Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Half Man Half Lefty

Most bicycle blog followers would know that England is making some baby steps towards a more balanced transport policy. Whether it can be classified as progress depends on where you are and how you define progress. Regardless, there are some promising things happening. One is the experiments with Dutch road designs, especially roundabouts. The Guardian reported on it recently.

It led, as these things do, to a flurry of comments. One of my favourites is from "camerasouth"

Yes, all this if fine IF you can cycle, but not everyone can, especially many elderly and disabled people who have to use cars (and mobility scooters etc). Additionally, motorists are paying more and more for less and less road use yet cyclists are paying absolutely nothing towards all of the benefits and priorities that they are and are likely to get as a result of research like this. It's no use them claiming that they pay in their rates because many do not pay rates (children etc.) and there may be many cyclists in just one rate paying household. Besides, motorists also pay rates on top of all the other motoring expenses.

I agree that anything to make cycling more acceptable and safer is a good thing but I also think that it is time that cyclists started to share some of the cost of all these initiatives and appreciated that, as road users, they also have an important responsibility to act sensibly and safely and keep their machines in good order. Maybe a compulsory cycle MOT and registration number, financed by the cyclist would assist here and also provide some new jobs for the testers etc!

It has all the old favourites: "not everyone can cycle", "only motorists pay", "cyclists get all the benefits and pay nothing", etc.

And "children don't pay".


These comments are a dime a dozen on any news article that mentions bicycle riders, especially if the article has the audacity to suggest that space or money could be used differently.

It is great when soon afterwards you read a short punchy response that deals with those sorts of answers succinctly and lucidly. For that we have Half Man Half Lefty to thank:

Firstly, you seem to be under the mistaken belief that you get something in return for tax. You don't, you just pay it and that's the end. That is why it is called tax and not a subscription or a service charge or a licence fee or a membership. What do you think you are entitled to in return for the VAT you pay, for income tax, for insurance tax, for alchol duty? We all pay tax you know, not just when we get in a car and none of us get anything back for it. Do you think perhaps that public services should only be available on presentation on a tax return which shows how much tax we have paid so perhaps you have heart attack and the paramedics tell you that they only use the defibrillator on people in the higher rate income tax band? or do you think we should all pay in to a big pot based roughly on what we can afford, so more or less the system we have now then?

Secondly, I am not sure how you are getting less road use. As far as I know roads are still being built but none are being dug up so surely you are getting more roads to use, not less

Thirdly, households haven't paid rates for many years. They pay council tax. Also, are you seriously suggesting children should be taxed as because they have a bike but it is only their parents who pay council tax, not them? presumably you'd need some kind of legal sanction for tax evading six year olds but I'm not sure a stretch in dartmoor is really appropiate so you'd need to come up with something new on that

Fourthly, I don't think the funds dedicated to a bunch of boffins in a field in Berkshire quite compares yet to the funds lavished on roads for motor vehicles. My local trunk road is to have an extra lane added for around 12 miles at a cost of £300 million. Perhaps you could find out how long it would take before the spending on cycling in the entire country would take to reach £300 million. Another local town of a few thousand popupulation is getting a £42 million bypass to take a moderatly busy non trunk road around a market town of a less than 5,000 people, so perhaps add that on as well. Perhaps to give a southern perspective, look up how much the Hindhead Tunnel cost and whether cyclists are allowed to use it. I'll give you clue: £155,000 per metre and no, they're not. Can you point me to a bike lane which cost £150 grand a yard?

Fifthly, perhaps of car drivers stopped killing cyclists then the cost of all these improvements, coming out of your own pocket apparently, could be avoided. Motor vehicles kill over 100 cyclists a year, cyclists do not kill any motorists. Bit of unfair fight wouldn't you say, and bit mean minded to begrudge spending any money trying to reduce that number wouldn't you say?

Sixthly, a tax on bikes which you propose would be £zero as it is for around 2 million low emmison motor vehicles so it would be a net cost to the system, not a revenue raiser. Also, would you make everyone on a bike get one of these £zero bike tax discs, even a kid doing his paper round? where would you attach a tax disc on a bike and what duties would you have the traffic police give up in order to stop people on bikes and check their free issue tax disc? bikes don't go on motorways so those ANPR vans wouldn't be much use

Seventhly, when we see an end to the carnage inflicted on the community by motor vehicles; pile ups, drunk driving, hit and runs, staging accidents to make fraudulent insurance claims, killing 400 pedestrians a year, 50 of them on the foot path, pumping pollution into the air, parking on footpaths, killing each other in fights over parking spaces then perhaps you can tell cyclists they should be sensible and safe but until ten an indignant motorist telling bike riders to act safely is unlikely to be taken very seriously don't you think?

Wish I could write like that.


  1. I think that guy has a point. Those freeloading little tykes aren't paying their way so no services for them.
    The Women's and Children's Hospital should become The Women's Hospital. Since there are now no non tax paying children allowed in the other hospitals the women can go there instead. We can demolish the Women's and Children's and build a new carpark with free parking for the hard done by motorists.
    Think of how much less tax the long suffering motorist would have to pay if they weren't paying for an education system that is, incredibly, free to non tax paying children. If they want an education let them get a job and a car like a normal person and pay taxes first I say.

    1. Quite right. A sensible policy for a happier Australia. You're not running for Parliament and this year's Federal election by any chance are you?

    2. I've just been ploughing through the SA Senate ticket to sort out my below the line vote. I think that's as close as I want to get to being in politics.
      Although, I would accept the position of Benevolent Dictator. By the time the guests get home from my swearing in ceremony they will have heard that fuel is no longer available for private cars, all coal mines have been closed and ships being loaded with coal in ports were now being unloaded and the coal returned to the mine it came from.
      I haven't planned my second day yet.