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Calls Grow for Cyclists to Pay a 'Road Tax'

Should cyclists pay more?

Calls Grow for Cyclists to Pay a 'Road Tax'
A line of cyclists driving up a bike lane on the road. Blurra / iStock

Some automotive drivers are not happy about cyclists.

In July of this year, the U.K. announced a new Highway Code to help prioritize cyclists and walkers over automotive drivers, according to a report from a U.K. news siteExpress. But social media users who oppose the decision are arguing for a 'road tax' to be levied on cyclists, to reflect the responsibility that goes with greater priority in society.

And, with the increasing urgency with which the world is pivoting away from carbon-intensive and fossil fuel-based modes of transportation, we can expect greater "pain points", where demands to adapt create strained conditions.

Social media posts argue for a 'road tax' on cyclists

The changes to the U.K. highway traffic laws were proposed to promote safer conditions for cyclists and walking pedestrians, but, some respondents expressed concern about the rules, arguing that they might actually increase risks for walkers and cyclists. Speaking in a public consultation, the detractors argued that pedestrians and cyclists might attempt risky maneuvers when drivers turn left, or when they try to cross the road (in the U.K., cars drive on the left side of the road). According to the Express report, one social media user suggested that these new concerns be brought into the public debate. "If Boris [the U.K. Prime Minister] (wants) to rewrite Highway code to favor cyclists fine, BUT law must mirror their responsibility on the road and other road tax paying motorists (sic) safety," read the tweet.

Society must adapt to zero-carbon transportation alternatives

"HELMETS MUST BE MANDATORY!!" concluded the tweet that spurred new controversy, with many not in favor of taxing cyclists for greater priority in traffic laws. A reply to that tweet argued that an earlier form of the "road tax" was abolished in the 1930s, in addition to questioning the need for helmets on the road. According to a BBC report from 2013, there was a road tax in the U.K. until 1937, when it was replaced by Vehicle Excise Duty. While the tax was on cars, not roads, and especially not on cyclists — many people are suggesting that cyclists should pay insurance and a kind of tax, especially with videos depicting more and more arguments between drivers and cyclists.

A tax on cyclists seems very alien to people in the U.S., where the alternative to driving a car or walking is becoming an endemic staple of climate-conscious transportation. Often, bikes are faster than mass transit (if you've lived in New York, you are probably annoyingly familiar with the perpetual lateness of MTA trains). There are of course a wide range of novel technologies slated to hit limited markets in major cities, like eVTOL taxis, two of which just surpassed landmark achievements. But these will likely not be economically feasible for ordinary citizens looking to adapt to the shifting norms of transportation, which means larger flocks of cyclists pouring up the streets, and more frustrated drivers baffled by the new influx of engineless traffic. As zero-carbon alternatives in personal transportation like biking receive greater primacy, society will need to adapt infrastructures and break new legal ground to protect the safety of cyclists, without putting undue hardship on motorists.

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