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Government confirms it has “no plans” to make cyclists wear identification numbers as it rejects ‘Mr Loophole’ petition

Solicitor Nick Freeman’s petition last week scraped over the 10,000-signature threshold to require official response

The Government has confirmed it has “no plans” to force cyclists to wear identification, among other things, as it had been urged to do by a petition published on the government’s website in June this year by solicitor Nick Freeman, known as ‘Mr Loophole’ for his securing acquittals of drivers accused of motoring offences, often on a technicality.

After six months, during which time the Manchester-based lawyer had made numerous appearances in local and national print and broadcast media, the petition last week scraped over the 10,000-signature threshold above which point the government is obliged to provide a response with less than a day to go.

> Mr Loophole’s cyclist ID petition “gathers momentum” says BBC – except it closed last week

 In the response to the petition, published today, the Department for Transport made clear that, so far as cyclists are concerned, there are no plans for them to be regulated in the way Freeman has urged, saying:

The Government has no plans to introduce any such requirements for cyclists. The current trials of rental e-scooters will inform future policy on them.

The Government considers that the costs of a formal registration system for cycle ownership would outweigh the benefits. The safety case for such a system is not as strong as that for drivers since, by contrast with motorised vehicles, cycles involved in collisions on the highway are highly unlikely to cause serious injury to other road users.

The response, which you can read in full at the end of this article, also outlined the benefits of cycling, the fact that there is no requirement to use cycle lanes, and also highlighted that many cyclists also hold driving licences.

Freeman’s petition had also called for e-scooter riders to be licensed, and the Government pointed out that only public hire e-scooters currently being trialled in parts of the country and which require ID to be provided are legal for use on the public highway.

In the petition, posted under the heading, Introduce new requirements for cyclists/e-scooters: visible ID, licences, etc, Freeman had written:

The Government should require cyclists and e-scooter riders display visible ID, require that cycle lanes be used where available, and introduce a licensing and penalty point system for all cyclists and licensing system for escooter riders.

Roads are now shared with more cyclists and e-scooters than ever. Yet cyclists and e-scooter riders aren`t currently held accountable in same way as drivers.

Cycle lanes can be safer yet are often not-used. A licence scheme and penalty points system should ensure responsible cycling and e-scooter use.

As we have pointed out before, the response was not unexpected. As we pointed out back in June shortly after the petition had been launched, Lord Berkeley, patron of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling & Walking, posed a written question to the government in the House of Lords on the issues it raised.

> Minister repeats there is no prospect of requiring cyclists to be licensed as ‘Mr Loophole’ lawyer Nick Freeman continues to push his petition

In a written question, he asked the government “what assessment they have made of the possible (1) advantages, and (2) disadvantages, of introducing a licensing system for cyclists.”

Responding to the Labour peer, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said: “The government considered this matter carefully as part of the cycling and walking safety review in 2018, and has no plans to introduce such a system.

“Cycling brings many benefits, particularly in terms of health and the environment, and the government is keen to encourage rather than restrict it.

“Cyclists must respect the rules of the road as set out in The Highway Code and enforcement of cycling offences is a matter for the police.

“The introduction of a licensing system would be likely to deter many people from cycling and the costs and complexity of introducing and administering such a system, would be likely to outweigh any road safety or other benefits,” she added.

While Freeman’s petition did just make it across the threshold at which the Government was obliged to provide a response, at 10,498 signatures it had barely a tenth of the 100,000 needed for it to be considered for Parliamentary debate by the Backbench Business Committee.

Here is the Government’s response in full:

The Government has no plans to introduce any such requirements for cyclists. The current trials of rental e-scooters will inform future policy on them.

The Government considers that the costs of a formal registration system for cycle ownership would outweigh the benefits. The safety case for such a system is not as strong as that for drivers since, by contrast with motorised vehicles, cycles involved in collisions on the highway are highly unlikely to cause serious injury to other road users.

Cycling provides clear benefits, both for those cycling (particularly in terms of health) and for wider society (tackling congestion, reducing CO2 emissions and improved air quality). The introduction of a licensing system would significantly reduce these benefits, especially over the short term. Over the long term, it would deny children and young adults from enjoying the mobility and health benefits cycling brings until they were old enough to pass a formal test.

The introduction of a system of licensing would also be likely to lead to a reduction in the number of people cycling. This would be at odds with the Prime Minister’s plans to boost walking and cycling. The Prime Minister’s Cycling and Walking Plan (Gear Change) can be viewed here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cycling-and-walking-plan-for-england.

Furthermore, the National Travel Survey indicates that a very high proportion of people who cycle regularly also hold a driving licence. The absence of a licensing system does not prevent a cyclist from being liable for their actions. The police and ultimately the courts, can take into account all the circumstances of an incident and judge accordingly.

Cycle lanes, where provided, offer people cycling an alternative to cycling in the main carriageway, but it is not compulsory to use them and the Government has no plans to change this. The majority of people cycling generally use cycle lanes, but there are times when it may be more appropriate for them to use the main carriageway, such as when they are overtaking slower people cycling or avoiding obstructions on the cycle lane, or where it offers a faster, more direct route.

The Government has announced ambitious plans for walking and cycling, and has committed an unprecedented £2 billion of funding for active travel over 5 years which includes the roll-out of segregated cycle lanes in towns and cities and offering cycle training to everyone who wants to undertake it, whether free or at a nominal charge. This investment coupled with the recently announced changes to The Highway Code will deliver increased safety for the most vulnerable road users and ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.

The Government is currently running trials of rental e-scooters to assess their safety and the impacts they have on the road and to inform the development of future policy. 31 trial areas are currently operating across England.

Trial e-scooters are limited to 15.5 mph and are exempted from vehicle registration and licensing requirements. E-scooters must not be used on pavements. Those taking part in the trials need a full or provisional driving licence, meaning that the minimum age of those using the scooters should be 16 years old. Cycle helmets are strongly recommended but are not mandatory. All trial e-scooters must meet minimum construction standards and have a minimum of third-party insurance provided by the e-scooter operator.

Guidance on the rules for trials has been published at: www.gov.uk/guidance/e-scooter-trials-guidance-for-users.

Outside of the rental trials, e-scooters are still subject to the Road Traffic Act 1988 and are defined as a type of motor vehicle. Users of e-scooters will need to have insurance, driving licences, number plates and helmets, and the vehicles will need to meet the relevant construction requirements. The law was not drafted with e-scooters in mind, so users of e-scooters will find it a challenge to comply. Guidance on this can be found at: www.gov.uk/government/publications/powered-transporters/information-sheet-guidance-on-powered-transporters.

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.

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