Norman Tebbit is perhaps best well known for his (slightly apocryphal) message to the unemployed back in the early 1980s: "get on your bike and look for work". He doesn't seem so keen on bikes these days though, suggesting that cyclists 'habitually' break the law by giving false details when pulled up for traffic offences, and recommending that they be compelled to carry identification.
The exchange is part of a discussion on the saftey of cyclists (that's what it was supposed to be about, anyway) in the House of Lords yesterday. The full debate is shown in the video below; the section on cycling starts 23 minutes in.
It takes the Lords less than three minutes to get off the topic of making cyclists safer to blaming them for the incidents they're involved in, and then accusing them of flouting road laws; that's not counting a short foray into the legality or otherwise of headphones. Baroness Sharples is first to wander: "Would my noble friend agree that cyclists should wear some form of identification? I was nearly knocked over outside Millbank," she says, leading us to wonder what her recourse would have been if the incident had involved a car; going to the police with the registration number of a vehicle that 'nearly knocked you over' would get short shrift, in our opinion.
Earl Atlee responds sensibly, pointing out that there are times when it would be helpful if pedestrians carried ID but they're not required to do so. The debate then moves on to children's helmets (very advisable but not to be mandated, in Earl Atlee's opinion) while Lord Winston suggests that the health beneifts of cycling might be offset by air pollution, missing the point that the drivers – who are causing the pollution – are also breathing it.
Lord Taverne is next to speak up, in favour of Dutch-style infrastructure, while Baroness Butler-Sloss wonders what can be done about cyclists "with ear things otherwise filled with music, turning right across the traffic when the light is red against them."
Lord Davies of Oldham attempts to get the debate back on track by highlighting the Times' Cities Fit for Cycling campaign, before Lord Tebbit weighs in. "My Lords, how many cyclists actually pay the fixed-penalty tickets which are issued to them for offences such as riding on the pavement to the danger of pedestrians?" he asks. "My noble friend may know that they habitually give false names and addresses; there is no way for the police officer issuing the penalty notice to know that. What are we going to do? Are we going to compel cyclists to have some form of identification so that, if issued with a penalty ticket, they are required to pay it instead of just scoffing at the law?"
Quite where Lord Tebbit has received this information that cyclists 'habitually' give false information – and of course, we're not suggesting it's simply based on his own pejudices – is unclear. The CTC were quick to rebuff him via twitter: "Ld Tebbit demands ID for cyclists who "habitually" give false names to avoid fines. Where's his evidence? Police have NEVER said this to us," they tweeted. Certainly it's not a habitual problem we're aware of, and it hasn't stopped the police from targeting cyclists in a succession of 'crackdowns', usually to do with lights or pavement cycling.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.