Motorists pay for roads. Cyclists don’t.

We often hear this refrain from the ‘road lobby’ – people who think they are entitled to drive on all roads, come what may. So before considering what is behind this meme, let’s check its accuracy.

Road building and maintenance is actually paid for by tax payers whether they own a car, own a bicycle and even if they do not own a car. Autocar explains that motorists have to pay:

Vehicle Excise Duty, known as VED, is a tax levied by the government on every vehicle on UK public roads and is collected by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). … The VED system based on vehicle emissions was introduced in 2001 as part of a push to reduce pollutants being released into the atmosphere.


So cars that pollute a lot pay more VED and electric cars pay nothing. It may be uncharitable to ask how much more damage to road surfaces is caused by a 2,000kg electric car compared to a 10kg bicycle.

Now all of this is well known, so what is the purpose of this meme? First of all it is an attempt to take the humanity out of people and divide them into motorists (good) and cyclists (bad). This might explain some of the aggressive behaviour cyclists have to regularly endure. Essentially it tries to give a sense of entitlement to those that allegedly pay. And as there are a lot of angry people stuck in congestion, breathing their own pollution, cyclists (above all lycra-wearing ones) become an easy target.

This misinformed opinion gets some mileage amongst the few people who cannot separate their identity from their car, but obviously gets nowhere with the majority of people who own a car and a bicycle.

Cyclists jump red lights

Another meme that gets some people really riled. These people never get so exercised about the number of cyclists killed by motor vehicles.

It would be stupid to deny that some cyclists jump red lights. Just as it would be stupid to deny that most motorists break the law (the majority exceeded the speed limit recorded on the Auckland Road speed camera).

Without defending cyclists who jump red lights, we have to ask who is most likely to come off worst in any subsequent collision. This is why the government is updating the Highway Code to make an explicit road user hierarchy, with vulnerable road users at the top.

One can though understand a motorist’s frustration seeing cyclists travelling twice as fast as their car, having paid only a fraction for their chosen mode of transport and clearly enjoying it and getting fit as well.

Thanks to Curbed: How to end traffic

2 thoughts on “Motorists pay for roads. Cyclists don’t.

  1. It’s become a debate about the rights of motorists and cyclist and why people who don’t live on said closed roads have a right to appeal not about safer roads and cleaner air for all in our community.

    I was involved in conversations and walk rounds with council about the school street in Cypress Road and the awful danger of children crossing amd walking to school in Auckland Road
    I did not live in those places but used them as my little man a went to Cypress.

    Hooray school street happened and traffic limiting proposals were offererd such as better crossings, moving bus stops, removing round about,better speed bumps to name a few brilliant but costly.
    Never road closer cheaper alternative.

    So what has happened in due course transfer of traffic to other roads, congestion on other roads, pollution increased on other roads, denials this is happening.

    My walk to school is worse than it was prior to this.
    My road and others are jammed with traffic at peak hours that we use to walk to school you are dodging cars that are in a rush, the pollution is terrible does this sound familiar to those complaints about Cypress and Auckland to any one.

    This is happening in a lot of roads as drivers find alternative rat runs.

    What the debate
    surely should be about ia not cars verses cyclist.

    Its about lack real planning of inactment of said proposals.

    No disscusion with all in the community about and their point of views on the scheme not just the privlaged few.

    No investigation on how it impacts other roads and what problem this may cause and proposals of how they can solve this.

    This is a plan for all its a plan to make all our lives better its a plan to make all or lives safer and cleaner not the privlaged few.
    I have fought and protested and argued with the council to make this happen for us all and I’m very happy with the coomunities hard work to get school streets implemented and I’m very happy to have safer streets but for all the community.

    I finish with a quote that wich imbodies how I feel as a descluded member of our community who’s voice is discounted as I don’t live on those roads and have a cheek to complain,from animal farm.

    All animal are equal but some animals are more equal than others.


    1. Many thanks for joining in the debate Tibor. Your contribution brings to the fore issues that we need to address.

      For the supporters of the LTN, the debate is most decidedly not cars vs cycles. It is people-friendly streets vs unfettered use of cars.

      We acknowledge that rat-run traffic will find other neighbourhoods to blight when it gets prevented from travelling within any LTN. But the answer is not scrap the LTN, but introduce more LTNs to protect these communities. The government is just starting the second tranche of its funding for active travel and it is likely the allocation to London will be four times the amount issued for schemes such as our local LTN. The emphasis will be on long term projects. So we should be encouraging Croydon Council to bid for these funds so that your issues of pollution and congestion are addressed.

      There is no way a solution can be found without reducing our use of motor vehicles to the levels found on the continent. The easiest target is the 49% of journeys of under 3km. The council has been planning this for some time and published its Transport Vision for Croydon in 2015.

      This website has been one platform where the community discusses all the issues that the LTN raises; from climate change, to health, death caused by motor vehicles…

      In the final analysis we all get to take part in the survey.

      We don’t like privilege too. LTNs for the many not the few! We will certainly support anyone calling for LTNs in their area and make this website available as a campaigning tool.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: