Road twits

There is a case ongoing on Norwich of a young lady (Emma Way) who ran over a cyclists, then boasted about it on twitter (the twit! :no:) apparently trying to claim it was the cyclists fault because:

“I have right of way, he doesn’t even pay road tax”

Naturally this has been brought to the attention of both Norwich Police, who have since twitted back (nicked via Twitter, what is this world coming too!) that she should come see them as she is now under investigation for leaving the scene of an accident, dangerous driving…and texting while driving (she sent a photograph taken while driving a few weeks ago too!). And indeed her employer has also been contacted (I think she can rule out that big promotion!). A cyclist has since come forward, and while it seems he wasn’t badly injured, naturally he was a bit shook up by the whole thing.

I have noticed this attitude gradually creeping in across the UK among some motorists who seem to think that because cyclists “don’t pay road tax” you’re entitled to break the rules of the road and basically behave like a complete twat…if that’s the case I’m going driving around London with a sticker on the back of my car saying “I don’t brake for Non-dom’s tax dodgers” and enforce it ;D

And I’ve seen plenty of such antics from motorists where they seem to assume that someone on a bike has less rights than they do, e.g. I once nearly got run down by some woman who was turning off a side street (onto a main road) and decided that the white line and stop sign didn’t apply to her, when she was forced to brake as she realised I wasn’t going to stop (I sort assumed she was going to obey the rules of the road, silly me!), she then beeped me for getting in her way! And that’s just one of many examples (same thing happens all the time when I’m walking across a road, even at pedestrian crossings). If you cycle regularly in the UK for example you often become accustomed to the sound of a taxi’s engine behind you, as that usually means trouble. I’ve actually stopped cycling to work recently as it’s just too dangerous on UK roads, largely because they are not the least cycle friendly and motorists are just too rude and incompetent.

Now before anyone starts with the “I saw a cyclists who broke the lights/on the pavement/thro a zebra crossing” yes and I suppose car drivers are perfect and never break the rules of the road! There are as many bad drivers as bad cyclists, probably more in fact. Indeed as both a cyclists and a motorists, I find that when cyclists do this they are often cycling defensively (i.e. they’re trying to avoid being killed by some idiot motorists whose not looking where he’s going).

And perhaps motorists need to remember that intimidating cyclists off the road is not in their long term interest. As inevitably it will just mean more people driving to work instead, hence the queue at rush hour grows ever larger and taxes go up to pay for road improvements.

No road tax? Neither do drivers!
Indeed while were talking about it, not only do cyclists not pay road tax but neither do car drivers either! Instead there is Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) which is charged to certain vehicles based on engine size. Not all vehicles pay it, electric cars, farm machinery, police, cars, army, vehicles built before 1973 and the Queen (another foreign tax dodger!) are all exempt from VED. I presume said aggressive motorists are going to try and ram cops, farmers, the queen, army and milk floats off the road too?

And of course, lest we forget some cyclists (such as me) also drive and thus also pay VED. Does that mean I can expect a written apology from every taxi driver or bus who’s ever cut me up?

There are of course several major taxes on motorists, VED is one, petrol duty being another, but the question is do these raise enough in revenue to counter the costs associated with running the UK’s highway network? The Clarkson brigade would say that they are being fleeced, but the environmentalists would argue that once you factor in the costs of building (important given that money would likely have been borrowed and were still pay the interest on it via part of the national debt) and maintain roads, plus the costs of fire, police (what do you think we invaded Iraq for?), etc. the truth is that its car drivers who are the worthless scroungers, not cyclists (at least those cyclists who pay income tax!).

The need for a road budget
Again, part of the problem here is that there is no set “road budget” like there is for say, the NHS. Instead the funding of roads has always been this ad-hoc arrangement whereby government doles out cash on road building projects via various local, national and even EU budget headings. Then, usually in economic hard times, the government suddenly realises that roads cost money and it needs to squeeze motorists for some cash and the state invents some arbitrary tax to slap on motorists that may (or may not) take in sufficient cash to cover the relevant costs, or might (or might not) over charge motorists.

And this is still going on. I’ve pointed out for example, how the Highway’s agency is now starting to charge for various costs associated with police time and road repair in the event of accidents (whether the accident was the victim’s fault or otherwise). Inevitably this will sneak into people’s pockets in the form of higher insurance costs, so it’s a stealth tax on motorists. And with plans by the Tories to privatise motorways expect more of the same in future.

To me the solution is simple, set up a properly audited road budget that will give the true costs of motoring and allow government to make informed decisions about how much it plans to spend on roads and how we’re going to charge people for it.

….and road pricing
And the way I would favour charging would be to abolish VED and petrol tax and replace it with road pricing, where everyone is charged (based on vehicle size and CO2 emissions) a fixed price per mile. This would be not only fairer but also set a clear link between what one pays to use the roads and what it actually costs.

Of course the opposition of the roads lobby to such a process does tend to suggest that secretly they agree with the environmentalists and think we’re undercharging!

But going back on topic, clearly many motorists need to learn the rules of the road, the “I pay my taxes and therefore can drive like a cu&t” argument doesn’t stand up, either morally nor (as Emma Way is I suspect about to find out) in a court!


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