Whenever I say something that tries to highlight the horrendous inequalities between cyclists and other road users, money – inevitably – raises its head.
“Cyclists contribute nothing to the road tax-based economy, because cycling is carbon neutral” (or similar) is put forward as the argument for this lack of fiscal contribution.
Another argument often put forward is that Road Tax is dead.
These are two of the most egregious, wildly inaccurate arguments ever voiced aloud.
And there are three fatal structural faults to these statements:
- Cyclists use prepared surfaces. In all major towns and cities, cyclists use tarmac surfaces. Roads or special cyclepaths (or pavements). It doesn’t matter which surface cyclists are using. The bottom line is that these surfaces are massively NOT carbon neutral. These surfaces are constructed out of mining and manufacturing processes that are pure environmental destruction. Cyclists use these hideously costly surfaces. Cyclists are quick to complain about potholes in the road or the pavement or the cyclepath. But cyclists seem unable to comprehend the overwhelming deficit of carbon neutrality that cyclists contribute to the global environmental economy, by using them.
- The average modern bicycle is the output of a long and an enormously polluting set of manufacturing processes (and we are not even including supply-chain miles). The not-icing on this not-cake of not-carbon-neutrality is that, to help keep modern cycle frames as lightweight as possible, a significant amount of carbon fibre is used in their manufacture. The production of carbon fibre is one of the most polluting processes known to mankind. Yet cyclists also overlook this not-carbon-neutral state of affairs.
- Road tax (I am often told) no longer exists. This is not strictly true. Changing the name of Road Tax to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and charging a banded structure of fee against different types of cars, does not make Road Tax not exist, and here’s why. Motorbikes. Only cars, buses and lorries pay VED based on their emissions. And yet motorbikes pay road tax based on their cubic capacity (CC). If we had an even playing field, and if motorcycles were subject to the same taxation scheme as cars, most motorbikes would pay little – or no – road tax. For example, the Toyota Aygo or the Citroen C1 are both class B cars, on the VED scale. Being Class B means that the owner of either of these cars pays just just £20/year, based on their CO2 production of 139g. My Honda VFR costs £78/year to tax, yet it produces a mere 16.5g of CO2. Or, to compare. My VFR costs four times as much, to tax, than a class B car does, yet it produces the tiniest amount of CO2.
So there it is. A practical demonstration, using three strands of clearly defined reasoning, that there is actually no sound, logical, or financial reason, why bicycles should not be subject to an annual road tax.