Nick Freeman, the high-profile lawyer nicknamed ‘Mr Loophole,’ is once again urging the government to force cyclists to be registered, carry insurance and be required to wear helmets and hi-visibility clothing.
An article published yesterday on his firm’s website says Freeman is “renewing calls for a change in the law which would see cyclists being forced to comply with the same rules as motorists.”
However, what he is proposing – not just in terms of protective clothing and headgear, but also banning people from using headphones while riding – goes beyond what the law requires of drivers.
When he made a similar appeal in August this year, Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars and executive editor of trade website and magazine BikeBiz, accused him of not understanding the law as it applies to people on bikes.
The lawyer acquired his ‘Mr Loophole’ nickname, which he has trademarked, after helping a string of high-profile clients – including footballer Wayne Rooney and former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson – escape conviction for motoring offences.
Besides calling for mandatory safety equipment, he also, some might say ironically for someone who prides himself on his ability to exploit technicalities to secure acquittals, hits out at those who break the law.
“Cyclists are incredibly vulnerable and wearing helmets and sporting hi-vis clothing – which will cut down on deaths and injury – should be made mandatory,” he wrote.
“In addition there are a number of cyclists who seem to totally disregard the Highway Code and ignore signals and junctions at their own peril. Motorists are easily identified by their registration plates, but cyclists are relatively anonymous.
“The Government must look at introducing a raft of legislation which deals with identification, visibility, compliance with road traffic regulations, insurance, cycle excise licence and compulsory use of a helmet. This list is not exhaustive.
“The goal is to improve the quality of driving and cycling by both parties, thus increasing accountability and enhancing road safety.”
He added: “Undertaking when approaching left turns, ignoring red lights, not being visible in low light conditions and mounting pavements are just a small number of practices that are commonplace.
“Enforcing this kind of legislation is in the best interests of all road users. It will tackle slipping road safety standards head on.
“The Cycling Proficiency test [now replaced by Bikeability - ed] should be made compulsory for cyclists using public highways. To pass it means reaching a certain level of competency and an understanding of the rules of the road.”
But when he expressed similar sentiments earlier this year in an article about cyclists who use helmet cameras on Motoring.co.uk, Reid, writing in response on the same website, said: “I’m surprised that a lawyer specialising in transport could be so ignorant about the various Road Traffic acts and the Highway Code.
“It is not illegal for cyclists to undertake and to ride in the middle of the road.
He added: “Mr. Freeman’s point about registration plates assumes that cyclists would be somehow more law abiding if they had them fitted.
“If registration plates were so effective Mr Freeman would be out of a job because motorists wouldn’t dare to break the law for fear of being identified.”
Besides cyclists, the lawyer has also suggested that pedestrians should have to wear reflective clothing at night, when representing a 24-year-old motorist who was accused of causing death by dangerous driving of 83-year-old rabbi, Hyman Steinberg.
His client was convicted.
Freeman has outlined what he calls his "unique approach to the law " in his book, The Art of the Loophole: Making the Law Work for You, which according to his website "identifies his killer loophole principles which make it possible to win even in the face of almost certain defeat."
The book was ghost written by Daily Telegraph columnist Angela Epstein, who earlier this month was taken to task by TV presenter Ned Boulting when she hit out at red light jumping cyclists when the pair appeared on the Radio 4 Sunday morning programme, Broadcasting House.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.