‘Road tax’ video to turn petrolheads


No bicycles. No mention that cyclists have every right to be on roads (not) paid for by motorists. Just footage of a rather famous pre-1973 motorcar, as used in a movie and a TV advert.

[iTunes link for getting Chitty road tax video on iPods and iPhones].

‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ is one of the world’s most loved movies and is a lead-in to the video below. There’s then a critique of the DVLA’s 2002 TV advert for ‘road tax’, which used the original GEN11-registered car from the movie. Earlier DVLA TV ads for ‘road tax’ (grrrrr!) said ‘pay your road tax’. However, pre-1973 cars merely have to display a tax disc, they don’t pay for it. Ditto, today, for low CO2 Band A cars. So, the 2002 advert said ‘get your road tax’, perhaps a nod to the fact that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang didn’t have to pay car tax.

The car was built in 1967 and modelled to look like a 1920s car.

Nowadays, the DVLA’s TV adverts call VED by its most descriptive name: car tax. Hopefully there will be no backsliding to the days when Parker from the Thunderbirds could have his strings cut for “not paying road tax.”

Boffin prefers to bike

Dr Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, winner of 2009 Nobel Prize for chemistry lives in Cambridge, doesn’t own a car and rides his bike everywhere.

Dr Venki – as he prefers to be called – was recently interviewed by members of Rideacycle and the Bangalore Bikers’ Club. This is an edited version of that interview.

Why do you prefer to cycle?

“I cycle for a variety of reasons, the first being that I enjoy cycling. It’s a much nicer mode of transport. It doesn’t pollute! Also, though I do run and lift weights, but I know that even if I don’t get any other exercise, I have had it in the form of cycling each day. By the time you get to work, you are wide awake, alert, and ready to start work. And at the end of the day, it works in reverse. It lessens the stress and relaxes you, and I think that makes for a great lifestyle.”

What do you say to those who say cycling is slow and a time-sink?

“That reason is bogus! The very same people who don’t want to cycle, do get the time for whatever other activities they really want to do. In Cambridge, when I go out to dinner with my friends, I am usually there before the other dinner guests at the restaurant! Up to 5 km or so…it’s actually faster by cycle.”

How important is to be a cycling parent?

“Adult role models are very important for children. A child who grows up watching his/her parents cycling, will want to emulate them; if they see only aspirations towards motorized transport, that’s what they will also aspire to.”

If you don’t have a car, how do you carry your shopping?

“We [Dr Venki’s wife is Vera Rosenberry, an author and illustrator of children’s books] have panniers fitting on either side of the cycles, where we can store our shopping. Actually, going cycling to the shops is very good for you financially. With a car, one would buy up lots of stuff and fill the car with it. With the cycle, one is forced to buy just what one needs; it limits your shopping.”

Saving just one life…

Sledge injury

The mainstream media says the current brass monkey weather in the UK is causing “travel misery” but images of snowed-in cars and smug 4×4 owners are generally book-ended with shots of kids sledging their little hearts out, happy to be off school.

Of course, snow-related injuries are happening in great numbers. Mostly it’s ankle strains and limb breaks. Head injuries are also common. Sadly, at least two deaths have been reported from ice-linked falls.

“We have seen some injuries from sledging and those have often involved head injuries from collisions with people, trees, fences and lampposts.

“It is a type of injury we do not expect to see in such numbers and it is not the children, but their parents and grandparents who are coming off worst.

“A 10-year-old has softer bones and is falling from a lower height so can survive these impacts better.”
Dr John Heyworth, head of the Accident and Emergency department, Southampton General Hospital, BBC.co.uk, 11th January 2010

Despite head injuries, no MP is calling for compulsory head protection for youth sledgers. There’s no frothing at the mouth over the numbers of irresponsible OAPs doing their shopping without helmets, or wrist and ankle guards.

There’s a Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust but no Sledge Helmet Initiative Trust. Why not?

Why do certain individuals call for compulsory head protection for one faster-than-walking activity, but not another?

Parents who make their kids wear cycle helmets, don’t make them wear sledging helmets. I’m one of them…this is my boy sliding past a sledging injury:

Sledging injury

Cycle helmet compulsionists have been known to argue that if mandation “saved just one life, it would be worth it.”

But those folks don’t clamour for iced-up pavement walkers to wear helmets. The “just one life” argument seems so watertight, but it’s not.

The wearing of cycle helmets (albeit generally badly-fitted helmets, of no use in a crash) is now relatively commonplace so most folks assume cycling is inherently risky. So risky they’ll not bother to start. Cycle helmets may have saved a few lives over the years but the perception they broadcast – that cycling is dangerous – prevents a greater take-up of what, in fact, is a healthy, life-prolonging activity, helmet or no helmet.

I know all this, yet still wear a helmet. When cycling, but not when sledging. When you think about it, this makes no sense but, then, an awful lot of bicycle helmet promotion is based on emotion rather than logic.

DRIVERS: slow down to save £440 a year (and kill fewer cyclists & pedestrians)

If only VizTopTips would do a section on spoof tips for motorists.

PETROLHEADS: Drive like your grandmother, not a hooligan. Over the year you’ll save enough money to buy an even louder and more annoying sound-system.

In all probability, the ‘save dosh’ tack would likely have more societal impact than the ‘slow down’ tack.

A 2008 poll on Moneysavingexpert.com reported that, because of the credit crunch and petrol price hikes, 21 percent of the 6055 who completed the online poll were driving “less aggressively/more efficiently.” 12 percent were driving less.

Petrol to soar Daily Express

Drivers who rev away from traffic lights and try to make tiny gains are not just rude and dumb, they’re also wasting lots of money. If it was pointed out to them that driving less aggressively could actually save them hundreds of pounds a year this might have a more dramatic effect on car speeds than any amount of ‘speed kills’ promotions.

The average motoring citizen in the UK doesn’t give a stuff about the safety of pedestrians or cyclists. The trend towards more and more aggressive driving is not from just ‘Boy Racers’ but yummy mummies in their SUVs and nurses rushing to work.

Of course, motorists will continue to drive unthinkingly fast on city streets and the Government won’t create a publicity campaign explaining how efficient driving is a big money saver could be a real winner.


Moneysavingexpert.com is a HUGE website. It has 7 million unique visitors a month. Site owner Martin Lewis gets his many staff to send out a weekly email to 3+ million signed-up recipients. Most of the readers are Daily Mail types (just 1 percent read the Financial Times). Some already admit to being slow and careful “grand-dad drivers” but with such a massive readership, Lewis’ advice on driving more efficiently could be making more motorists slow down, improving safety for vulnerable roads users.

In this poll Lewis asked: “Have high fuel costs changed the way you drive?”

The price of petrol is at a record high. There are three main ways to cut the cost of fuel; you can drive more efficiently, up your car/van/bike’s efficiency via decluttering and other tricks, and use comparison sites to find cheaper fuel. Which of the following best describes changes you’ve made in the last two years?

The answers were: (emphasis my own)

I use the car less. 13%
I drive less aggressively/more efficiently: 21%
I’ve decluttered the car/made it more efficient. 1%
I use the car less AND drive less aggressively. 12% (this is an interesting stat!)
I drive less aggressively AND have decluttered the car. 6%
I use the car less AND have decluttered it. 3%
All the methods above. 13%
I don’t drive. 5%
I got rid of my car. 3%
I made all these changes more than two years ago. 6%
I’ve not changed at all. 17% (dimwits)

Sadly there was no answer ‘I now use my bicycle as well as my car.’

Lewis has written earlier stories on more efficient driving.

It’s possible to drive the same distance in the same time, yet use considerably less fuel. It’s simply about driving more smoothly to boost your fuel efficiency.

Accelerate gradually without over-revving. Speed up smoothly; when you press harder on the pedal more fuel flows, but you could get to the same speed using much less power – a good rule is to stay under 3,000 revs.

Think about road position. To do all this takes road awareness, so the more alert you are, the better you can plan ahead and move gradually.

In many ways this all comes down to one little rule of thumb…

Every time you put your foot on the accelerator, remember the harder you press the more fuel you spend.”