A battle for road space is underway in Glasgow. In the last year, many roads have been changing as the space allocated to different ways of transport. 

The increase in cycling over lockdown has corresponded with an increase in cycle lanes across Glasgow.

The increase in cycle lanes has corresponded with an increase in the volume of people who are against having cycle lanes.

Petitions have been started to have recently installed cycle lanes ripped out and the road put back the way it was.

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Some of the arguments include that it is leading to an increase in congestion and pollution and that it is putting safety at risk at some locations.

Cyclists causing congestion? Cyclists causing pollution? Cyclists making roads more dangerous?

It has also led to the repeating of the argument that cyclists should pay ‘road tax’. And that because cyclists don’t pay ‘road tax’ there should not be public money spend on accommodating cyclists more safely on the roads.

There is however one very good reason why cyclists don’t pay road tax.

Glasgow Times:

And it is, of course, that it does not exist. There is no such think as road tax. There hasn't been such thing as road tax for decades.

Car drivers, of which a large number of cyclists are too, also do not pay road tax. For the same reason, that it does not exist.

Car owners, pay Vehicle Excise Duty and it is based on the emissions rating of the car. Nothing to do with how much of the road you use when you drive on it and nothing to do with how many miles you drive or what roads you drive on.

For cars registered before 2017 here are 13 bands of Vehicle Excise Duty and if your car is in the lowest band, the ones where the emissions are zero then the amount of Vehicle Excise Duty you pay is zero pounds.

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Newer cars pay a flat rate of £140 a year.

The list of zero VED cars includes many popular cars like some Nissan Qashqais, Vauxhall Astras, VW Golfs and Citroen Picassos and it also includes the growing number of electric cars.

So going on the anti-cycling lobby argument that if you don’t pay for the roads, you shouldn’t be on them, these cars should not be allowed on the road either.

Glasgow City Council spends around £50m a year on the maintenance and repairs of roads and lighting in the city.

Glasgow Times:

It does not come from Vehicle Excise Duty.

It comes instead from the general pot of money the council raises from council tax and what it receives from the Scottish Government.

Glasgow City Council raises £309m in council tax and around £40 a year, on average, from each of the city’s council tax-payer goes on roads and lighting.

Cyclists, if they are householders in Glasgow, are therefore contributing as much to roads through council tax as anyone else.

Most of the cash allocated to the council around £1000m comes from Government grants and a share of non-domestic rates.

The Scottish Government gets its money from what it raises in tax and also what it gets from the UK Government in block grant and additionally in Barnet consequentials, a proportion from any extra spending on areas like health and education in England by the UK Government.

The UK government does collect vehicle Excise Duty. But it is not for spending on the roads. It is instead just another one of the many ways the government has of raising money from the population.

Councils, which are responsible for roads maintenance, do not get a proportionate share of Vehicle Excise Duty.

The UK government collects around £6bn a year in Vehicle Excise Duty. The money is used to pay for general public services and is just as likely to be spent on defence, the NHS or building railways as it is for roads.

To suggest that Vehicle Excise Duty, which is a tax on owning a car, pays for roads because that is where you drive them, is like saying the tax paid on alcohol pays for pubs, because that is where you drink it, and therefore people who are do not drink alcohol shouldn’t be allowed in pubs.

More and more people are cycling. It has to be good to the population’s health and for the environment.

They need to be encouraged and facilitated. The roads are spaces for all users, cars, buses, motorcycles, commercial vehicles and yes bicycles.

Some cyclists need to behave better on the roads, like stopping at red lights and taking care when on the many pavements that are shared with pedestrians.

Glasgow Times:

Equally, many drivers need to ensure they give cyclists the space they need and not close pass and be aware when making turns.

And parking on cycle lanes has to be treated the same way as parking on double yellows or zig zags.

Cyclists are here to stay and there will continue to be cars on our roads.

They are all going to have to co-exist on roads that are designed in a way that allows everyone to travel safely.