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Lord Winston's latest brainwave? Electronic tags on bicycles

Government has told Labour peer there are no plans to require bike riders to be licensed

The government may have told Lord Winston that there is no prospect of it requiring cyclists to be licensed and insured … but with the persistence of a limpet, the Labour peer has suggested that the solution might be for bicycles to be electronically tagged.

The scientist and TV personality sparked a debate on the non-issue in mid-March, ahead of tabling a question in the House of Lords which received an unequivocal not-going-to-happen from the government.

Subsequently, he claimed that he had been assaulted by a woman cycling on the pavement.

Appearing today on the ITV show This Morning, Lord Winston said: "Every other road user has to use the road and has to have third party insurance.”

[Spoiler: Pedestrians are road users, and are not required to have third party insurance]

He explained: "I don’t think it would be unworkable, the initial answers I got from the government were not satisfactory but I think the overwhelming messages that are coming through now is that it would be workable.”

Not from the government, presumably, which on this topic at least has sent a clear and consistent message.

However, Lord Winston continued: "For example, with an electronic tag on a bicycle, in time we would be able to detect all motor traffic through similar methods, we won’t use number plates eventually.”


"I think with the number of road traffic cameras there are around, it will make a very big difference.”

Because, yes, road deaths in Great Britain, after falling for several decades, have hit a plateau since 2010 when targets were abolished.

"It’s not that I am against cyclists, I am not at all against cyclists but I am against people who cross red lights, who go up one way streets the wrong way, who ride on the pavement and who ride without lights at night, particularly with people who have poor visibility or older people who have frequently been hit and damaged," he added.

Lord Winston was joined on the show, hosted by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langford, by helmet camera cyclist Dave Sherry, who, when he was asked whether he agreed with the peer’s proposals, said: “In principal yes, in practicality, no.

"At the end of the day there are good cyclists and bad cyclists, don’t tarnish us all with the same brush.

"I understand what Lord Winston is saying but in practical terms it isn’t doable.

"If I said to you, insurance, licence, how are you going to say that to my six and 12-year-old son and daughter? They can barely write their name," 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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