Monday, 25 February 2013

Cycle insurance and licensing

There are a few proponents of mandatory insurance and tax for cyclists. This is more often than not a vaguely disguised attack on cycling in general. Largely it comes from people hostile to cycling who want to compare cyclists to other road users in an unfavourable way.


It is a legal requirement to have insurance for a motorised vehicle on the public highway [Section 143(1)(a) RTA 1988 as amended 1991]. This law was brought about to protect against liabilities to third parties in the event of an accident. Under UK law if you damage somebody else's property you are legally liable to pay for the damage caused. This is a general rule and is not specific to motor vehicles or the Road Traffic Act. You can do a lot of damage with a car and the insurance is there to protect the interests of other people, should you cause damage that you are unable to afford to pay for.

Everyone is bound by the same law regarding third party liability, whether they are driving a car, riding a bicycle or walking down the street. If you damage somebody else's property you are legally obliged to pay for the damage. When we look at bicycles we have to consider what their potential for damage is. Clearly it is much less than a motor vehicle. Is their potential for damage so great that they must be forced to take out insurance against such damage? Almost certainly not.

Argument: Cyclists should have insurance to make them pay for any damage they cause, just like other road users.
Rebuttal: Cyclists, just like everyone else, are liable for any damage they cause under current law. If a cyclist damages your property the legal situation is no different whether they have insurance or not.

This is why you need insurance to drive a car. Once can't imagine a bicycle doing quite so much damage.


A very hot topic. Road Tax (or more correctly Vehicle Exise Duty or VED) must be paid to obtain a Tax Disc (or more correctly Vehicle Licence), which must be displayed on the vehicle. The current system of charges is based on pollution levels, specifically carbon dioxide emissions. The more polluting the vehicle the higher the charge.

Motor vehicles with low emissions (less than 100g CO2/km) are exempt from the charge but must still obtain a Vehicle Licence. As cycles have by definition zero CO2 emissions then there seems little point in arguing for mandatory tax where there isn't anything to pay.

At this point you should go and have a good look at which contains a lot of well researched information on the subject.

Argument: Cyclists should pay for using the roads, just like cars.
Rebuttal: Bicycles already pay the same amount as a car with the same emissions; zero.

Argument: Cyclists should pay because they use the roads and should share the cost of maintenance.
Rebuttal: Roads are paid for out of general taxation, not VED. The government gets most of its tax receipts from income tax (30%), national insurance (19%) and VAT (17%)*. In fact studies show that cyclists are generally higher earners and therefore contribute more tax, meaning that cyclists already pay more towards roads that motor vehicle drivers.

Argument: Because motorists pay to use the road they should have more rights
Rebuttal: There are no privileges in the UK for paying tax. Paying tax is a duty and nobody is afforded any additional rights for any tax paid. Think about this next time you want to see your doctor, should the person who comes in after you see the doctor before you because he's a high rate tax payer? No. Paying income tax gives you no more rights to the NHS than anyone else just like paying tax for your car gives you no more right than anyone else.

In Summary

Next time you hear someone arguing for cyclists to be treated the same way as other vehicles simply ask the question "Why?". You might get a puzzled look because such claims are made as an attack without any  consideration, and are impossible to back up with reasoned argument.

Monday, 11 February 2013

RideLondon 100

Last year I entered the RideLondon 100 event, a new cycling event which is a 100 mile ride on closed roads in London and Surrey taking in much of the 2012 Olympic road race route. The ride was massively over subscribed with over 50,000 people entering for 20,000 places. I suspect that the actual number of public places is a fair bit lower once the sponsors, VIPs and charity places are taken into account.

There was a ballot for the places and unfortunately I didn't in. There are still loads of charity places open, but I don't have the time or wealthy friends needed to raise approx £500, which is the minimum mandatory amount needed. I knew the odds were against me but I'm still devastated. This promises to be a really, really epic event. Its being organised and run like the London Marathon, with closed roads and TV coverage. In fact its being organised by the same people who organise the London Marathon, as well as the people that organise the Tour Of Britain. A promising set up.

To commiserate myself I've just entered the Wiggle Super Series Spring New Forest Sportive. Quite a mouthful but it promises to be a good ride. I've visited the New Forest several times for camping and hiking, but I've never cycled the area. At least now I've got something to look forward to.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Back in the saddle

I spent quite a lot of last week looking out of the window in the office, noting how the daylight hours are creeping back. Over the weekend I decided that it was definitely time to start cycling to work again, so long as the weather wasn't too miserable.

This morning the weather played along and I'm happy to say I'm back in the saddle!

I haven't ridden the road bike for a while, all my recent outings have been on the shopper which isn't built for speed! Getting back on the road bike felt a bit strange, I guess like getting into a racing car after driving a bus. It felt super light and responsive, and the riding position felt very aggressive - bum high in the air and arms outstretched! A little pressure on the pedals and it was as eager to go as I was. About 10 minutes later I realised how out of shape I was and slowed down to a more manageable speed.

It felt good to be my own master again, no more trains to depend on! At the same time I'm reminded about the trade off, which is dealing with the generally low quality of driving the Berkshire seems to suffer from.

Two incidents this morning. Firstly a woman in a 4x4 decided to overtake on a left bend and then cut the corner, unfortunately for me she cut the corner at the same time as overtaking, causing me to swerve violently to avoid the back of her Toyota as she cut past. She got stuck in traffic shortly after and I realised that she was on the phone perhaps explaining her idiotic driving. Its fairly common for drivers to cut this particular corner and I remembered that I usually cycle in the primary position around it. A few months out of the saddle and I'd forgotten.

Here's the location in Google Streetview;
View Larger Map

The second incident was in Reading. Again it was a vehicle (this time a black taxi) overtaking and cutting in, again forcing me to swerve to avoid its rear end.

View Larger Map

I was stopped at the lights and the taxi was behind me. You can see the two lanes at the lights, I was waiting at these lights in the primary position. After the lights the road has four narrow lanes (I use the leftmost lane). The lanes are only just wide enough for a car so I always ride the primary position to encourage overtaking vehicles to use their own lane and not try and squeeze past. When the lights changed the taxi immediately overtook and pulled back into the left hand lane, but hadn't quite cleared me before pulling in. Luckily as I was riding the primary position I have lots of room to me left, and have to swerve hard to avoid the back of the taxi as it cut in.

I guess I'll have to get used to the idiots again. I'll try our some of my other routes, I have to admit that the route I took this morning does seem to have the highest number of bad driving incidents and was the route I took the least last year. It is however the shortest and fastest route.