The Phantom Menace
The ignorance of some motorists can be annoying. People parking where they like, hogging the middle lane, using fog lights unnecessarily, the list can go on and I’m sure there are many other things motorists do that you hate. But for me there is something else that I really hate but might not seem such of a big deal to you. As someone who also rides a bike, and I’m sure many other cyclists will back me up on this, the phantom ‘Road Tax’ that many motorists believe in, really annoys me. So much so, that I took it upon myself to write a letter to Honda today to complain about them fuelling the belief that road tax exists. I rarely write letters of complaint, but here is the one I wrote today:
I’m not normally one to write letters of complaint as I’m sure most fall on deaf ears. However, this time I feel I can’t sit by without saying something.
I’m not writing to complain about one of your cars or your customer service like many complaint letters possibly do. That’s not to say your customer service is poor and your cars are rubbish as I have no experience of either. I do like some of the cars you have produced though. The NSX and Integra Type R being prime examples. I’m not so keen on the Jazz however, but not being over 65 years of age, I appreciate I’m not really target market. The pensioners seem to love them though don’t they? Actually, I only know of one person below the age of 65 who has owned a Honda Jazz and she only bought it because it was pink. But that’s a whole different story.
The reason I’m actually writing to you is as follows:
Today I was listening to a popular commercial radio station and during a pause in the music, news, travel updates and light hearted banter, your advert came on. You know, the one for the new 1.6 litre Diesel Civic? Well, I was quite impressed with the information about fuel economy and horsepower. I also assume it has some neat little features too such as cup holders and a compartment for keeping gloves in. I was then surprised to hear the advert say that because of its low emissions you don’t pay road tax. Now, here lies my issue. I was surprised because I too, like the rest of the drivers in the UK, also don’t pay road tax. Why? Not because my car has low emissions like your new diesel Civic, but purely and simply for the same reason I didn’t get any money from the tooth fairy after having my wisdom teeth removed. Road Tax, like the Tooth Fairy does not exist! I used to think that Father Christmas didn’t exist either, but I’m pretty sure he lives close to my place of work and drives a green Nissan Micra. I’ve seen him a number of times and I’m pretty convinced. But again, that’s another story.
Back to your advert. Naturally I assumed you did of course mean that due to the low emissions of your car, it was exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. You might think this is a petty gripe on my behalf, however, as well as a motorist, I am also a cyclist. I can also assume that none of your advertising department are cyclists either. Probably too busy driving around in new Civic’s feeling smug because they aren’t paying any, so called ‘Road Tax’.
Now, as a cyclist, and like many other fellow cyclists, I have real issue with the popular belief that Road Tax still exists even though it was abolished back in 1937. You see, this misconception breeds ignorance amongst many motorists. They see this phantom road tax as tax on using the road, when in fact, that little circle of paper they are really paying for, vehicle excise duty, is a tax on your vehicle. With this belief that they are paying a tax for using the road, they also believe they have more rights to use the road over people who they think don’t pay to use the road. Usually, the cyclist.
These motorists are a danger to many. They vent anger towards cyclists if they have to slow down for them and then sometimes put them in danger out of frustration and the believe that the cyclist has no right to be there as they don’t pay this phantom ‘Road Tax’ that many, including yourselves seem to believe exists.
You may recall the story of a young girl in the national news a few months back who knocked a cyclist off his bike, then announced on twitter ‘Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier – I have right of way he doesn’t even pay road tax!’. You can check out the story here: http://ipayroadtax.com/no-such-thing-as-road-tax/i-knocked-a-cyclist-off-his-bike-i-have-right-of-way-he-doesnt-even-pay-road-tax/
While you’re on that website, have a look at the other articles and information too. You may find it of use. Thankfully, this person got into a lot of trouble, but would her attitude and behaviour have been different if she was educated in the facts and realised that road tax didn’t exist? Every taxpayer is funding the road network through general taxation. If the roads and only the roads were funded purely from vehicle and fuel duty then I’m pretty sure our country would have the best road network in the world, or at the very least, wouldn’t be the potholed mess they are currently. Ironically, as in the case of this young lady, she was actually a trainee tax advisor!
You may think that this is an isolated incident. Yet a quick browse on social media shows that alarmingly this is a belief shared by many motorists and even more alarmingly, their frustrations are often taken out on cyclists with many stating it is fair game to knock over a cyclist if they are in the way. But of course this is ok, because a motorist pay road tax and a cyclist doesn’t. Many also seem to forget that most cyclists, like me, are also car owners and that some bikes can be very expensive. Even more expensive than a brand new car, like the Honda Jazz. (That was purely an example. Other cheaper cars are also available of course.) So pay just as much in the way of tax and duty as they do, yet as they have a bike too, probably use the road less.
Many times I have been given abuse via social media for trying to correct motorists on the fact that no one pays road tax and cyclists are in fact helping by easing congestion. Some cyclists even get the abuse face to face. I was once even called a ‘Cycle Bore’ and told where to go by BBC TV’s very own Home Improvement / Lottery quiz show host Nick Knowles on Twitter. I’m sure Sarah Beeney or Dale Winton would have been far more polite had I corrected them on their ignorance of vehicular based tax payments. Mr Knowles’ ignorance was further underlined by a fellow user of social media who kindly pointed out that my profile clearly stated that I loved cars and was a motorsport photographer. He was subsequently abused too. I used to find Mr Knowles mildly amusing and quite enjoyed his DIY SOS show. He is now dead to me.
So you see, these uneducated motorists are a danger and a menace to society. I can’t be sure but I have a feeling that some of them are keeping Jeremy Kyle in a job and the unemployed entertained on daytime TV. I however don’t find it very entertaining and your company is hardly helping matters by advertising the phantom menace that is ‘Road Tax’. I’m sure you will agree that these people, and probably your advertising team, need to be educated. And who better to help educate these people than a reputable car manufacturer as yourselves.
May I suggest you pull the radio advert that is currently running and maybe change the voice over so he states that, ‘Because the Honda Civic is so low on emissions, it is Vehicle Excise Duty Exempt.’ Or words to that effect, as I appreciate it doesn’t have the same ring to it. But hey, I’m not Advertising whizz kid. I just like to deal in fact rather than mislead the already misled. Also, perhaps a disclaimer at the end stating that the UK’s roads are funded by the big Government Tax pot that all UK taxpayers help fill and is divided up to fund all necessary (and unnecessary) services and that taxpayers, (many of whom are cyclists as well as motorists) are helping fund the roads regardless of whether you own a car or not. I’m sure you can get someone to say that bit really quickly at the end. Perhaps you can ask the bloke who reads out the disclaimer about APR, terms and conditions at the end of those payday loan radio adverts. He’s really quick!
Anyway, I’ve made my point and I would like to think you will take this complaint seriously and think carefully about the points I have raised and the stupidity you are encouraging. Failing that, I have printed this letter on good quality paper and used high quality ink so it should feel nice and won’t leave a rash when your advertising team use it to wipe their backsides with.
I’ll let you know if I hear back.