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Common Myths About Cyclists... Debunked

In recent weeks, we’ve launched several Facebook adverts to promote awareness of cycling collisions and to encourage cyclists who have been injured in such incidents to consider making a claim.

To put it quite mildly, the resulting user comments have been… impassioned. 

 

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If you cycle you may well be used to negative responses from those motorists who see all cyclists as a nuisance on the road. Sadly, a dividing line has been drawn between cyclists and motorists so the resulting narrative is one of “cyclist versus driver.” Within this narrative each side blames the other, seeming to forget that we all share a wish for safer roads.

In the comments sections under our ads we noticed a number of dominant themes that could well be said to represent some of the common misconceptions that exist about cyclists. We’d like to debunk these myths in the hope that both drivers and cyclists can forgo their battles with each other and battle instead with the institutions that have the power to make the big changes. Instead of pointing fingers of blame, why not petition local councils and central government to invest in safer road infrastructure for everyone? Here are some facts that we hope will sway your judgement.

 

Myth One: Cyclists don’t pay road tax


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A lot of the angry comments that were made beneath our adverts referred to the road tax that cyclists “don’t pay” These commenters may be surprised to find out that nobody in the UK has paid road tax since it was abolished in 1937[1]. The tax that is represented by tax discs on drivers’ dashboards is in fact Vehicle Excise Duty. This is a tax on vehicles; the rate of which is based on CO2 emissions. So in essence, it’s a pollution tax. Owners of vehicles with lower carbon dioxide emissions pay less and owners of bicycles pay nothing.

Reality: Nobody pays road tax

 

Myth Two: Cyclists don’t pay to use the road       

 

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Just as cyclists “don’t pay road tax” it is also widely assumed by commenters that cyclists do not pay to use the road. Unsurprisingly and as a result, it is suggested that cyclists have less right to use the road than do drivers. Two familiar, if unappealing words,  counter this view: council tax. It is council tax that is used to maintain roads, not vehicle excise duty. Perhaps unfortunately for cyclists, owning a bike has no bearing on how much council tax is payable[2]. Looks like another misconception.

Reality: All council tax payers contribute to road maintenance

 

Myth Three: Only cyclists have problems with potholes


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As you can see from the above comments, there was quite a dearth of sympathy for cyclists who were injured riding over potholes. For a cyclist to avoid every dangerous pothole in the road they would be required to ride permanently looking down at the road surface, which is obviously not safe.  Further, perhaps these commenters were unaware of the huge amount of damage that potholes cause to all road users. According to the website Potholes.co.uk[3], potholes cause British motorists around £2.8 billion in damage every year. 

Reality: Potholes are a problem for all road users

 

Myth Four: Cyclists don’t drive


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If we were to make the assumption that all cyclists were also car owners, then myths 1-3 would become moot points. But, of course, the whole “cyclists versus drivers” issue becomes a lot less interesting if those two groups overlap. However,these groups do overlap. According to a British Cycling survey, 87% of cyclists own a car[4]. So that’s 87% of cyclists that do pay Vehicle Excise Duty, that do pay car insurance and that do know how to drive.

 Reality: Most cyclists are also drivers

 

Myth Five: Most collisions are the fault of the cyclist


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An overriding attitude within  these comments was one of anger towards cyclists who were generally seen to be getting away with dangerous and tax-dodging behaviour. But in reality, comments like that above are simply not backed up by the facts. The facts show that in London, 68% of collisions between cyclists and motor vehicles are the fault of motorist[5] . Meanwhile, statistics from CTC, the National Cycling Charity[6], show that in the case of serious collisions, drivers are solely to blame for 50% of incidents and cyclists are solely to blame for 40% of incidents, with the remaining 10% shared by both.

Reality: Collisions can be the fault of either party