Road laws shake-up could see cyclists forced to have insurance
Cyclists may need number plates: Shake-up of road laws could see bike-riders forced to have registration numbers and insurance… and observe speed limits
- Ministers believe riders should abide by same restrictions as other motorists
- Particularly the case for slower 20mph zones expanding in UK residential areas
- Victims of reckless cyclists cannot make sizeable claims as there is no insurer
Cyclists could be forced to have registration numbers, insurance and observe speed limits under a radical shake-up of road laws.
There is a growing belief among ministers that riders should abide by the same speed restrictions and other road rules as motorists amid a cycling boom.
This is particularly the case for slower 20mph zones, which are expanding in residential areas across the country.
It raises the possibility that cyclists could be subject to licence penalty points or fines for speeding or running red lights. Officials acknowledge this means cyclists will need number plates or another form of identifiable markings for enforcement purposes.
As part of a planned review, they also want mandatory insurance to be considered, enabling any pedestrians seriously injured by reckless riders to secure compensation.
Pedestrians hit by cars can make sizeable claims which are paid out by the motorist’s insurer. But this is not possible for victims of reckless cyclists, and riders cannot be sued if they have little wealth.
Cyclists could be forced to have registration numbers, insurance and observe speed limits under a radical shake-up of road laws (file photo)
The plans would be part of a wider crackdown on a minority of aggressive riders that would also see the creation of a new offence of death by dangerous cycling, which Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced in the Daily Mail earlier this month.
At present, an ‘archaic’ legal hole means killer cyclists can be jailed for a maximum of two years, where motorists can be jailed for life. The review of road laws would create greater parity amid growing tension following changes to the Highway Code.
The changes, announced by the Government in January, mean cyclists have priority over motorists and are even encouraged to ride in the middle of the road on some streets.
Mr Shapps told the Mail: ‘Somewhere where cyclists are actually not breaking the law is when they speed, and that cannot be right, so I absolutely propose extending speed limit restrictions to cyclists. I don’t want to stop people from getting on their bike, it’s a fantastic way to travel, and we’ve seen a big explosion of cycling during Covid and since. But I see no reason why cyclists should break the road laws and be able to get away with it.’
Mr Shapps may no longer be transport secretary in the new prime minister’s Cabinet. But he said the successor will be urged to press ahead with the review. It is likely to raise questions about drink-drive limits and whether an age cap would be needed to stop children being subject to the strict rules.
A report last year by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety found one in every 100 crashes in which a pedestrian was killed would be the fault of a cyclist, compared with 65 in which a car driver was responsible.
The report detailed 470 incidents in 2019 in which a pedestrian had been killed by a road user. Five collisions were the fault of cyclists, compared with 305 caused by car drivers and 51 by HGV drivers. And seven road deaths in the year were attributed to cyclists, compared with 721 people killed by car drivers.
Prominent road laws solicitor Nick Freeman said: ‘This is something that needs to happen for everyone’s safety and Grant Shapps should be congratulated for eventually listening.’
Commentary by Melissa Kite
The last time I rode my horse on the country lanes of Surrey, I nearly didn’t come back. All thanks to a gang of cyclists.
Only a few steps from the gate of the stable yard, a racing club in formation swarmed downhill towards me, spread across the lane. As poor Darcy began to panic, I screamed: ‘No, please!’
But they kept on coming. The bikes swirled around Darcy and suddenly she was spinning in circles – right into the path of a car behind me. I clung to her neck to stop myself falling, and saw the look on the driver’s face. We were so close I think we both thought I was about to end up on the bonnet. To this day, Darcy trembles when she hears the faintest whoosh of a bike.
Anyone prepared to hurtle past a woman clinging to the neck of a terrified horse is not safe to be on the roads unlicensed and uninsured.
That’s why I’m delighted that, as the Mail reports today, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is hinting changes might be in the offing – including speed limits and registration plates for these menaces of the road who have earned the nickname ‘Lycra louts’.
This is long overdue. Many vulnerable road users have not been as lucky as I was to escape unscathed from encounters with the two-wheeled terrors.
Of course, most cyclists are law-abiding and just want to get safely from A to B while enjoying a bit of exercise. But just as the rules of the road are there for a minority of bad drivers, a small number of dangerous cyclists risk tainting the good name of the majority and should be kept in check.
Pictured: Melissa Kite
Some cyclists flagrantly break the law: running red lights, ignoring pedestrian crossings, weaving in and out of lanes and mounting pavements. But as Mr Shapps points out, speeding on a bike isn’t illegal. The political power of the cyclist lobby is now such that other road users are made to bow down before it.
And this, in many cases, has gone to cyclists’ heads. They think they can get away with anything. In 2016, 44-year-old mother-of-two Kim Briggs died when she was hit by a cyclist as she crossed the road in east London. Her killer, Charlie Alliston, then 18, was illegally riding a bike with no front brakes. He shouted ‘Get the f*** out of my way’ before smashing into her.
Yet he was jailed for just 18 months because no law existed to charge him with the equivalent punishment of causing death by dangerous driving – indeed, he had to be convicted under Victorian legislation dating to the time of the horse and trap.
I dislike red tape and am an instinctive libertarian, but we need a system of parity between all road users. As my experience shows, the situation is dire in the countryside, where weekend cycling clubs are increasingly using the public roads as a racing track. And it’s not just the accidents they cause. It’s their anti-social behaviour. The atmosphere in many once-genteel areas has been ruined by the arrogant mentality of cyclists, hurtling along with selfish aggression.
Of course, there is no excuse for motorists not taking care around bikes, and all incidents of negligence by cars are deplorable. But while we rightly insist on good driving, it’s time for cyclists to take some responsibility, too.
Infrastructure in our cities increasingly favours cyclists at the expense of drivers, pedestrians and everyone else.
Very often in the congested city streets, cyclists are the only people going more than 20mph – and sometimes without wearing a helmet or while listening to music on headphones. Boris Johnson, himself a keen cyclist, rightly called behaviour ‘absolutely nuts’ when he was London mayor after a spate of deaths in 2013. As long ago as 2012, a survey found 57 per cent of cyclists had jumped a red light – and things seem no better now. In February, police in Hackney, east London, caught 18 cyclists running red lights in 90 minutes.
One way or another, riders have got the idea that they can do what they like. Well, it’s time we did something about it.
Mr Shapps’s plans are a good start, but politicians must stand up more firmly against the cycling lobby. They must stop kow-towing to groups such as Cycling UK, which seem to rule by force of numbers.
Their slogan is ‘Giving us a Louder Voice’. Recent changes to the Highway Code, letting bikes hold the centre of the road, show how noisy they already are.
The freedom given to bikes has gone too far. We need to make cyclists accountable.
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