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Scots say no to "road tax" for cyclists

Calls for safer cycling environment, better facilities and inclusion in planning process

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 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.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Kevin Steinhardt | 14 years ago

Good on the Scots; it's not a hugely great idea to tax something you want people to start using more.

skippy | 14 years ago

Are the poli's considering putting no plates on bikes as well.
next they will tax you if your wheels aren't square!

the best that can happen is that the poli's put road safety lessons on the curriculum so that the children grow up to be conscientious drivers with a better attitude towards cyclists. whilst these lessons are being held at least one parent should be in attendence and get a tax rebate to defray some of their expenses and lost income!parents want the best for their children so this should not be too hard for them to consider.

follow and visit maybe you will enjoy the experience

stuke | 14 years ago

since 2001 haven't vehicles been taxed on their emissions anyway so therefore bikes would be free - thats what i explain to the muppets that use the 'you don't pay tax' routine.  1

LondonCalling | 14 years ago

Two things: 1) I thought "road tax" didn't exist anymore, that it was abolished a looooong time ago and replaced with Vehicle Excise Duty or something like that, and 2) why can't people just live and let live?????? Does anybody believe that if we start paying "taxes to use the road", the tax that drivers pay for their cars will be reduced? I don't.

I hope this puts an end to this nonsense!

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

A victory for common sense.

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