A motorist who began a petition calling on cyclists to be licensed and insured and pay ‘Road Tax’ has rewritten the text of it after inaccuracies were pointed out to him including that the term hasn’t existed since the 1930s, as well as other errors.
Many also highlighted that even if cyclists were subject to Vehicle Excise Duty VED), they would be zero-rated just as the least polluting motor vehicles are, and would therefore have to pay nothing.
Posted by Owen McDermott to the website Change.org two months ago it is addressed to Prime Minister Theresa May and, for some reason, her predecessor, David Cameron, whom she replaced in July, and who is no longer a Member of Parliament.
The original title was “Cyclists to hold insurance and pay road tax to use public UK roads,” but those words in bold have since been removed and the text of the petition amended to delete any reference to “road tax.”
That, as cycling journalist and author Carlton Reid points out on his iPayRoadTax website, was abolished in 1937, since when road building and maintenance has been funded from general taxation.
While reforms due to take effect in 2017 of the VED regime that were announced last year by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne are due to see money raised ring-fenced to be spend on roads, if subject to VED cyclists would still pay as much as the least polluting cars – nothing.
The petition stood at 6,000 signatures at 11pm yesterday evening but now has more than 23,000, although some signed it because they wanted to point out the errors in it.
Indeed, the most popular comment – with more than 1,000 ‘likes’ at the time of writing – was made yesterday by Martin Golder, who wrote:
I am signing because I want to see this fail miserably. The creator of this petition has no clue about how the system works at all.
Road Tax does not exist! Nobody pays Road Tax. You pay an amount based on the emissions of your vehicle, so, go ahead and push you hilarious petition, as if it 'succeeded', cyclists would still be allowed to ride on the roads and also have to pay £0 in imaginary 'road tax'.
Curiously, the motivation behind the petition being launched is the road safety campaign launched by West Midlands Police in September when the force said that motorists not giving cyclists a safe passing distance – at least 1.5 metres – face prosecution, with a link on the petition’s page to an ITV report on the initiative.
It’s not just that reference to “road tax” that has been excised, either – some of the more inflammatory language that appeared in the petition when we first saw it yesterday has also been removed, such as a reference to cyclists and “their chosen 2 wheeled non mechanical death trap,” highlighted in a counter-petition posted yesterday.
McDermott’s petition is now focused on calling for cyclists to be required to have public liability insurance – many of course do, whether through membership of organisations such as British Cycling or Cycling UK, or via their household insurance – as well as calling for compulsory training, although research consistently shows that adult cyclists are more likely than the average population to hold a driving licence.
While the language of the petition has been watered down since yesterday, it’s still clear that McDermott believes cyclists shouldn’t be on the road in the first place. Here is the text as it stood at 5pm on Tuesday 15 November.
The public roads used by motor vehicles are becoming unsafe to use due to one particular community that feel they are eligible to cycle on public UK roads.
A recent video created by the West Midlands police has lead me to creating this petition:
[The petition has a link to this ITV report on Facebook]
Just like having to sit your theory and your practical test to obtain a driving license, Cyclists should have to do the same. What training have they had to use the road safely?
Insurance, if a cyclist throws him/herself into the back of a stationary motor vehicle... Who's to blame? Not the cyclist... The driver of the motor vehicle would have to pay their own excess to repair the damages.
Im not sure on the percentage of how many cyclists die every year due to cycling on the road but if you stick them back on the path in a cycle lane I'm sure a lot more people will survive.
Since the petition is hosted on the website Change.org, unlike ones posted to the UK Government and Parliament website there is no requirement on the Government to respond now it has passed 10,000 signatures, nor would it be considered for debate by the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee should it pass 100,000.
However, in response to a Parliamentary question in June this year, Transport Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon was clear on where the Government stood on the issue of insurance.
“We have no plans to make insurance compulsory for cyclists,” he said. “We encourage all cyclists to take out some form of insurance. In fact, many cyclists do through membership of cycling organisations, such as Cycling UK.”
Last year, he responded to a question asking whether cyclists should have to undergo a test and be licenced by saying: “We consider that the costs of a formal testing and licensing system for cyclists would significantly outweigh the benefits cycling has to the country’s economy, health and environment … It is likely that a licensing system will discourage many existing and potential cyclists, leading to a dramatic fall in the numbers of people cycling.”
The minister added: Around 80 per cent of adult cyclists also hold driving licenses, meaning that the majority of cyclists on the road have already been tested on operating safely in different road and traffic conditions.
"Furthermore, the safety case for a testing/licensing system is not as strong as that for drivers since, by contrast with motorised vehicles, bicycles involved in collisions on the highway are highly unlikely to cause serious injury to other road users.”
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.