An MP who co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Cycling and Walking has been assured by the Department for Transport (DfT) that there are no plans for cyclists to be required to display number plates or take out compulsory third party insurance.
In a column for the Parliamentary magazine The House, Selaine Saxby, the Conservative MP for North Devon, revealed that her WhatsApp “lit up” last week when Grant Shapps appeared to suggest that cyclists should be insured, be subject to the same speed limits as motorists, and be licensed.
Despite Shapps immediately backtracking on his comments, they ignited a media storm that lasted into the weekend and beyond, underlining how for some elements of the right-wing press, whether print or broadcast, cycling is very much part of the so-called culture wars.
“The Transport Secretary’s foray into the politics of cycling has certainly generated much debate and again demonstrated the strength of feeling from those pro and against cycling about how to best ensure the safety of all road users,” Saxby wrote.
“From a policy perspective I have been assured by the Department of Transport, as the Transport Secretary has reiterated to the press, that he has no plans to introduce number plates for bicycles or compulsory insurance.
“As co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking it would be fair to say my WhatsApp instantly lit up at the suggestions aired in the media last week that more cycling regulation was coming.”
Saxby said that in rural constituencies such as her own, “it is very hard to understand why on earth anyone would even need a conversation about such matters. Given our rurality, hills and the distance between locations, for many journeys active travel of any kind is simply not an option.”
But she said that for ease of commuting and health benefits, cycling in towns and cities across the country should “be widely encouraged and supported,” citing the news in recent days that “GPs will be prescribing active travel for its health benefits.”
One of the reasons – the principal one, arguably – put forward by non-cyclists for people on bikes to be subject to tougher regulation is of course the widespread assumption that they flout the law in a way motorists do not, and Saxby acknowledged that “as with everything in life there is always a minority who are unable to follow the rules.”
She continued: “The APPG are in 100 per cent agreement that we should all follow the rules of the road, whatever mode of transport we employ. Cyclists should not run red lights putting themselves and other road users at risk.
“And those with bikes – and legs – that can clear those 20mph speed limits should use high tech gadgets to ensure they drop below the speed limit.
“However, someone needs to explain to the tourists now back on Westminster Bridge what the new cycling lane is for, and how fast even 20mph is if a cyclist crashes into them inadvertently whilst they are trying to get a photo in front of Big Ben – this is not an infrequent occurrence either!”
While encouraging cyclists to take out cover “to literally be on the safe side, the MP said insurance came down to “a matter of individual choice,” but predicted “a growth in this in the years to come as more of us do move to a cheaper and greener alternative journey choice.”
She added: “The upside of the confusion created by the comments from the Transport Secretary is we appear to have some certainty now that number plates will not be getting onto our bikes any time soon!”
Simon joined road.cc 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.