Monday, 9 April 2012

Do Motorists REALLY pay for the Roads..? Are they REALLY overtaxed..?

There is so much debate about the costs motoring causes for its end-user, and the impact of not being able to afford cheap fuel and cheap car travel. Its become such a powerful criticism of modern Governments that many of us haven't actually stopped, taken a deep breath and asked those important questions - are there reasons for these high prices? Is there a greater social impact caused by motoring?

Comparing Economic Costs of Driving to Cycling from Downfader on Vimeo.

Now I'm in no way advocating increasing motoring charges and taxation, and this is in no way a definitive guide. The money does, however, have to come from somewhere - and it clearly is coming from general taxation subsidising the clear up process. If we take one person's word for the claim that UK motoring produces 55 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, and consider that UK motoring only accounts for 14% of all CO2 produced - that's still a startling problem we have.

It took me over a week to try and tie down some data on the environmental impact of motoring. The best I could find came from a study released a couple of years back from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, but their data on cars comes from 1998. One thing to take into account - yes the IAM say cars are greener this decade than the last, but cars are bigger and there are more of them as we can see. The IFS could be, and probably are, still are in the right ball park.

Internet shopping has also lead to a small expansion in logistics and deliveries. Haulage has expanded a small amount in the past 10 years.It is a shame we cannot expand the railways for this, or install underground-electric for logistics. It would free up the £20 billion lost each year (projected to be £30 billion the way things were going!) and rapidly improve service, emissions, costs (no need for as many drivers, loads can be increased).

It also took me over a week to figure out the costs of cycling related KSIs. These turn out to be a few million sterling. Even one death is one death too-many, but you have to be unsettled by the death-toll in recent years involving motor vehicles.

I could not, sadly find decent economic costs for having to deal with law breaking such as running red lights (in all modes of transport). I certainly couldn't find decent data to pin down the cost of errant parking on pavements and other places where people shouldn't park (eg fire exits, crossings). There were a few websites suggesting a few million sterling, and about 60-65% of these fines/charges were successfully challenged. However I am not comfortable with the figures and so have left it as a "newspaper claim" on the video.

So to keep it simple I have kept with this approach: KSIs+ Environmental+ Traffic Jams and Congestion. These after all were the most important pieces of data and had the most impact on people's lives.

SOURCES: and and




  1. Great article and thank you for taking the time to write about cycling related issuein the uk.l'm from manchester but l left to live in the netherlands got sick of the bad cycling lanes or lack of them.

  2. Just spotted this. Looks great!

  3. Sources explanation could be better. I need the source for the claim of the 1.7 mio UKP for 1 death. But you do not list which of your sources support that claim.

  4. The first BBC link has the 1.7m number, and iirc Rospa were the compiler and calculator of the figures from Dept of Health and Dept of Justice numbers.