Earlier today, the Bicycle Industry website, BikeBiz.com published an article following a series of tweets by Transport for London part-time board member, Brian Cooke.

They report on a number of tweets in which Mr Cooke demonstrates his hatred of cyclists, naivety and downright rudeness. Here’s an example of one of his tweets:

Cyclists as cyclists pay virtually nothing toward road funding
– Brian Cooke, Transport for London Board Member

Bicycle trapped under bus

Bicycle trapped under bus

The exchange of tweets started when @hounslowcycling published a tweet about a bus that had driven into a cyclist in Feltham, London.

The tweet was accompanied by an image which clearly showed a bicycle trapped underneath the bus.

Showing no regard for the welfare of the cyclist, Cooke respond to the tweet by saying: “more reasons for compulsory registration and insurance for all cyclists”.

Charming, especially considering local Councillors have previously called for the speed limit on this particular road to be a maximum of 20mph.

The Government led National Travel Survey published in July 2013 showed that 43% of the population owns, or has access to, a bicycle.

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the UK population at 64,105,700 which means that statistically, there are potentially 27.5 million bicycles in the UK. That’s a lot of bikes, and a lot of cyclists. We’re not a minority.

How Much ‘Road Tax’ Do Cyclists Pay?

The argument that cyclists pay no road tax is an old one, and one that is inaccurate, not least because road tax has not existed since the 1930s. Cyclists contribute a significant amount of money towards road maintenance and Brian Cooke is wrong to say that cyclists pay virtually nothing toward road funding.

A more accurate description of road tax, would be car tax, which is in fact Vehicle Excise Duty. VED is paid by car owners and is based on one of thirteen bands of CO2 emissions measured in g/km and range from ‘up to 100’ to ‘over 255’.

So if this is a tax on car owners, why are we saying cyclist are being misrepresented in this matter?

This comes down to a number of questions, which we will answer.

  1. How many cyclists own a car?
  2. How many cyclists are there?
  3. What is the average cost of ‘road tax’ in the UK?

How Many Cyclists Own a Car?

In May 2011, Dudley MP Ian Austin, asked the Secretary of State for Transport, what his estimate is of the proportion of cyclists that own cars. In a written response, Norman Baker replied:

Some 83% of the cyclists participating in the National Travel Survey in 2008 and 2009 were resident in a household with access to a car or van.

How Many Cyclists are There?

We’ve already seen that there are potentially over 27 million bicycles and therefore cyclist but this isn’t accurate enough for us to extrapolate so we need to look at this in a different way.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) official Census data from 2011 show the number of people who commute to work on a bicycle. Our Travel to Work by Bike Report covers this in more detail but as a total, there are 762,000 people who travel to work by bicycle (excludes motorbikes, scooters and mopeds).

What is the Average Cost of ‘Road Tax’ in the UK?

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the average new car CO2 emissions were 133.1 g/km in 2013 and 128.3 g/km in 2013. As not everyone drives a new car, a fair assumption is that the average car emits slightly more than this, which puts it into the 131-140 g/km Band E bracket for Vehicle Excise Duty. The 12 months rate, is £130.

How Much Do Cyclists Pay In Road Tax?

So, back to the question in hand. If there are 762,000 people who travel to work by bicycle, and 83% of them own a car, then 632,500 pay Vehicle Excise Duty.

At an average rate of £130 per car, this equates to an annual contribution to road maintenance of over £82m.

Cyclists contribute £82 million per annum to road maintenance

The actual amount is significantly higher as this does not include cyclists who own cars but do not commute to work on their bicycle, instead they are leisure cyclists.

How Much Do Cyclists Pay In Road Tax in London

Let’s get back to Brian Cooke, who you will recall is a board member of Transport for London.

Here are some facts for you Mr Cooke;

Over £17 million ‘Road Tax’ is paid by London Cyclists

‘Road Tax’ Paid by Cyclists in London by Borough

The following table shows the number of people who commute to work by bicycle (source: Census 2011), the estimated number of cyclist who own, or have access to, a car (see previous) and the estimated amount of ‘road tax’ paid by cyclists in London, by Borough.

Travel to Work by BicycleEstimated Car OwnersTax Paid by Cyclists
Barking and Dagenham1,084900£116,964
Kingston upon Thames3,3512,781£361,573
Richmond upon Thames6,0625,031£654,090
Waltham Forest3,4302,847£370,097
Outer London50,63742,029£5,463,732
City of London252209£27,191
Hammersmith and Fulham7,4206,159£800,618
Kensington and Chelsea3,9553,283£426,745
Tower Hamlets8,1126,733£875,285
Inner London111,06892,186£11,984,237
Total London161,705134,215£17,447,970