Fleet News

Guest opinion: Tolls: new reasons to use two wheels

CONGESTION charging and road tolls – not terms likely to improve the good humour of most road users.

But if you’re a motorcyclist there are at least two big reasons to be looking forward to the days when schemes such as the London charge become more widely adopted in more of our big cities.

While Edinburgh’s recent rejection of city centre charging may have seemingly put the brakes on further schemes appearing elsewhere for the time being, most observers agree that in the long term, road pricing will be applied to more and more of the roads we currently use.

Indeed, the original architect of the London scheme will from next month take up a new job as national traffic director in the Highways Agency, charged with preventing congestion on Britain’s main routes. He is Derek Turner and is well known as a supporter of tough measures such as charging to dissuade us from using the roads at peak times.

So while car drivers may be groaning at the prospect, why should business riders or bike commuters be welcoming roads or congestion charging? And might the reasons ever become strong enough to consider trading in your company car for a bike?

The most obvious reason bikes have been winners in London is cost – riders are currently exempt from the £5-a-day charge (and although not exempt for the new M6 toll road, the charges are correspondingly lower).

The bike lobby will be keen to tell you the London exemption is on the grounds of bikes and scooters being congestion-friendly vehicles.

They take up less space on the road and spend less time stuck in jams.

However, some sceptics say the only reason bikes were actually exempt in London was because the forward-facing numberplate recognition cameras used in enforcing the charge can’t capture the identities of bikes, which by law only have to carry a single rear-facing numberplate. So it’s not impossible that bikes may start to be charged in the future.

Cost aside, there has been another much more important benefit to bikes from the introduction of congestion charging in the capital.

The London experience has shown that even though two-wheel traffic has risen by 20% (as thousands have switched from cars to scooters and commuter bikes) bike accidents have actually fallen by 13%.

Congestion charging has reduced the number of cars entering the capital by about 20% on average. And the benefits of that to bike riders are at least threefold.

Firstly, fewer cars simply means fewer cars to knock you off.

Secondly, less clogged roads immediately improves the visibility of bikes in traffic, again reducing the chances of collisions.

And thirdly, less congestion and less delay means those drivers who enter the C-zone are generally less frustrated and less prone to sudden, rash manoeuvres. It’s exactly this sort of unexpected, unindicated U-turning or light-jumping behaviour (without sufficient checks) that endangers bikers most in towns.

The only drawback for bikes in London is currently a shortage of free on-street parking space, with some of the authorities responsible, such as Westminster, having been hostile toward the idea of adding extra bike spaces. This situation may slowly be resolved in the future. Is it about time some more of you did too?

Leave a comment for your chance to win £20 of John Lewis vouchers.

Every issue of Fleet News the editor picks his favourite comment from the past two weeks – get involved for your chance to appear in print and win!

Login to comment


No comments have been made yet.

Compare costs of your company cars

Looking to acquire new vehicles? Check how much they'll cost to run with our Car Running Cost calculator.

What is your BIK car tax liability?

The Fleet News car tax calculator lets you work out tax costs for both employer and employee