One of the discussions I often see, especially in the comments section on the Canberra Times, is the request that cyclist pay a registration/road tax for cycling on the road. I can see both sides of this one but for me I don’t think a tax should be compulsory but insurance should.
From what I understand about road tax, and I don’t know much, it goes towards the maintenance and upkeep of the road and their markings etc. While there are on-road cycle paths across a lot of Canberra it’s not something that appears everywhere. Moreover I would imagine a bicycle has a dramatically less impact on the infrastructure than motorised vehicles. But I get it, bicycles use the road and as such should pay a tax. However not all cyclists use the road, many here in Canberra stick to the off-road shared paths on their commute, and for me it would be unfair to lump them with this tax just because some cyclists use the road. That’s the big differentiator between motorised vehicles and bicycles and why, if you own a car, you pay a tax to use it as you can only use the roads. And let’s not forget, many cyclists already own cars, so they do pay road tax already it would be a tough system to carry out fairly.
So for me that rules out paying a tax but I do believe that all cyclists above a certain age (e.g. 18 perhaps) should have insurance. I’ve been unfortunate enough of late to be involved in two traffic accidents which were not of my making. Equally I’ve been lucky enough that both drivers stopped and I’ve been able to get their details to resolve damages; not to mention getting off lightly injuries wise! However, it’s not always the case that the motorist is at fault and I see plenty of stupid manoeuvres by cyclists that could result in collisions with pedestrians as well as motorists. It’s in these situations where making sure cyclists have insurance is key as, for example, if they collide with a pedestrian that person would then be able to make a claim from the cyclists insurer for medical costs and what have you. Equally damage to a car could be claimed back too and so on.
Insurance is almost as contentious with cyclists as a road tax is but at least it has application. It seems silly that in theory, if a cyclist causes an accident, the only way forward currently is to lodge a claim against them in court. At least doing things through an insurer both parties remove themselves from the situation somewhat and it also provides a way to make sensible claims when the cyclist is at fault. Given some of the stupid things I’ve seen (and done myself on occasion) it’s silly to think cyclists are never to blame.
In the end I think insurance is a good compromise as some motorists see cyclists as being elitist idiots who are above the law. While some cyclists do give that impression I’d argue there are many more who just want to get on their bike and enjoy the ride. I don’t like holding up cars and do my best to ride in such a way that I feel impacts motorists the least and if getting insurance to cover me in an accident helps repair relations between the two parties then I’m all for it.