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.

1 comment: