Respondents to an invitation for consultation on the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS) have overwhelmingly rejected the idea that cyclists should have to pay a tax to use the road.
In the CAPS Consultation document published in May last year, the Scottish Government invited responses to a series of 13 questions, one of which asked: “Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?”
Some 258 responses were received, of which 189 came from individuals, 130 of whom – more than eight in ten of those who offered an opinion – disagreed with the question. Only six people agreed without qualification, while 17 said that they “may agree” with the suggestion. A further 36 offered no answer.
Among the 69 responses received from bodies such as local councils, regional transport partnerships, NHS trusts and stakeholders including cycling organisations, there was no support whatsoever for the idea that all road users should be taxed, with 21 offering no response and 48 answering in the negative.
There's no suggestion that the Scottish Government was ever considering implementing such a tax, but the scale of the opposition to it shown in the responses shows that any politician trying to get such an initiative under way would face huge resistance.
The issue of “road tax” – a misnomer because no such tax exists in the UK, with money for highways maintenance and construction instead coming from general taxation, and not from funds raised through Vehicle Excise Duty – and where cyclists sit within the debate has been brought into the spotlight recently through Carlton Reid’s iPayRoadTax.com website, launched last year, which dispels many of the myths surrounding it.
Responses to the CAPS Consultation have been collated in a document prepared by Dynesh Vijayaraghavan of the Sustainable Transport Team and published on the Scottish Government’s website, which said: “For many respondents, a road tax on cyclists was seen as a bad idea, pointing out that cyclists did not pollute the air or damage the roads, and already contributed to the roads budget through general taxation.”
The report continued: “The idea of all users paying tax was also criticised on the basis that its premise meant pedestrians and child cyclists would also have to pay. It was pointed out that a tax on cyclists would be inefficient to collect. A very small minority of views suggested a tax would be acceptable if the money was hypothecated for cycling improvements.”
Other findings from the consultation included safety, particularly on the road as opposed to cycle paths, being highlighted as the number-one concern among “a significant number of respondents,” with the speed of motor vehicles, driver behaviour, lack of implementation of parking regulations and poor infrastructure for cyclists all highlighted as particular issues.
There were also calls for there to be greater co-ordination in planning and executing facilities for cyclists, with views expressed that currently there was a “lack of joined up thinking” and that the facilities that were implemented were often of such low quality that they made the situation worse.
The report found that many respondents believed that insufficient consideration was given to cycling during the planning process, including new developments lacking cycle parking or putting it in as an afterthought, as well as lacking access for cyclists, and there were calls for provision for cyclists to become an integral part of planning policy.
Finally, the report’s authors stated that according to most respondents, greater funding would need to be made available in order for CAPS to achieve its aims, the foremost of which is to achieve a 10% share of all journeys made in Scotland by 2020.
Besides individuals, respondents came from 23 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities, all of the country’s regional transport partnerships other than ZetTrans, which covers the Shetland Islands, the Lothian and Greater Glasgow & Clyde NHS Trusts, and stakeholders including members of the CAPS board comprising representatives from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Sustrans, CTC Scotland, Paths for All, Cycling Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Health Scotland, as well as a variety of charities and voluntary organisations.
The consultation period ran from 28 May to 28 August 2009, with local authorities granted an additional week to submit their responses.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.