RICHARD Green (Observer, May 25) obviously feels very strongly about cyclists, going so far as to even complain about their wearing lycra (not my style either, but live and let live).
He accuses us of hurtling about with no regard for other road users, which may be true of a very few cyclists, but most of us are just keen to get home alive.
In recent years, I’ve had two accidents, one when a child ran out in front of me from behind a parked car (I was cycling on the road and certainly not hurtling), and another when a motorcyclist knocked me off (and didn’t stop).
I have never caused any injury to anyone else, and I’m certain the same is true of the vast majority of cyclists.
There are exceptions, such as the man I saw tearing down the pavement in Queen’s Road last week, narrowly avoiding a small child. I yelled at him and his response was to give me the finger. But just as Mr Green would no doubt be unhappy about being lumped in with boy racers, so responsible cyclists resent having the sins of a tiny minority thrust upon us.
However, the main thrust of his objection to cyclists is that we don’t pay tax whilst he, as a motorist, is ‘taxed to the hilt’.
This is a common gripe from motorists but shows a poor grasp of the economic reality of motoring. A recent report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies stated that, ‘Road use generates costs which are borne by wider society instead of the motorist’.
The Department for Transport estimates these costs, which include the cost of accidents, congestion, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and noise, at between £71-95 billion a year.
By contrast, the total income from motorists (including vehicle excise duty, fuel duty and VAT on car sales and accessories) is around £48 billion a year.
In other words, that lycra-clad non-car-owning cyclist’s taxes are actually subsidising Mr Green’s love of driving.
Other costs to society are less easily quantified, for instance the loss of social cohesion caused by busy roads forming barriers, and parents afraid to let their children play out because of the traffic.
Given therefore that driving constitutes a net drain on the economy, while cycling has the opposite effect (cyclists are fitter, use fewer health services, don’t cause congestion or pollution), I would encourage Mr Green, as someone who is obviously concerned about the country’s economy, to get out of his car and discover the joys of cycling.