.. is a topic I have consciously ignored on this blog. Simply because anyone who trots out the road-tax argument as to why car drivers can treat cyclists badly is either unable to use reason or is trolling. Either way it doesn't compel me to engage with the argument.
However, "road-tax" has been in the news again courtesy of the cyclists' friend, John Griffin - boss of Addison Lee. Who thinks cyclists should be told "You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up".
Ignoring the rather presumptuous assertion that anyone would actually want to be part of Mr Griffin's gang in the first place, the issue of tax - specifically "road tax" - is used time and again. Yet it is such a bizarre argument that countering it incurs the danger of being dragged down to the same level. Yes, it is true that "road-tax" was abandoned in the 1930's and it is actually Vehicle Excise Duty which is basically a (rather crude) pollution tax. Yes, the roads, like pretty much everything else, is paid out of a central pot; there isn't a special fund to build and maintain roads whose income is derived from "road-tax". Yes, there is a coherent argument that says the total externalities of cars actually comes to a lot more than the money derived from "road-tax".
But all of this is trying to present logical arguments against a premise that is fundamentally illogical. And the people who use the "road-tax" argument aren't looking to engage in rational debate.
However, when I hear the "road-tax" argument, I do wish to run this to its logical conclusions.
Firstly, the argument is based upon the assumption that paying more tax infers more rights. This is an exciting development. I have, for many years, had company cars. My last one was a large, rather plush, "executive saloon" which had a large engine and a CO2 emission that wouldn't have pleased anyone in the Green party. I paid quite an extra-ordinary amount in tax for the privilege of sitting in traffic in a leather seat, and when I chose my latest vehicle, I decided to forfeit a badge and leather seats for something that cost me less in tax. According to the "I pay roadtax" philosophy does this now mean I have less rights on the road? How about people driving smart cars or a Prius? Since they don't pay "road-tax" should they be bullied to the side of the road by those that do?
And why should the concept of inferring more rights based on tax paid be used solely with road transport? Why not infer more rights for, say education or NHS access based upon tax paid? How about those who pay more tax having more "rights" to influence where that tax is paid by access to politicians and government?
Of course this is all nonsense, because the idea that paying more tax infers more rights is also - generally - nonsense. Actually it is something that is usually viewed as undemocratic and unhealthy to society - just look at the scandals involving the very wealthy and politicians.
Cyclists and pedestrians have a right to the road in law which isn't extended to driving motor vehicles who use the road only by permission.
So, as much as Mr Griffin wants to blather on about road-tax, the simple fact is that, thankfully, we don't need to "join his gang" to use the road.