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Lord Winston calls for urban cyclists to be licensed and insured

Labour peer has previously claimed that cycling infrastructure causes congestion and air pollution

Lord Winston will this week urge the government to make it compulsory for cyclists to be licensed and insured when riding in the centres of towns and cities.

The Labour peer has regularly blamed London’s Cycle Superhighways for causing congestion and pollution, without citing evidence.

And according to the Sunday Express, his appeal to ministers to make it mandatory for cyclists to have third party liability insurance and be licensed is based on his own experience, rather than hard data.

He told the newspaper: “We are only talking about a minority of cyclists but many people will have experienced problems because of people biking the wrong way down the road or on the pavement or not being careful or not stopping at a pedestrian crossing.

"It seems there is nothing to ensure adults cycling in town centres have to follow the rules."

Lord Winston says he no longer cycles himself due to twice being a victim of theft, and instead only uses public transport to get around.

Transport questions are scheduled in the House of Lords, where Baroness Sugg is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, this Thursday.

"The question is a probing one to see if there is any will in the government to consider changes,” Lord Winston said.

"It would specifically be about adults cycling in town or city centres, meaning they would need a licence and insurance."

Roger Geffen, policy director of the charity Cycling UK, said that the proposals would hinder efforts to tackle pollution.

"Compulsory cyclist licencing and insurance would seriously undermine the government's efforts to tackle congestion and pollution,” he said.

"It would either make it very expensive for anyone wanting to take up cycling, including children, or else the scheme would run at a loss.

"It's not clear what it would achieve either. Many drivers also break the law, despite being licensed."

In a House of Lords debate on air quality and vehicle emissions last year, Lord Winston said: “The reduction of lanes which traffic can travel down means that more cars are taking longer journeys than ever before at slower speeds.

“The evidence is of course that the internal combustion engine is less efficient and pollutes more at slow speeds, particularly when it is idling.”

He urged the government to provide “figures on the evidence of pollution being greater before bike lanes are introduced than afterwards,” adding, “this is an important issue in the future planning of our cities.”

Simon Munk of the London Cycling Campaign said that there was no evidence to support the claim – and that research showed that in reality, the opposite was the case.

“As a scientist I expect Lord Winston to back up his claims with evidence, all studies so far show that most cycle schemes in London have decreased pollution,” he said.

“Pollution monitors along the Embankment actually show a marginal decrease in pollution levels since the cycle schemes were brought in,” he added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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