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 Bicycle Estimated Car Owners Tax Paid by Cyclists
Barking and Dagenham 1,084 900 £116,964
Barnet 2,473 2,053 £266,837
Bexley 1,295 1,075 £139,731
Brent 3,859 3,203 £416,386
Bromley 2,254 1,871 £243,207
Croydon 2,172 1,803 £234,359
Ealing 4,944 4,104 £533,458
Enfield 1,957 1,624 £211,160
Greenwich 2,738 2,273 £295,430
Harrow 901 748 £97,218
Havering 1,020 847 £110,058
Hillingdon 1,936 1,607 £208,894
Hounslow 4,160 3,453 £448,864
Kingston upon Thames 3,351 2,781 £361,573
Merton 3,524 2,925 £380,240
Redbridge 1,411 1,171 £152,247
Richmond upon Thames 6,062 5,031 £654,090
Sutton 2,066 1,715 £222,921
Waltham Forest 3,430 2,847 £370,097
Outer London 50,637 42,029 £5,463,732
Camden 7,072 5,870 £763,069
City of London 252 209 £27,191
Hackney 17,312 14,369 £1,867,965
Hammersmith and Fulham 7,420 6,159 £800,618
Haringey 6,142 5,098 £662,722
Islington 10,204 8,469 £1,101,012
Kensington and Chelsea 3,955 3,283 £426,745
Lambeth 13,455 11,168 £1,451,795
Lewisham 5,375 4,461 £579,963
Newham 2,239 1,858 £241,588
Southwark 10,898 9,045 £1,175,894
Tower Hamlets 8,112 6,733 £875,285
Wandsworth 13,267 11,012 £1,431,509
Westminster 5,365 4,453 £578,884
Inner London 111,068 92,186 £11,984,237
Total London 161,705 134,215 £17,447,970