Kent councillor calls for road tax on cyclists

Riders a greater danger than motorists says Conservative

by Mark Appleton   September 10, 2010  


Cyclists are more dangerous than cars according to a district councillor from Kent and therefore should be paying road tax and buying insurance policies.

Councillor Lawrence Abraham’s claims, reported in the Sevenoaks Chronicle, were made when he questioned the need for more cycling infrastructure to be created in the Sevenoaks area of Kent during a meeting of the district council which was addressed by the Sevenoaks Cycling Forum.
Referring to cyclists, Mr Abraham, a Conservative councillor for the Hartley and Hodsoll Street ward, said: "They're more dangerous than any car I've ever seen. They should be paying road tax and have insurance."

The Chronicle reports that the councillor opposed the call for more cycle paths and safer routes for children to schools, saying: "Where's this money coming from?"

His views were echoed by those of fellow district councillor Alison Cook, a Conservative who represents the Leigh and Chiddingstone Causeway ward.

"There are huge problems when cyclists and walkers share the same paths. Unfortunately, a lot of cyclists, as soon as they set off, see themselves as king of the road. And a small child hit by a bicycle could have a nasty experience.

She added: "We don't often see cyclists on cycle routes but we do see them on the road. It's galling when they have cycle routes and don't use them. Maybe cyclists should pay some sort of contribution or be licensed in some way."

John Morrison of Sevenoaks Cycling Forum said: "We thought we'd knocked those clichés on the head and got beyond that.

“It’s unfortunate that not all councillors are up to speed with what’s happening at county and national level. We don’t think Sevenoaks should be a black hole for cycling provision compared to other districts in Kent.
 “We’ve tried to argue that there are problems with obesity, carbon emissions and congestion and despite the deep-rooted opposition to cycling by councillor Abraham and one or two of his colleagues, we’re confident the majority will eventually see the light.”

When contacted by, councillor Abraham refused to expand on his comments, telling us he doesn’t talk to journalists and stating that he was simply expressing his “personal opinion” at the meeting.

Thanks to for the spot

42 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Here we go again. Daft councillors don't help. A few points that will:

1. It's not called "road tax" (this was abolished in the 1930s), it is Vehicle Exise Duty and VED is based upon the CO2 emissions produced by a vehicle. A bike produces zero emissions and you could successfully argue it is therefore zero-rated.

2. The construction, maintenance, etc. of roads, pavements and other public is paid for out of general PAYE and other taxation.

3. The vast majority of cyclists own a motor vehicle and pay VED anyway.

4. Cars, lorries, buses, vans, etc. cause much more damage to road surfaces than a bike will ever do.

5. Cycling beats motoring in terms of health benefits, user death rates, etc. - ever heard of a cyclist killing a motorist in a collision? (afterwards, maybe ...)

posted by John G [53 posts]
10th September 2010 - 15:20


Oh, here we go again.... Yawn

What a dick head. Shame, b/c I love cycling in Kent. Beautiful place. These idiot councillors don't deserve it.

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
10th September 2010 - 15:49


My name is Keith Fairbank, the journalist at the Sevenoaks Chronicle who attended the meeting and wrote the original article. I'm glad to see it's sparked your interest and am planning a follow-up story for next week's edition based on some of these responses.

If anyone would like to contact me directly, e-mail or Tel 01732 228030.

posted by SevenoaksChronicle [1 posts]
10th September 2010 - 15:51


I live in North West Kent and it's not always the cyclists that are dangerous but the roads we ride on. Pot holes, sunken drains and workman who fail to when resurfacing roads make them level causing the sides of the roads to be rocky and undulating.

posted by bartape [66 posts]
10th September 2010 - 15:54


Am much as I agree with Chris, I think that the real issue here is one of education and access to information. Sadly, a councillor doesn't need to be qualified in anyway to carry out their duties, and they're usually put forward by their party for reasons that don't necessarily have much to do with the public interest. The poor sod is probably just poorly educated and badly informed.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [303 posts]
10th September 2010 - 16:05


I'm sure there's a cost saving in building cycling infrastructure compared to more road miles too and indeed, Sustrans think the cycle network is part of the deficit solution. I'm inclined to agree Smile

posted by spaceyjase [53 posts]
10th September 2010 - 16:17


SevenoaksChronicle wrote:
My name is Keith Fairbank, the journalist at the Sevenoaks Chronicle who attended the meeting and wrote the original article. I'm glad to see it's sparked your interest and am planning a follow-up story for next week's edition based on some of these responses.

Mainly it's depressing that someone can trot out their own petty prejudices as fact in a council meeting. honestly. "They're more dangerous than any car I've ever seen". really? how so? show me the statistics that back up your claim. Really, you just made it up? oh.

in any situation where there is an issue with traffic, cycling is part of the solution, not part of the problem. the better the facilities, the more people will use them. the more people that use them, the better everyone learns how they work and conflict goes down. you want bikes off the roads in town, Cllr Alison Cook? so do i: i want them on purpose built, properly segregated paths that make cycling journeys quicker and safer. that costs money and takes commitment though, so instead what i get is someone painting a line on a road that gives me no protection, puts me in the gutter and at risk from lorries and ends at every junction with me giving way. Then I get moaned at because i'm not using it. thanks, but no thanks.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7854 posts]
10th September 2010 - 17:09


Next thing they will be burning the Koran!

Team_Banana's picture

posted by Team_Banana [13 posts]
10th September 2010 - 17:31


If the world was ever short of arseholes, I'm sure we could use a couple of Councillors.

posted by Cauld Lubter [131 posts]
10th September 2010 - 17:50


Another ill-informed nobody with way too much power at their fingertips. Some useful comments on cycling infrastructure from the Government-commissioned Eddington Transport Study may come in handy:

"1.68 Some types of schemes that show good welfare returns, such as public transport, utilisation, walking and cycling, will also have environmental benefits due to their low requirements for land and infrastructure, and their impacts on congestion reduction.

3.44 Encouraging cycling, walking and smarter choices has the potential to provide benefits to the economy and welfare through both reduced congestion and the associated likely reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, and improved health. Little
evidence exists on benefit:cost ratios for such interventions, largely owing to the significant
uncertainties around the costs. But the DfT analysis suggests that with high intensity uptake of smart measures, some 21 percent reduction in urban traffic could be achieved."

Newsflash from the 21st Century! Wake up politicians, you're way behind the curve.

posted by emla [4 posts]
10th September 2010 - 18:07


Typical Tory!


posted by cslattery [84 posts]
10th September 2010 - 18:12


Sheesh, what idiots.

djcritchley's picture

posted by djcritchley [181 posts]
10th September 2010 - 19:29


Is it any wonder that local Councils are ineffective, inefficient and prone to making profoundly stupid decisions if people as ignorant as this are in charge?

"Road tax"? No such thing. Most cyclists are also drivers so they pay VED as well as all the other taxes we are encumbered with.

"King of the road"? Oh my lordy, if only it were so! Impatient hooting of horns, cutting you up, abuse and SMIDSY, hardly the way to treat royalty.

Cyclists using cyclepaths also get a raw deal - dog walkers with those long leads waiting to garrotte you, dog sh*t or broken glass in the middle of the lane, vehicles parked in dedicated cycle lanes.... I could go on.

If the cycle routes of Kent are as poorly designed as they are in most UK towns and cities I'm not surprised the riders are on the road, where they are allowed, of course! But the standard of driving and level of agression by drivers in many places frightens people enough that they are too afraid to cycle on the road.

As a friend of mine who visits The Netherlands (and loves the infrastructure there) often reminds me, when you get off the ferry at Dover in terms of cycling provision it's like entering an impoverished Third World country.

And what of the 1.8 million drivers without insurance? Let's start with them first.

Come on Sevenoaks Chronicle, please bring some balance to the subject.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2415 posts]
10th September 2010 - 21:20


Of course the other aspect is the minimal damage a bike can do hitting something. Compared to what a car can. An order of magnitude less mass, together with a lower speed means far less energy involved.

That isn't to say that you can't do damage on a bike, it is just far less likely so the main thing that insurance would do is stop people cycling and so increase the cost to the nation of less fit people etc.

posted by 0liver [91 posts]
10th September 2010 - 21:55


Hmmm. Ill-informed and stupid comments about cycling? Not really that surprised, although to be honest I am more surprised how two people get to be local political leaders with a complete misunderstanding of how the taxation system works in the UK.

Idiots Yawn

jijithebatcat's picture

posted by jijithebatcat [5 posts]
10th September 2010 - 22:44


It just sickens me to think how ignorant, malicious and out of touch local politicians can be. Something I witnessed first hand as a council press officer. Quite unsavoury loud mouths some of them who are detached from most people's daily reality

I pay my taxes, including VED. I'm a considerate road user on two or four wheels. I cycle to work to because I can't afford (or stand) the tube.

So what right does Abraham have to tell me I should pay more for the frankly piss poor condition of the UK's overburdened infrastructure? And just because I ride a bike. Kiss my chainring!


posted by pedalismo [60 posts]
10th September 2010 - 23:57


The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by about 20:1 according to a survey I saw mentioned here. Perhaps the councllors need to be made aware of the fact that healthy people will place less of a burden on the health system. But then I do wonder at their state of health due to lack of exercise.


posted by OldRidgeback [2579 posts]
11th September 2010 - 8:02


Looks like the rest of the council are more reasonable with only Larry voting against the motion. No stranger to a fish supper our Larry Wink

posted by Chrisc [146 posts]
11th September 2010 - 9:49


Angry Whenever I ride my bike I have always paid road tax. I asume I have as todate I have never received a rebate for not using my car. Why do electorial candidates turn in to pillocks once elected Surprise

posted by millook [10 posts]
11th September 2010 - 11:03


email sent. freaking idiot.

posted by mrchrispy [413 posts]
11th September 2010 - 12:34


I live in the Sevenoaks District, but couldnt get to the meeting reported.
I have submitted a letter to the Local paper for publication, here is it's content:-

Dear Sir,

It does seem that the basic requirement of getting facts right before making public utterances has eluded Cllr Abraham according to the Chronicle September 9th. His statement "They're more dangerous than any car I've ever seen." is contradicted by dft statistics that show despite an average of 7 road accident deaths a day in the UK , in the past decade only one is attributed to a cyclist. Further a RTL report of 2009 concluded that in accidents involving cyclists; that cyclists were responsible in a mere 7% of accidents.

In view of these overwhelming facts, Cllr Abrahams desire to compulsory insure cyclists is unnecessary. That is unless it is required to ease the strain on insurance companys due to motoring accidents.

His further desire that cyclists should be taxed, I am sure would be adopted by a cash strapped government somewhere in the World, If it were possible to administer such a tax in a cost effective way and realistically reflect the demands on the environment and infrastructure by cycling. Quite a number of countries actually offer tax incentives to cyclists in order to reduce pollution and congestion.

In localities where local authorities and schools have collaborated in providing safe routes to schools under the Bikeit scheme the numbers of children cycling to school has doubled (according to dft) thus reducing pollution, congestion and reaping health benefits. Is Cllr Abraham actually in favour of taxing children for improving the environment and being healthy?

Coordinator Sevenoaks Cycle Forum,
CTC Right to Ride Rep

posted by Reg Oakley [5 posts]
11th September 2010 - 18:48


I have written directly to Cllr Cook in a less hostile manner as I think her comments came more from ignorance than blind prejudice. The Sevenoaks Cycle Forum is attempting to establish a dialogue with the local council as exisits elsewhere in Kent. It is a very slow uphill task and both guns blazing in all circumstances will not help matters.

Coordinator Sevenoaks Cycle Forum,
CTC Right to Ride Rep

posted by Reg Oakley [5 posts]
11th September 2010 - 18:54


"cyclists see themselves as king of the road"

i love that quote. its the hidden meaning - i.e. how can these cyclists think THEY are king of the road? do they not know that only I can be king of the road when I am in my CAR!

posted by eddie11 [103 posts]
14th September 2010 - 13:13


I wonder if I can hit these councillors with a bike, instead of trying to run over my local council estate kids

I go great with chips Tongue

posted by tommyketchup [89 posts]
14th September 2010 - 15:15


does anyone know what percentage of cars on the road are in Tax-band-A (ie. £0)? and how much money they cost the goverenment in terms of road costs, ie. how much is spent on roads each year mutliplied by the above percentage.

I reckon the figure will be higer than the amount they spend on cycle facilities. Might shut them up.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [467 posts]
14th September 2010 - 16:29


What should cyclists pay for with a road tax or fee? The wear and tear they inflict tot he road surface? Potholes? How many 20-odd pound bicycles cause potholes compared to 2-ton cars?!

With the roads taking a pounding from motorised vehicles, how can one even attempt to estimate the posited wear and tear supposedly inflicted by a 20-odd pound bicycle?

As to insurance this is idiocy; might as well suggest cyclists have to get operator's licenses. Cyclists have never been required to do either because only CAR DRIVERS have ever been required to get insurance or licenses. Why? This side of an express train they the most dangerous form of conveyance on the road. Seriously, how many drivers inside cars are hurt or killed by cyclists crashing into their cars every year?

thelonerider's picture

posted by thelonerider [10 posts]
19th September 2010 - 21:10

1 Like

Following on from this. Below is a message I have just circulated to members of the Sevenoaks Cycle Forum. If anyone looking at this web site would like to help us please respond as explained below.

Reg Oakley

Dear All,
I am sure most of you by now will have recieved the latest publicity magazine from KCC. If you haven't or have already disposed of it, you can see it here:- . On page 7 in the part on the week of a typical Kent family, it states:- "Debbie cycles to her parents' house everyday - KCC and the district councils promote cycling."

Sadly in the unique case of Sevenoaks District Council that statement is far from the truth. The truth is that SDC are stretching the definition of the phrase "democratic proccess" in order not to make any effort to promote cycling. The Sevenoaks Cycle Forum is considering how it can once again formally challenge this situation. In the meantime, you can all create an awareness of SDCs failings by comenting on the error in the KCC magazine.

Pen and paper will make the greatest impact and I include the mail adresses below. However an Email that doesn't contain a reference to cycling in the subject can start to get the message across.

Email to (Paul Carter KCC leader) with a cc to (Peter Fleming SDC leader).

Pen and paper responses to Paul Carter, Leaders Office, Sessions House,
Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1XQ.

and Cllr P. Fleming, Sevenoaks District Council, Argyle Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 1HG.

Thanking you in anticipation of your support,

Reg Oakley

Coordinator Sevenoaks Cycle Forum,
CTC Right to Ride Rep

posted by Reg Oakley [5 posts]
5th October 2010 - 14:39


Good job they're Councillors - we wouldn't want them in the real world. But the staggering thing is that Councillors with this little common sense are allowed to drive motor vehicles on public highways!!!

Bromley Biker

posted by Neil Philpott [11 posts]
15th October 2010 - 17:01


Hang on folks. i pay no VED for my current (hybrid) car so surely if this was passed it would have to be a rebate as i'm pretty certain my bike is more environmentally friendly than the car


FroGmOrton's picture

posted by FroGmOrton [1 posts]
11th November 2010 - 17:51


thelonerider wrote:
With the roads taking a pounding from motorised vehicles, how can one even attempt to estimate the posited wear and tear supposedly inflicted by a 20-odd pound bicycle?

The Cambridge Cycling Campaign published an article related to this question. A car does at least 10,000 times the damage a bicycle does, but likely a lot less (ie: almost none at all). Since damage done to the road surface is (roughly) proportional to the fourth power of the axle weight, each heavy goods vehicles and bus does the same amount of damage as 100 cars going over the same piece of road surface.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1448 posts]
11th November 2010 - 18:53