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A road tax for cyclists? On your bike

Scotsman.com News: A road tax for cyclists? On your bike

Published Date: 12 January 2010
By Jenny Fyall

IT WAS an idea that really got cyclists in a spin when it was first suggested by the Scottish Government.
Now the true strength of feeling about the idea of bringing in a road tax for cyclists has become clear.

Seven out of ten people who responded to a Scottish Government consultation were opposed to the idea of a road tax for cyclists, and just 2 per cent were in favour.

The idea of taxing bike users was contained in a consultation into how to take forward a Cycling Action Plan for Scotland.

It asked: "Should all road users pay road tax? If so, how much should it be for cyclists and how could it be enforced?"

Out of 258 individuals and groups that responded, 178 disagreed with the idea, according to a report into the consultation results. Only six thought it was a good proposal, 57 had no view, and 17 said they may agree with the idea.

The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland will aim to boost the number of journeys taken by bike so that 10 per cent of all trips are made on two wheels by 2020.

Cycling groups argued taxing bicycle users would go completely against that aim.

Respondents said cyclists should not face the same taxes as cars because they do not pollute the air or damage the roads, and already contributed to the roads budget through general taxation.

"The idea of all users paying tax was also criticised on the basis that its premise meant pedestrians and child cyclists would also have to pay," said a report into the consultation responses by Dynesh Vijayaraghavan from the Sustainable Transport Team at the Scottish Government.

Some even felt cyclists should be given tax rebates on the basis that they were contributing in a good way to society.

The report added that "a very small minority of views suggested a tax would be acceptable if the money was hypothecated for cycling improvements".

Transform Scotland, in its response, said bringing in road tax would be "an effective way of deterring cycling – and would act against the Government’s ambitions for growth in … cycling".

The group added that it would be "deeply impractical".

Instead those responding wanted stricter penalties for drivers who broke speed limits, parked in cycle lanes and ignored advanced stop lines.

"Both these violations and the laxness in enforcing against them were seen by some to reflect a culture where the cyclist was unimportant, which had to change," the report added.

Many respondents believed Scotland should adopt laws used elsewhere in Europe that put liability on drivers to prove they were not at fault for a crash involving a bike.

And they said there needed to be more driver education. There was strong support for including a cycling module in the driving test.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Scottish ministers have no plans to charge cyclists for using the roads in Scotland."