Lord Sugar has ignited a debate over whether cyclists in the UK, like those in some parts of the US, should be required to carry identification with police being given powers to confiscate the bicycles of those who fail to provide it, but the government has said it has no plans to do so.
The Amstrad founder and host of the BBC show The Apprentice, himself a keen cyclist and owner of a fleet of Pinarello bikes, was speaking yesterday during a debate in the House of Lords following a question about pavement cyclists tabled by Labour peer Lord Harrison.
This morning Lord Sugar added to his earlier comments by saying he believed cyclists should carry ID so police could check the identity of those committing offences such as riding through red lights or cycling on the pavement, but also because of its value should a cyclists suffer a mishap that rendered them unconscious.
Lord Sugar, who regularly cycles both in Britain and when saying at his other homes in both Spain and Florida, asked government transport spokesman Lord Atlee, "Is it mandatory for a cyclist using the roads to carry some form of identification on them?”
"In the United States of America we are told to carry identification with us so that the police can take action against people who are riding on pavements or jumping lights.
"If you don't have identification with you, they confiscate your bike and it is up to you to go and get it back and pay a big fine."
In reply, Lord Atlee, who is the grandson of the Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee, said the government had no plans to introduce such a requirement.
Speaking this morning on BBC Breakfast, Chris Peck, policy co-ordinator at national cyclists’ organisation CTC, said; “We’re very pleased to see the government has no intention” of requiring cyclists to carry identification.
“We feel it’s a completely disproportionate to measure to take,” he continued. “We don’t force people to carry ID in this country, it’s a very different attitude to identification that they have in the US or other parts of Europe.
“Pedestrians don’t have to carry identification. Even in a car, you don’t have to have your driving licence with you at all times, you have to present it if you’re challenged by the police at a police station at a later date, so this wouldn’t really be a very suitable or sensible thing to do, we feel.
“It’s disproportionate because simply the number of people being injured by cyclists doing the wrong thing is so minimal compared to the dangers presented by motor vehicles, and we feel that the solution to this is to have lots more traffic police out on the streets trying to tackle problems for everyone.”
“Cyclists fall into a middle ground between motor vehicle users and pedestrians. Are we going to do it to kids as well as adults? Where do you draw the line? A lot of people have passports, most people have driving licences.
“We don’t actually have an identification system in this country that we can force people to adopt, and if we brought it in for cyclists, that would mean an enormous amount of bureaucracy being created, at huge cost to the Exchequer. I think that’s why the government is unwilling to do this.
“What we’d like to see is the existing regulations enforced better, more police out there on the junctions where cyclist are seen to be jumping red lights, catching red light jumping there. They would also pick up all the motor vehicles doing exactly the same thing. 49 per cent of cars in 30mph areas were breaking the speed limit last year. It’s road user behaviour on a wide scale that we’re looking to improve.”
Lord Harrison’s initial question was inspired by he and his wife encountering a pavement cyclist as they left a Chinese restaurant in Chester who told them “with an entirely straight face that, as he had no lights on his bike, he was obliged to ride on the pavement.”
In response to his initial question, Lord Attlee said that there had been “680 reported personal injury road accidents involving cyclists on the footway on GB roads” during 2010, although he added that the Department for Transport did not record who had been at fault in those.
He added that during the same year, some 342 cyclists faced magistrates’ courts proceedings in connection with cycling on pavements, adding that the offence was usually dealt with through fixed penalty notices, which weren’t recorded centrally.
He added: "Education is more important than enforcement, especially with youngsters. Frankly it is not realistic to issue a fixed-penalty notice to a 10-year-old."
Labour peer Lord Young, who said he cycled to the House of Lords each day pointed out: “I experience many irresponsible motorists on my journeys.
“There are motorists who think it is okay to overtake on a humpbacked bridge and those who think it is okay to go on the wrong side of a traffic island to overtake, not to mention the motorist who kindly almost ran me over on a roundabout earlier this week.”
He also asked Lord Attlee whether he agreed that more people should be encouraged to cycle, “and that we should also be encouraging responsible cycling and driving?”
In reply, Lord Attlee urged all motorists “to regularly read the Highway Code because the contents do change.”
On Twitter this morning, Lord Sugar expanded on his comments yesterday, saying: "Cyclists should carry some form of ID, so they can get nicked by police for jumping pavement or lights. Otherwise they just lie who they are."
He added that carrying ID was also a good idea for cyclists "in case they get knocked off bike in serious accident that might render them unconscious" and that when out riding, he always carried ID, cash for a taxi and a phone.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.