Jenny Jones takes a different approach instead of running through “road tax” rebuttals

Yesterday, a member of the Transport for London Board tweeted that "cyclists, as cyclists, paid nothing towards the cost of the roads." It was then inevitable that he would bring up the non-payment of ‘road tax’ by cyclists (abolished in the 1930s) and the ill thought through arguments about compulsory bike registration and insurance.

Rather than rehash the well-worn rebuttals about how much general taxation pays for roads, how many cyclists are also drivers and how many drivers are exempt from what the motorheads mistakenly still call ‘road tax’; I would like try a different approach.

Why don’t we focus on what cyclists don’t contribute to? Here's a few suggestions. I'm sure others can suggest many more.

1 – Congestion – a cyclist is someone not taking up a seat on a bus or tube or tram, nor in a car.

2 – Pollution – bikes at point of use are clean vehicles and don't emit poisonous fumes that spark off asthma attacks and strokes in people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions.

3 – Ill-health – bikes (apart from a relatively rare collision) don’t contribute to long term damage to the health of others and the premature death of over 7,000 Londoners per year.

4 – Damage to roads – they certainly don't wear out the roads like motorised traffic, such as HGVs.

5 – Hospitals/Doctors’ surgeries – cyclists are generally healthier than the rest of the population and ease the burden on the NHS.

Of course cyclists contribute in lots of positive ways, apart from paying taxes. For example they make our city a more pleasant place to live. The campaigns to make streets safer, reduce speeds and reduce traffic are all making things better for pedestrians too.

I wouldn’t deny the importance of arguments about who pays what taxes, but we shouldn’t forget how a switch to cycling inherently makes the lives of others a tiny bit better. Whether TfL Board members appointed by Boris Johnson can grasp that reality, is a different matter.

29 comments

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ChairRDRF [379 posts] 3 years ago
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Missed out on
* greenhouse gas emissions;
* space consumption by vehicle when parked (if parked of-road cars destroy green space which was gardens); * destruction of local community with neighbours separated from each other by cars and less likely to sue local amenities such as local shops when car users go to hypermarkets; *danger to other road users is far less;
* noise pollution;
* massive visual intrusion from parked cars.

...probably more...

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ChairRDRF [379 posts] 3 years ago
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er, I meant "use" local amenities.

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jimbo2112 [94 posts] 3 years ago
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How on earth does a TfL senior manager get to such a lofty position with such a poor understanding of transport?

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Must be Mad [646 posts] 3 years ago
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You could add 'Deaths'. In that cycling doesn't cause the massive death toll that cars cause. Cycling is inherently a safer mode of transport.

Also, just to make to point to the New Forest chaps - Cyclists don't run over and kill wildlife either.

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ianrobo [1215 posts] 3 years ago
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I would add by being a cyclist I am more productive for my employer, healthier, less days off sick, more active, think better etc

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Mr Agreeable [185 posts] 3 years ago
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If there was some magical way of making cars drive at 15 mph and weigh less than 100 kg, local planners and politicians would be all over it like a tramp on chips. So why are they so slow to wake up to the benefits of cycling?

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gazza_d [472 posts] 3 years ago
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Reminds me of one of my posts from back in 2013. 8 Reasons why Britain should be grateful to cyclists http://cyclingsouthtyne.blogspot.com/2013/10/8-reasons-to-be-grateful-to...

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samuri [73 posts] 3 years ago
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Cyclists don't contribute to the continued dominance and reliance of the motor vehicle. I'd be the first to admit that motor vehicles are necessary and I actually quite like cars and motoring but the dominance of the motor vehicle in the UK in particular is not a result of people not understanding how beneficial cycling is but a political and economic policy.

Don't forget how utterly powerful the motoring industry is. They have immense amounts of capital, huge amounts of political influence and are completely remorseless in pushing their agenda through to the decision makers. They argue about the thousands of jobs tied up in making motoring happen, about the lack of economical support they will provide should a government decide to pursue a more environmental and user friendly path. Suggesting that politicians and councilors can't see the obvious (about how beneficial cycling is) is a little naive. They make the decisions they make because they are being influenced from a whole series of different levels.

Yes, Mr Cooke is a buffoon, yes he's being allowed to spout rubbish in full public view, yes he's a member of a transport board. He's perfect for their needs. He's like Eric Pickles. Put an opinionated, expendable scapegoat up for the public to take offense with while the real damage is being done in the background.

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mrmo [2098 posts] 3 years ago
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jimbo2112 wrote:

How on earth does a TfL senior manager get to such a lofty position with such a poor understanding of transport?

Far too many jobs and positions in the UK are granted on the basis of who you know and not what you know.

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trekker12 [42 posts] 3 years ago
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Is this not stuff everybody already knows?

People won't get out of their cars because they don't want to cycle in the rain, the cold, the wind, along damaged potholed road (caused by their cars), it's considered to be slower and because cycling is perceived as dangerous when on the same front page as this article Road.cc are keeping a death toll (effectively).

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BrokenBootneck [258 posts] 3 years ago
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Ah but the best friend of my mothers, boyfriends, dogs cousin said that cyclists injure animals in the forest!  3

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Sniffer [522 posts] 3 years ago
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I'd add noise. Vehicle noise is omni-present for many places. So much so that you notice it by its absence.

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jamtartman [64 posts] 3 years ago
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I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

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kie7077 [944 posts] 3 years ago
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Hi Jenny, if the Green Party do get a voice during the national debates I would hope that they hammer home how bad the TTIP treaty is, A reminder:

Job loses like NAFTA:
TTIP will cost one million jobs: official | War on Want

Bad for Safety and Standards:
TTIP: US/EU trade talks need to raise, not lower, safety standards

A little-noticed environment committee report for the parliament last October found four areas which could be badly affected by the regulatory harmonisation needed for a TTIP deal: GMO’s, chemicals, poultry pathogen reduction treatments, and aviation greenhouse gas emissions.

It could wreak on environmental and social protections:
TTIP 'challenged' by environmental critics, EU says | EurActiv

It contains ACTA, a bad copyright law firmly rejected by the people of the EU, back again:
TTIP - a Christmas list from lobbyists

Written in secret, very undemocratic:
European Commission rejects citizens' right to be heard on TTIP.

'Investor-State Dispute Settlement' is an extremely bad part of the treaty but it shouldn't be focused on exclusively, the whole treaty is bad. Labour have said they would exclude ISDS but clearly that's not good enough.

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JonSP [73 posts] 3 years ago
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"I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist."

So what?
I've had the same experience.
I've also, probably more frequently, had the experience on my bike of having to wait behind queues of cars or otherwise be delayed by them.
Far more frequently when driving I experience congestion caused by cars.
Just try for a moment to imagine if those cyclists were in cars instead. That bit of road at that moment might move faster but overall congestion would be worse.

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jacknorell [1010 posts] 3 years ago
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jimbo2112 wrote:

How on earth does a TfL senior manager get to such a lofty position with such a poor understanding of transport?

Sinecure

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kitkat [495 posts] 3 years ago
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jamtartman wrote:

I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

Some decent road infrastructure which caters for all road users and not just those with combustion engines would help with that

Don't blame the cyclist, it's often the cyclist having to use something that has been poorly designed.

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Simon E [3407 posts] 3 years ago
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trekker12 wrote:

Is this not stuff everybody already knows?

People won't get out of their cars because they don't want to cycle in the rain, the cold, the wind, along damaged potholed road (caused by their cars), it's considered to be slower and because cycling is perceived as dangerous when on the same front page as this article Road.cc are keeping a death toll (effectively).

People will use their cars for short journeys, in good weather just as much as bad. Neighbours of mine will drive to the Co-Op, but you can walk there in the time it takes to drive. They don't do it because of potholes.

They will park as close to their destination or drop-off point as they can, regardless of whether it is legal or safe for others. Many will happily use the pavement, ignoring the difficulties this poses for pedestrians. It's all over twitter today as MPs are due to discuss it in Parliament.

80% of Copenhageners cycle all winter and their weather is probably worse than ours.

The widely held perception that cycling is dangerous is completely unrelated to the appearance of news on road.cc (most non-cyclists wouldn't even know it existed). It's often an unpleasant experience in this country because of the way many drivers behave but the risk of death or injury is very small.

Yes lots of us kow this already. We already know that the external costs of motoring are huge but lots of people don't want to talk about them.

We also know that reducing motorised traffic and increasing active travel can address many of the problems that blight our lives. So many people live in detrimental circumstances that they have grown accustomed to (such as traffic noise) or have accepted it as a trade-off for their own mobility.

jamtartman wrote:

I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

But you were in a queue beforehand and afterwards; I suspect you are confusing that with the presence of the cyclist. He/she probably didn't add to your journey time. In many built-up areas, if effective infrastructure was in place, the cyclist may pass you before the next junction / roundabout / set of traffic lights. If all the cyclists and peds used cars there would be complete gridlock so you should thank them for riding and walking and thereby shortening the queue in front of you.

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chunky-carbon-boy [1 post] 3 years ago
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Without getting to Political... :p

Governments role is to dream up legislation which they present to the omnipotent bankers as revenue to be allowed to use Bank Of England notes & coins (all borrowed (lol) at interest.
You often hear on the News when they refer to the 'deficit'.
This deficit is the difference between tax revenue collected and the minimum payment on the 'money' created by The Bank Of England.
The whole system is designed to keep us mere 'plebs' in servitude, under the illusion that money has some 'value' - which it does not! It has not been backed by anything for decades (Fiat money).

This is why we constantly hear about 'fines' for people drunk in A&E, this is why the UK has the most CCTV & Traffic cameras per citizen, why they now want to 'tax' cyclists, this is why the Media are constantly bashing the NHS (IT WILL BE PRIVATISED, MARK MY WORDS!)

The whole system is at the fulcrum & the next economic crash will make the Great Depression look like a weeks holiday in Provence.

At this rate I envisage I will soon have to ring 10 Downing Street just to get permission to take a sh1t in the morning, as long as I pay by credit card over the phone first :p

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A V Lowe [628 posts] 3 years ago
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Brian Cooke was summarily dismissed from his position as the Chair of London Travelwatch in 2008, the the Transport Committee of the GLA.

Does that same Committee not have some say in who is selected for the TfL Board, and require TfL Board to account for the actions taken in the name of the GLA at regular meetings?

I note that Mr Cooke is listed as receiving £24,000 as his annual payment for this part-time job but does at least have a 100% attendance record for his 6 full board meetings and other sub group meetings in the last year's annual report.

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mrmo [2098 posts] 3 years ago
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jamtartman wrote:

I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

And everytime they have races at Cheltenham Racecourse I get up by the car drivers blocking the roads with their tin boxes. Half of them are probably pissed as well!!!

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CycCoSi [30 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

They will park as close to their destination or drop-off point as they can, regardless of whether it is legal or safe for others

The one that amuses me is the game of "how close to the gym doors can I park?"

Can't be doing with this exercise thing when they're not paying for it  24

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gazza_d [472 posts] 3 years ago
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jamtartman wrote:

I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

I have used the bike most of the week, and every time have ended up stuck behind slow moving cars or queues of them waiting at junctions.

Virtually all with only one person in yet jamming an entire lane.

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matthewn5 [1228 posts] 3 years ago
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Every night when I ride home up Pitfield Street, and every morning on New North Road, I get held up by long lines of slow-moving cars. It's madness, I can go much faster on the bike than these idiots. None of that stops them desperately trying to overtake between traffic jams though... sigh.

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tao24 [77 posts] 3 years ago
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I'm not sure I agree with the comment about pollution causing or being associated with strokes. Please clarify this as otherwise it is simply misinformation, that makes an otherwise sensible article seem inaccurate.

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FluffyKittenofT... [2236 posts] 3 years ago
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tao24 wrote:

I'm not sure I agree with the comment about pollution causing or being associated with strokes. Please clarify this as otherwise it is simply misinformation, that makes an otherwise sensible article seem inaccurate.

Some studies have shown that. I recall a recent one that showed you were significantly more likely to have a heart attack in the hour or so after being exposed to traffic pollution. Others have shown diesel particulates in particular affect the heart (and the brain).

Heck, there have even been TfL ads on the back of buses asking motorists to turn off engines when idling, with precisely this in mind (they had a picture of a heart, as I recall).

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FluffyKittenofT... [2236 posts] 3 years ago
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gazza_d wrote:
jamtartman wrote:

I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

I have used the bike most of the week, and every time have ended up stuck behind slow moving cars or queues of them waiting at junctions.

Virtually all with only one person in yet jamming an entire lane.

I had the same experience on a bus today. Though what really jammed up the road were the entirely stationary parked cars blocking all but one narrow lane that was left for supposedly two-way traffic. Why are throughfares now used as storage areas?

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dazwan [323 posts] 3 years ago
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gazza_d wrote:
jamtartman wrote:

I have had to use the car a few times this week and several times have been stuck in queues of slow moving traffic behind a cyclist.  22

I have used the bike most of the week, and every time have ended up stuck behind slow moving cars or queues of them waiting at junctions.

Virtually all with only one person in yet jamming an entire lane.

I also cycled in most days this week and every day rolled past more than 2 miles of queues, caused by too many cars trying to squeeze into the city centre.

The day I chose to drive it took me twice as long to get to work (I arrived 30 mins late due to traffic) and I immediately regretted it as soon as I got on the Motorway.

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Paul_C [578 posts] 3 years ago
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he was sacked from his previous job for having helped Boris's campaign to be re-elected... he was supposedly in a neutral job not allowed to be pro any party line...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7431766.stm

Boris subsequently appointed him to the board of TfL...

https://www.london.gov.uk/media/mayor-press-releases/2012/11/mayor-annou...