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.Autocar
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.