Cyclists, know your rights!

On my way to work this morning, I glanced over a fellow passenger’s shoulder and spotted a headline that caught my eye. Now I’m not one for reading over people’s shoulders, but when I’m informed that “25% of drivers want road tax for cyclists” (read the article at Metro), my metaphorical ears perk up and my brow furrows with outrage. The issue is road tax is something that I have come across in the past on various occasions, both in passing, and in confrontation with ill-informed motorists. The most recent example of this is when a woman with three children in the back of her Land Rover tried to squeeze past me in a single lane alley and when I indicated that she should back off (and no, I didn’t swear at her) she proceeded to rant about how she pays road tax so I should get out of the way.

If you are a cyclist in the UK take note:

‘Road Tax’ does not exist. What motorists pay is VED – vehicle excise duty, which is a tax calculated according to the vehicle’s emissions, and bicycles do not pollute therefore a cyclist’s VED is £0.00. This VED is the tax disc that cars display on their windscreens.

The article states “that 25 per cent of drivers believe that those on bicycles should contribute to the cost of maintaining the roads”
It does not bother to follow this statement by clarifying that roads are maintained by the borough council. Therefore if you are a UK taxpayer who does not dodge your council tax, you contribute towards the upkeep of roads.

It is vital to put an end to this misinformation. The article quotes a few statistics relating to motorists’ opinion on cyclists’ “free-loading”, with no mention of the fact that a lot of those opinions are mistaken. Next time a motorist in the throes of road rage rolls down the car window and hollers at you that you don’t pay road tax – you can scoff at how much better informed you are than the troll behind the wheel.

Please read the article and if you can, drop it into your next conversation. There is no excuse for road rage against cyclists – who are in every way more vulnerable than motorists, and the best way to put a stop to it is simply to educate. One person at a time, if needs be.

For further reading on this, here are a couple of good reads. I strongly recommend the Guardian article.
“Cyclists are not tax dodgers” @The Guardian
“Bloody cyclists / Cyclists don’t pay road tax” @Chapman Central
“Editorial: Marketing campaign asks the wrong question”

The best way for a cyclist to stay out of trouble, and get out of any misconceived trouble that finds you is simply to be clued up on what your rights are and what the law is. For this purpose, the UK Cycle Rules blog is a fantastic blog to follow, keeping you informed on everything from what you can (and can’t!) get a fixed penalty notice for, to how to handle tricky shared path situations and other cycle law Must Knows.


EDIT 22/11/11: I came across this site this morning discussing the study that provided the statistics for the inflammatory journalism.


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