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Active travel is important part of solution to impending car tax crunch

How should society encourage people to get out of their cars and use more active modes of transport? According to a new report from progressive think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the way motor vehicles are taxed is long overdue for reform and fixing it is part of the answer.

The report, ‘The Long Road to Ruin – why the UK needs to reform motoring taxes’ details the problems with the UK’s current addiction to taxes on vehicles as a source of revenue. Fuel tax, vehicle excise duty and VAT on fuel and fuel tax are substantial sources of revenue, but all are set to decline as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon dioxide.

The report says: “Motoring is a fundamental aspect of British society, one that generates a revenue stream upon which the state is dependent.”

But that revenue stream is disproportionately derived from those on lower incomes. Current motoring taxation is regressive, says the report, having a greater financial impact on poorer people.

Astonishingly, the revenue raised from driving taxes fails to cover the total cost of organising a transport network around the car. Negative externalities such as congestion, crashes, air pollution and damage to roads, plus the public health effects of inactivity and the costs of the road network itself add up to swamp the revenues raised.

The report says: “The average time the public spends walking and cycling fell by 16.7 per cent between 1995 and 2012, and the British Medical Association has stated that the annual cost of transport-related physical inactivity in England is £9.8 billion, in addition to the £2.5 billion annual healthcare costs of obesity.”

Report author Mark Rowney told Carlton Reid of BikeBiz: “Motoring has created a public health disaster.”

http://www.bikebiz.com/news/read/encourage-modal-shift-with-reform-of-mo...

The challenges for the government, then, are to shore up revenue and reduce the negative externalities of reliance on motor transport.

Tax increases are not an option, says the report: “Increasing motoring taxes would be both politically difficult and manifestly unfair.”

The alternative is to reduce the externalities by encouraging people to drive less, and the way to do that, the report suggests, is to charge for the actual use of their cars, rather than the “blunt tools” of vehicle excise duty and fuel tax.

“It is theoretically possible to create a system that targets individual unnecessary journeys and makes allowances for people’s incomes,” the report says.

The very suggestion of tracking car use in order to levy fairer charges will have certain quarters up in arms about surveillance and restriction of freedom.

The report admits that “any changes to motor taxation are seen as politically toxic”.

But based on its focus group research, the IPPR believes that the message about the importance of change can be got across, and found that a substantial number of people want to see improvements to cycling facilities.

“Our poll showed that the public’s top two concerns were the cost of motoring (at 53 per cent) and potholes (at 40 per cent); the two most … popular means of addressing these concerns were cutting fuel duty (at 43 per cent) and improving local buses, trams and trains (at 42 per cent). Widening or improving roads (by repairing potholes, for example) came in a distant third, at 24 per cent – only just ahead of improving cycling facilities (23 per cent).”

That’s a big vote for public transport and cycling.

The report suggests that any campaign that tries to change people’s behaviour as part of fixing the revenue and expenditure issues inherent in a motor-vehicle based transportation system should prioritise active travel and fixing potholes.

“Our workshop participants did express a strong desire for promoting and improving active travel which does not contribute to pollution. This finding, combined with the high cost–benefit ratio of active transport investments (see chapter 2), suggests that these should be given priority over public transport improvements.

“Finally, potholes affect everyone who uses the road, regardless of how they travel. Since our poll shows that people really do care about them, fixing potholes before mandating any change of the tax system is a sensible precaution to help secure public support for change.”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

26 comments

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mrmo [2069 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

and improving local buses, trams and trains (at 42 per cent).

but does this mean improve the buses for me, or as I suspect, improve the buses so "they" can get off the road and out of my way?

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Username [176 posts] 2 years ago
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The answer (once again) is the Dutch model. It is not 'anti-car' and actually provides FREE parking for cars in medium sized towns such as Assen.

This can be done because the cycle and walking infrastructure is so good people readily choose it over driving.

There isn't a comparable UK town which can offer free parking.

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timfearn [33 posts] 2 years ago
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I think taxing people for journeys in cars is fraught with difficulties. Whilst I can certainly see its place in large cities with good public transport infrastructure, it's going to be hard to persuade a sheep farmer in the Welsh mountains that he should be charged more to drive his car into the nearest town when no viable public transport alternative exists.

There would almost certainly have to be some form of rural rebate until bus and train services are improved to such a level that cars aren't the only forms of transport available to farm and village dwellers.

While the Dutch model is suitable to some extent, you have to bear in mind that we do not share the same geography as the Netherlands, and even if we improved cycling infrastructure in rural areas, our hills are always going to present an insurmountable barrier to universal cycling.

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rogdog [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Entirely agree, and I would say that Centreparks style holiday villages show that whilst clearly not real towns it's both possible and even desirable to get cars out of UK towns.

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rogdog [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Entirely agree, and I would say that Centreparks style holiday villages show that whilst clearly not real towns it's both possible and even desirable to get cars out of UK towns.

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rogdog [10 posts] 2 years ago
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Entirely agree with Mrmo , and I would say that Centreparks style holiday villages show that whilst clearly not real towns it's both possible and even desirable to get cars out of UK towns.

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ribena [179 posts] 2 years ago
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The fact that people in rural areas might *need* to drive, whereas those in cities don't, is surely an argument FOR road-pricing?

The farmer pays less because he has no alternative, wheraas someone driving 2 miles to the shops gets charged a lot more as there alternative buses. Thus when said farmer arrives in city there's not a 2 mile traffic jam and plenty of parking.

This will all happen via autonomous cars anyway, even without the govermnets involvement, its creeping in via (Google owned) Uber and its "surge pricing" for instance.

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Chuck [534 posts] 2 years ago
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This seems to assume that people are actually looking for alternatives to their cars, and I'm not sure that's true. I suspect it's more like they're looking for alternatives to the costs and inconveniences associated with using their cars.

I think a lot of people still see cycling and public transport as something you are forced to do if you can't afford to drive.

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mrmo [2069 posts] 2 years ago
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timfearn wrote:

I think taxing people for journeys in cars is fraught with difficulties. Whilst I can certainly see its place in large cities with good public transport infrastructure, it's going to be hard to persuade a sheep farmer in the Welsh mountains that he should be charged more to drive his car into the nearest town when no viable public transport alternative exists.

Fuel tax, the more you drive the more you pay. How is drive 5miles and pay x drive 10 miles pay 2x, fundamentally* different to being charged c70p in tax per litre? As for income issues, the poor are less likely to be using the most modern fuel efficient engines so are actually overpaying for the size of car they use.

* as I see it the only difference is that road pricing needs the cars usage to be monitored somehow, either track the journeys is via a tacho where you send the "disc" off weekly and pay your fee.

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earth [275 posts] 2 years ago
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ribena wrote:

The fact that people in rural areas might *need* to drive, whereas those in cities don't, is surely an argument FOR road-pricing?

The farmer pays less because he has no alternative, wheraas someone driving 2 miles to the shops gets charged a lot more as there alternative buses. Thus when said farmer arrives in city there's not a 2 mile traffic jam and plenty of parking.

This will all happen via autonomous cars anyway, even without the govermnets involvement, its creeping in via (Google owned) Uber and its "surge pricing" for instance.

Can the farmer currently claim back VAT on the fuel and vehicle cost as it is an expense incurred for producing their product? I guess it depends on whether their produce is VAT exempt or zero rated.

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Paul J [877 posts] 2 years ago
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timfearn,

Parts of the south of the Netherlands, and Belgium, are hilly, yet they still have high cycling rates. So this "but we've got hills!" argument doesn't stack up. Further, even in hills did have an effect, still many towns and cities in the UK are built on plains or relatively flat areas.

Finally, the 'flatness' of the Netherlands - Holland particularly - can itself can cause difficulties for cycling. Hills induce turbulence in the wind, causing it to swirl, and vary in speed and direction locally. Very flat, open terrain however allows the wind to blow unchecked. This can lead to utterly unrelenting head winds when cycling. This can be as hard as any hill, even harder.

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jollygoodvelo [1402 posts] 2 years ago
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Putting duty on fuel is absolutely sensible. Driving 1000 miles in a car emitting 200g/km CO2, or 2000 in a car emitting 100g/km CO2 should cost the same.

For the record, electric cars 'emit' about 60g/km - just at the generation point of the electricity rather than the location of use. So they shouldn't be 'free'.

But then you say, the car that covers 2000 miles causes more wear to roads, which need more repair. So you need a distance-related magnifications factor say 1p/mile? And that magnification factor probably needs adjusting for different categories/weights of vehicle.

Of course, what's "fair" invariably means that people will get charged more and make a lot of noise about that...

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Leodis [403 posts] 2 years ago
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Hmm how to end the UK's addiction to the motor car... Soon when fossil fuels run dry maybe only a select few will be able to afford motor transport, maybe it will be the electric car, we have already agreed triple prices for Nuclear power prices in the future so maybe they are readying themselves for it.

The current system live in fear of removing someone's license, it seems it is a persons born right to drive regardless of their actions. Myself shall keep cycling, using public transport and taxis where needed since neither myself or wife drive for now.

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racyrich [243 posts] 2 years ago
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There's no simple answer.

Road pricing. Sure. It would have to depend on time of day for starters. Location. Maybe age. Some sort of adjustment for availability of alternatives.

Put all vehicles tax on fuel. Yes - totally agree. Why should a Lambo driver doing 500 miles a year pay 10 times the tax of a Polo driving doing 20000 miles. Combined with some sort of black-box monitoring, it ought to charge charge for fuel consumption with a fixed price entry cost. A bit like a taxi.

Weight attribution too? Very interesting now. Road damage is proportional to the 4th power of the axle weight. So a 100kg cyclist compared to a 2,000 kg Ford Focus is a 20x increase, so 160,000 times the damage. So if a Focus has £200 current VED to account for, a cyclist should have fractions of a penny.
Lorries are limited to 10T axle weight, 10 times the Focus, so another 10,000 times. At this point making their contribution proportional to the damage becomes impossible and they'd be utterly uneconomic - £2,000,000 if a Focus is £200.

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IanW1968 [268 posts] 2 years ago
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Sure it's all very well presented and will be a useful reference in the conversation but we are not exactly short of fact figures and reports.

Unless you can offer the Eton boys something "tangible" it's just hot air.

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Initialised [298 posts] 2 years ago
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The answer is in Strava's heatmaps. Once you have that data per vehicle class you know where's busy when and can charge according to both traffic volume, vehicle class and time of day.

Mandate GPS tracking for all new motor vehicles and give huge insurance discounts like 95% for retro fitted GPS.

Use busy or dangerous routes you pay more. Use congested routes you pay more. Accidents will show up in the data whether reported or not so it becomes easier to identify hit and run drivers and blackspots.

Of course on the flip side if you make driving too expensive you increase the number of uninsured drivers on the road.

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arowland [147 posts] 2 years ago
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timfearn wrote:

I think taxing people for journeys in cars is fraught with difficulties. Whilst I can certainly see its place in large cities with good public transport infrastructure, it's going to be hard to persuade a sheep farmer in the Welsh mountains that he should be charged more to drive his car into the nearest town when no viable public transport alternative exists.

I think that is the whole point of the suggestion to use vehicle tracking. As the report says, "It is theoretically possible to create a system that targets individual unnecessary journeys and makes allowances for people’s incomes.” A car journey where there is no alternative should attract less tax, answering the frequent complaint of rural inhabitants that fuel duty is unfair on them because they have to make more long journeys that urban dwellers. Similarly a short journey (that could have been replaced by a cycle) would attract more tax per km that a longer one. As the system is supposed to take people's personal circumstances into account, it could presumably also take into account genuine health issues if they prevent cycling.

timfearn wrote:

While the Dutch model is suitable to some extent, you have to bear in mind that we do not share the same geography as the Netherlands, and even if we improved cycling infrastructure in rural areas, our hills are always going to present an insurmountable barrier to universal cycling.

1) No reason not to push for cycling in non-mountainous locations.
2) But NL has the wind...
3) Switzerland is known for its up-and-downiness and has much more modal share for cycling than the UK. Admittedly, eBikes are more popular than here, but aren't we just making excuses?

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rainman onwheels [11 posts] 2 years ago
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The current tax system encourages people to drive their cars - "well I've paid my excise duty, therefore I will excise my vehicle!"

How about this - scrap vehicle excise duty. Stick an emissions tax on the petrol... 5p litre or whatever. So if you bought 1000 litres of petrol in a year, you will have paid 50 quid emissions tax. Fair enough I would say for chucking all those naughties into the air that we all breathe (apart from that ukip bloke, as he's a cyborg).

Those who drive lots will pay more tax. If you have a big stupid 4 x 4 then you will automatically be taxed more per mile as your fuel consumption is higher. If you ride a 125cc 4 stroke motorcycle, you will pay less tax per mile. If you do the journey by bicycle or an electric vehice- you will pay no tax at all, hooray!

I find I can only drive one vehicle at a time - so I find the idea of simultaneously paying emissions based duty on my car and motorbike to be a pretty mental arrangement. Although I have been known to just fire up the car and leave her ticking over for a laugh while I take the motorbike for spin.

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gazza_d [459 posts] 2 years ago
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What needs to be done is to close down ratruns, and minor roads to make cars stick to the major routes.

Cars need to be made much less convenient, and the alternatives such as public transport and cycling more attractive and convenient.

You have to be an expert in mapping or a fearless road warrior to get around by bike, and buses/trains are a nightmare for occasional random journeys.

It's mad that my 16 mile journey to work is twice as quick in a car as by train or bus or bike (I still take the bike though when I can  1 )

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vbvb [577 posts] 2 years ago
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The "politically toxic" is the relevent bit here. It's all pie in sky if the politics prevalent in a country aren't in alignment with our cyclist wishes. It's not such a help to you down-southers but the best single shift we can make in Scotland this year towards being more like the cycle-friendly euro-countries is to get that "Yes" through in September and take a gentle lurch to the left. Sorry to bring referendum politics into it, not a sexy or unifying topic, but in a discussion of How to Fix Tax with a Step Change, it's a big elephant with a lot of influence.

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ironmancole [322 posts] 2 years ago
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Makes sense I think. Now watch government do the exact opposite...all whilst maintaining that they want to promote active travel. Heck they must think we're complete imbeciles.  13

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userfriendly [552 posts] 2 years ago
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ironmancole wrote:

Heck they must think we're complete imbeciles.  13

They do. And, for the most part, they have a point - they're still in power aren't they? No one has taken to torch and pitchfork yet.

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bambergbike [89 posts] 2 years ago
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Hills are not an insurmountable barrier to cycling. I live on one, and it's really not such a big deal. Fit, healthy people who don't have much to carry ride ordinary bikes, and ocassionally push them uphill like zimmer frames. People with child trailers to pull uphill and people with health issues or disabilities are increasingly using e-bikes. I spotted a four-wheel e-bike with a crutch on the back the last time I walked to town - the rider flew down a hill and was doing maybe 35 km/h on her heavy bike as she passed me. The neighbourhood is still a bit more car-bound than flatter parts of town, and the bus service is well-used, but bikes - all sorts of bikes, ridden by all sorts of people - are increasingly part of the mix.

Hill won't stop people from cycling if the environment is otherwise cycling-friendly. But they do need to be taken into account properly by cycle infrastructure designers, and this doesn't happen often enough. In places where an eight-year old or an eighty year-old on an ordinary bike can reach very high speeds while just freewheeling downhill, narrow, bumpy cycle tracks can be downright lethal, especially when they are shared-use or have tight corners or poor sightlines. Unforgiving designs that would merely result in scraped knees on the flat can lead to broken bones or even fatalities when implemented on hills.

But that's a civil engineering problem, not a problem with cycling in hilly areas as such.

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Rupert [188 posts] 2 years ago
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I wouldn't say taxing the motorist more in the future would be a vote winner or a good way of encouraging people to take up cycling.

Banning cars in town centres and making all town centres pedestrianised and cycling accessible would be the way to go to make people more likely to want to ride their bike.

Making car driving less appealing from a point of short distance trips would be the answer. like 10mph automatic speed restriction in built up areas.

Oh there is a whole long list of things that need to be done but the government and local councils it seems haven't really got a clue.

How about restricting driving on Sundays ---- I know that's a selfish idea sorry but it would be nice now and then to go out on your bike knowing there would be no cars on the road  1 imagine it  1

Maybe the government could trial it for one Sunday every other month ..........  40 ok ok, I will think of something else

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Cyclic [38 posts] 2 years ago
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Yes, gazza_d, vote yes and Scotland will become a nirvana of all things good. All the Audis, BMWs, Range Rovers will disappear from the streets of Aberdeen to be replaced by folk toodling along on bikes. Scotland will no longer be one of the unhealthiest nations in the Western world and the temperature will soar into double digits everyday. The First Minister, sorry President, will be seen on a daily basis on his McBrompton waving gaily to his loyal supporters. Please, give me a break, if there was a real desire to sort Scotland's transport issues it surely should have been done under devolution. Free prescriptions, tuition fees, eye tests, care for the elderly etc. are a much better way to divide and conquer. It is a pipe dream that Scotland is sleep walking into and when all of this has to be paid for by an independent budget, things will start to hurt. Relying on oil is like getting into a bath when someone has already taken the plug out.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh no....we mustn't upset the "motorist".....that would require someone with some actual guts....oh wait, everyone just keeps living in denial (hence why I've been "muted" for telling the truth people can't handle).

zzzzzzzzzzzzz.