In a comment piece for BikeBiz, John Stevenson, Future’s editor-in-chief of cycling publications, said cyclists were often "given a hard time for not paying the mythical road tax."
Why mythical? Because it should be called ‘car tax’ or, to be more precise, Vehicle Excise Duty. ‘Road tax’ was last used to pay for roads in 1936. Winston Churchill, when chancellor of the Exchequer in 1926, started the process of abolishing road tax but many motorists have yet to catch up, thinking cyclists are "tax-dodgers" with less rights to be on the public highway.
Roads aren’t paid for by motorists, they’re paid for out of general and local taxation so cyclists are not "freeloaders", using roads paid for by others. This is the premise behind a campaign started by BikeBiz executive editor Carlton Reid. In November he created iPayRoadTax.com as a website to stick up for cyclists’ rights.
The idea for an iPayRoadTax cycling jersey was mentioned on Twitter and there was an immediate surge of interest.
"When I first mooted the idea of jerseys with road tax discs on them I thought there would be about 30 jersey orders and I would put in a herding-cats, club-style order to a club jersey printer," said Reid.
"However, the immediacy and size of the demand knocked me sideways. It snowballed faster than I could have ever imagined."
He has now inked a licensing deal with Foska of London to create a line of jerseys emblazoned with fake ‘road tax’ discs.
"I knew I’d struggle to meet demand so, six days after Twittering the first concept, I signed a licensing agreement with Tony Yerby of Foska," said Reid.
The deal enables Reid to continue with his journalism rather than be diverted into manufacturing and retail.
Foska is Britain’s largest manufacturer of bespoke and brand-licensed cycle jerseys, the company behind the jerseys from Marmite, London Pride, The Simpsons, London A-Z, Dennis the Menace and many other iconic cycle jerseys. Foska jerseys are sold in bike shops across the UK and the iPayRoadTax jerseys will be available from mid-February.
Reid said the campaign resonated with cyclists:
"Whenever a newspaper does a story on cycling there will always be a bunch of comments about cyclists not paying road tax, and cyclists replying saying it’s now Vehicle Excise Duty.
"The iPayRoadTax campaign is an ironic and informational take on this stance from cyclists.
"If you ride enough you’ll come across drivers shouting ‘buy some road tax’ at you. The jerseys will start spreading the message that cyclists have every right to be on the road."
The iPayRoadTax website has been a lightning rod for hard-core ‘road tax refuseniks’ who continue to believe roads are paid for by motorists. One story on the site has had 180+ comments, many of them from motorists who say the use of road tax as a term is accurate, even though they are pointed to the fact the tax was abolished 74 years ago.
A cyclist commenting on this story said he had been knocked from his bike by a motorist who said the cyclist shouldn’t have been on the road because "cyclists don’t pay road tax." This particular case is due to be heard by a court in February and the cyclist will cite the road tax reference.
Despite "road tax" being a perjorative term used by a large minority of drivers against cyclists, it’s a term still in widespread use. The AA, police forces, RAC, the BBC and What Car have used ‘road tax’ on their websites. Even HM Customs and Excise has got it wrong in the past.
However, HM Treasury and the Post Office, the organisations which set and sell VED, do not call it ‘road tax’. The Post Office calls it ‘car tax’.
After much discussion with the DVLA, the iPayRoadTax fake tax disc graphic has been okayed for retail use.
"We were asked to change the colour so it’s different to current or forthcoming VED disc colours and we have to make sure the printed discs are not the same size as actual tax discs," said Tony Yerby of Foska.
iPayRoadTax also has an iPhone app available via the iTunes Appstore.