid, but if cyclists have to use the roads as do motor vehicle drivers, then they should be made to abide by the rules of the road as motor vehicle drivers do.

bikes should be taxed and insured as in the wrong hands can kill and injure people and cause traffic jams by riding two abreast wake up government

The sheer ignorance of many motorists is staggering, despite an article clearly explaining how roads are funded, along with the non existence of road tax, many still repeat the same garbage, maybe unable to read ? "Cyclists don't pay road tax" - Roads are funded from general taxation, cyclists pay general taxes - income tax, council tax, VAT etc etc, and therefore contribute hugely to "roads" (building & maintenance), along with pedestrians who also pay taxes and subsidise motorists. "When cyclists pay their fair share they can have a say" - cyclists do pay their fair share, motorists pay additionally VED for the pollution & emissions caused by their own choice to drive, and insurance due to the hugely increased risk of causing serious injury or damage from a vehicle weighing 1000-1500kg travelling at high speed. All users of the highway also have equal right of access, if you can't accept that as a motorist then you're the one who needs to get off the roads, in fact if your display wilful disregard for the safety & rights of other users of the highway (including cyclists & pedestrians) like many of the ignorant & misinformed comments here, you should have points added to your license & retake the driving test, with associated increase in insurance. "Motorists have to pass a test" - yes, and then promptly ignore or forget everything in it, given the amount of car drivers I see breaking the law, speeding, jumping lights, on phones, parking illegal on double yellows & obstructing pavements

Both Motor/cyclists need to respect each other on the road. That is the only way. As a keen cyclist (now) and also a car driver I have noticed haterid towards cyclist even more so. I get abuse just for cycling down the road. I am always respectful to motorists purely for the fact that if they want to mo me down they can easily do so. I don't run red lights (because that just stupid) and don't undercut if it is not clearly safe to do so both for myself and the motorist. I have organised a few cycling events for a local charity HHHO and on both occasions we have had fluid thrown over us whilst cycling even though we are clearly raising money for a cancer charity. WHATS the deal here then? STOP BEING ANGRY AND RESPECT EACH OTHER. ITS FREE!!!!!! Cfh2014. Com <--- check us out

What about horse riders on the road? They are worse than cyclists.often riding 2 abreast, waving their arms to slow traffic, these road jockies should pay rfl. Better still, not ride on a highway at all.yes some cyclists have an ego problem. I am a cyclist, always keep well to the left hand side, and often stop to let vehicles pass. Rfl wouldn't stop any form of harassment from drivers whatsoever. The frustration comes when the car behind the cyclist won't overtake even when safe to do so. Then the cyclist gets blamed for the nervous drivers inability to pass a cyclist. No matter what you do, someone will want to put a tax on something. Will taxing cyclists help? I don't think so.?....

@Graeme Gadsdon, Image a road system where the road was full of glass and shared with ipod wearing pedestrians, where at every side road you had to stop, give way, get out your car and push it over the junction. Now make the road take weird circuitous routes round the backs of dodgy council estates where they then end with no warning. Don't forget to put posts for signage and those bins for doggy-doo in the middle of the road and don't bother with lighting. That's why cyclists wanting to get anyway quickly do not use cycle paths and instead use fast, straight roads.

Possibly the most obvious reason bikes don't pay taxes is because they are unidentifiable. No number plate, no registration. And if a low emission car pays nothing, why should a zero emission bicycle pay? Bicycles do not cause traffic jams or pollution, are silent, and are the greenest transport about. What next, folks? Excise duty for pedestrians? Some of you people are real caricatures. And before you ask- I DO have a car- I DON'T have a bicycle. But I also have a brain...

@David Eyreri, Electric pedal cycles become 'motorbikes' if they're capable of more than 25kmph (15.5mph), have a motor bigger than 250W and don't require the rider to pedal. @Nigel Amery. Most clubs are affiliated with British Cycling and their insurance, even the £32 a year insurance, includes non-racing club events. CTC also include insurance in their membership covering millions (10 IIRC) of pounds 3rd party. Well worth it if you cycle in traffic a lot.

The fact still remains that the British motorist pays some of the highest taxes in the world for the privilege of driving, cyclists pay nothing. I have 2 works vans and a car and I have to pay tax and insurance of all 3 even though I can only drive 1 at a time. If cyclists were registered and insured, even a nominal sum would alleviate the grievances that a lot of motorists feel. Cyclists want all the protection and facilities of a modern road system but reduce to contribute to the costs involved. Why do so many cyclists refuse to use cycle lanes even though their only 3 or 4 feet away from the road. (I see this constantly) it's pure bloody mindedness and therefore I give no respect to them. It's almost as if their taunting the motorists because their untraceable unlike the poor bloody driver. My view is"pay your fair share and then you can have a voice" until then, suffer the consequences and stop moaning. Idiots

Hmm food for thought - electric motorcycles have to be mot'd, insured, plated etc and a motorcycle test passed but there is nothing yet for the growing prevalence of electric powered bikes!!. Are they not one and the same? allbiet having pedals as well. Anybody whether fit or otherwise just hope on one of these around town with impunity and reach urban speeds easily. I have two motorcyles and 3 pedal bikes and my police motorcycle training gave me a far greater understanding of road position etc on two wheels.

Ok - so despite mentioning the "blow through red lights" and giving it a link, I did not see anything on the article linked about red lights... Only about riding on paths... Are you going to show us the article?

In addition to my previous post, those who claim that they are covered on home insurance or their cycling club insurance I have a couple of comments to add. It has to be stipulated on your home insurance that you require 3rd party insurance whilst on the road for others to be covered - my brother-in-law is an insurance broker. The only time cyclists are covered by their clubs insurance is when they are on an official club run unless the insurance otherwise clearly stipulates.

I get absolutely fed up with cyclists that do not ride in single file. Those that ride two abreast in the middle of the road, or worse still in a pack or block. It is soooo selfish and it is dangerous. They hold up the traffic which causes drivers to get frustrated and so they take chances to try to get passed them. It is so obvious it is dangerous, I would have no sympathy if I saw cyclists fall off doing this practice. Oh and yes before all you cyclists start bleating, I do ride a bike and I keep to the edge and let drivers get passed.

Bearing in mind that roads are paid for by general taxes & therefore all road users are equal, I have a few questions for all to ponder. #1. Should unemployed cyclists (including university students) who aren't contributing to the taxpot, be banned from using the roads ? #2. If cyclists claim equal billing, should their road going vehicle have a registration document & plate ? (Afterall bicycles are used as road vehicles & equal billing should mean equal regulation & equal treatment shouldn't it ?). #3. With this bicycle registration in mind, should any cyclist caught breaking the rules of the road then be fined & receive points on their car driving licence in the same way that truck drivers & motorcyclists do ? #4. Should they also therefore have specific bicycle insurance ? (Whilst stood in a long queue of traffic on an urban dual carriageway a few years ago, a cylist rode between the 2 lines of traffic. For whatever reason he bounced off the car to my right & ricocheted into my drivers door, denting it & breaking off the mirror. He then picked himself up & rode off leaving me with a £350 bill because there was no way of identifying him). I'm not having a go at cyclists or saying that they don't have a right to be on the road. What I am saying is that a motorised road user has to be correctly licenced, registered & insured to be on the road legally mostly for the protection of others. Why doesn't this apply to those who choose pedal power as their mode of transport ?

Good article. Sadly wasted on many of your commenters; who seem to be so staggeringly thick they're incapable of actually reading the article they're commenting on. This country needs to start removing driving licenses from all aggressive drivers. I'd happily see some of the angrier commenters here tracked down and banned from the roads - I'd feel much safer as both a driver and cyclist.

I have to take issue with Big Al regarding the police turning a blind eye. I have seen a few occasions where the police have booked cyclists in London, indeed sometimes by police cyclists. They probably don't have the manpower to police cyclists as much as they would like but this is why I think action should be taken to make cyclists more responsible,( see my previous post).

Most cyclists own cars. Most cyclists pay car related taxes. The end.

The fact is that only a very small amount of damage is caused by cyclists compared to motor vehicles and insurance companies are not interested in the small amount of revenue they would generate. In the US you cannot get 3rd party cycle insurance. In the UK many cycling clubs offer a "freebie" 3rd party cover when you join from a blanket policy. You can still seek recompense from an individual who isn't insured anyway. As an aside I have been hit 4 times by cars and each time the driver was at fault and they have always paid up, on two of these occasions they were uninsured and wanted to keep it "unofficial".