Spring is here and whether the better weather is bringing out more cyclists, or coincidences of the first reading of some new cycling laws, more cyclist fatalities, and the continued bumbling of TFL in terms of cycle super-highways and junction redesigns, there has been a lot of published vitriol at cyclists in the last few weeks. The usual entitled motorists arguments over Road Tax (misnomer for Vehicle Excise Duty), insurance, helmets and laws (And the highway code), there is actually a lot of ignorance about what is and isn’t acceptable on bicycles if comment pieces and reader comments are to go by as well as a huge focus on “bad” cyclists. Inverted commas because while some riders are objectively bad, many appear to be decried as such due to just being on the roads and being perceived as breaking rules or etiquette which they are not.
The thing that annoys me as much as the Road Tax/VED argument is that if cyclists were obliged to have a tax disc, it would be zero rated… So is a mute point, and the costs of administration make it a stupid thing to want. Anyway, cyclists pay for road maintenance through general taxation and council tax, so they are taxed appropriately. There is a long list of VED exempt vehicles, from agricultural related, to royalty to electric cars, which reminded me that the government is all about encouraging lower carbon travel!
In this year of austerity those buying electric cars get a grant of £5000, because electric cars are better than petrol cars. Only one year of funding for about 8600 cars has been pledged and it will be reviewed in the next year. But still, £43m is quite a sum. There are cheap bikes, and there are expensive bikes, if one were so inclined to try and introduce mass cycling, one might think about giving grants on bikes, assuming a £400 price tag (more than I would pay to be honest) that’s an an increase of cyclists by over 100 thousand, if the government were to part subsidise to the tune of half, 215 thousand cyclists. Anyway, yes hypothetical and all that, but £43m could be used to encourage a lower carbon and cycling culture with much more dramatic effects than the subsidisation of less than a very modest number of electric cars. If the powers that be were genuinely passionate about either lower carbon futures, sustainability or improving the conditions and congestion of our roads they should maybe look at funding more bikes.