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Cycling licence 'debate' reignited by Channel 4 show and Scotland Tonight

Channel 4's Steph's Packed Lunch ran a poll asking viewers if cyclists should need licences to ride on main roads, while last week Scotland Tonight hosted a debate on the subject...

Despite the government, as recently as December, saying it has "no plans" to introduce legislation the so-called debate about cyclists needing compulsory training, a licence and insurance to use the roads has resurfaced in recent days, with several UK media outlets hosting TV segments or publishing news stories on the subject.

Scotland Tonight hosted an on-air debate last week, in which a motoring journalist and cyclist "go head-to-head on whether road cycling should be regulated". The segment was followed up by Aberdeen-based newspaper The Press and Journal asking: "Should cycling on main roads be banned until you have a licence?"

South of the border, CambridgeshireLive this morning ran a vox pop article asking readers whether cyclists should be required to have insurance, while approaching lunchtime, Channel 4 show Steph's Packed Lunch posted a Twitter poll asking viewers if "cycling on main roads should be banned until you have a licence?"

The poll, which currently has more than 60 per cent voting against cycling licences (at the time of writing) has received criticism, with one reply calling it "clickbait nonsense" and another "mad crankery".

Last week's Scotland Tonight debate appears to have reignited the media coverage of the topic.

"We need compulsory training and licences for cyclists. They are the only unregulated group of road users," motoring journalist Alan Douglas said during the Listen Up segment of Wednesday's current affairs programme.

"Anyone can leap on a bike and head out without any training, licence or insurance. If they commit a traffic offence, like jumping a red light or riding on the pavement, they go unpunished. A driver would be fined or lose their licence, so we need punishments for law-breaking cyclists," he added.

The debate aspect of the segment was provided by a cyclist Scotland Tonight described as a "keen rider", Diana Farrell, who argued most cyclists already hold a driving licence and are "very aware" of the Highway Code.

> Near 25% increase in video submissions since Highway Code changes

"I'm not convinced that a licence would ensure people are safe on the roads," she told the programme. "Every driver on the roads has a licence, not all of them are safe. There's always going to be a minority within any form of transport, whether that's cycling or roads, that are not responsible, that are not following the rules.

"Those people are fully aware of what the rules are. The fact that you need a licence to drive a motor vehicle is more reflecting the damage you can do with a motor vehicle."

> Tabloids report AA want us to get on our bikes to beat soaring fuel prices… except they’ve said it all along

The Scotland Tonight segment was repackaged by The Press and Journal who asked its readership: "What do you think? Are cyclists a pain in the gearstick? Are motorist (sic) just not getting it that cyclists are the priority on the road?"

Local news website CambridgeshireLive's insurance-based vox pops asked readers to share their thoughts on the question of cyclists needing insurance.

The Cambridge news website, part of the Daily Express, Daily Star and Mirror publisher Reach PLC's regional news portfolio, said: "Calls have been made previously for cyclists to pay road tax and insurance", but included a marginally more cycling-positive headline than those seen above, featuring the reader quote: "We need less cars and more incentives".

"A large proportion of our readers agreed cyclists should be required to have insurance," the piece stated, before hearing from one reader whose car "was scratched badly" by a cyclist, and now wants: "Insurance and an identification plate on bikes like motorcycles."

Last December, solicitor Nick Freeman, known as 'Mr Loophole' for his securing acquittals of drivers accused of motoring offences — often on a technicality — had his petition asking for cyclists to wear identification and have licences, shot down by the government who said it has "no plans" to follow up on the suggestion.

> Mr Loophole's cyclist ID petition "gathers momentum" says BBC – except it closed last week

The petition was promoted by the Manchester-based lawyer during numerous appearances in local and national print and broadcast media, but yet only scraped over the 10,000-signature threshold required for a government response with less than a day to go.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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75 comments

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Nigel901 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Okay I'll accept compulsory insurance as a cyclist, in return for strict liability of blame on all drivers of a motor vehicles involved in a collision,  unless evidence exists to prove the contrary. 
 

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Sriracha replied to Nigel901 | 1 year ago
1 like

At which point cyclist insurance premiums are going to amount to little more than the admin fee plus a profit margin.

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Mungecrundle | 1 year ago
3 likes

Most drivers consider themselves as significantly above average in ability. We all do this in many aspects of our daily lives but perception of own driving ability seems to be particularly ego dependent.

Cyclists present a challenge to negotiate safely involving; observation, forward planning, vehicle control and patience. Basic driving skills to be sure but exposing those who are less competent.

As the motorist considers themselves to be a good driver and also has the superiority of speed and power any issue they have with a cyclist must therefore be the cyclist's fault.

Hence cyclists are a menace on the roads and the cause of any misfortune that befalls them.

Demands for registration, licencing, insurance hi viz, banishment to the pavement and all the other nonsense are flags of an inconsiderate and probably not very competent car owner.

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grOg | 1 year ago
1 like

Alan Douglas is a typical old crank that hates cyclists using 'his' roads, having spent his working life as a motoring journalist, making a living from spruiking motor vehicles.

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Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
7 likes

Drivers only want cyclists to be insured and licenced so they can claim for scratches to their cars or mirrors being broken. They have literally no concern for protection of life by this demand. Yet, they are so thick as to not realise why a cyclist might be so close to their car as to cause it damage. They drove close to the cyclist, they encroached on a cycle lane whilst playing with their phone, they cut across a cyclist, they pulled out on a cyclist. I shouldn't wish harm on another person, but sometimes I think the only way these producers are going to stop with these stupid headlines is for them to get hit by a car and understand where the real danger and menace to society is.  

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Troon replied to Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
1 like

They, they, they.

I ride a bike ("serious road cyclist") and I drive a car when necessary. I'd like to see all road users to have third-party insurance — as I do in my car as required by law, and on my bike through Cycling UK family membership — so that in the event of someone causing damage to my property (car, bike or person), I'm not left out of pocket. Are you seriously suggesting that if you ride your bike into my car mirror and break it, I should *not* be able to claim if it were your fault?

Many years ago, a friend of mine was head-down on a mountain bike and rode into the back of a parked van — 100% his fault. He caused over £1000 of damage to the van roof and was personally liable as he had no insurance.

With my CUK insurance, I know that if any of my family were to accidentally cause damage to a car (or anything else, but cars are the most likely "victims" for expensive damage) through their own fault, we're covered. That doesn't take *any* responsibility away from the person driving the car to treat the cyclists with care, of course — the car in question could be parked, for example.

You are echoing exactly the same thought processes as those people that say cyclists jump red lights — gross generalisations that promote harmful and toxic division. Try to get out of that habit.

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Hirsute replied to Troon | 1 year ago
4 likes

You can take the person to a small claims court in that situation.
Why do you say pedestrians should have insurance ?
Why do you think drivers are required to have insurance?

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Rendel Harris replied to Troon | 1 year ago
7 likes

Troon wrote:

Are you seriously suggesting that if you ride your bike into my car mirror and break it, I should *not* be able to claim if it were your fault?

You can claim, you just have to claim against the person instead of an insurance company. I can't believe this has to be explained again, but the reason motorists have to carry third-party insurance and cyclists don't is that motorists are capable of writing off other vehicles at costs that could run into the tens of thousands, causing massive damage to buildings that could run into hundreds of thousands, and causing physical damage to other road users that could have lifelong consequences running into millions. The odds of a cyclist causing damage that would be more than a couple of hundred quid (and so for most people able to be met out of their own pocket) are so minimal that the law deems it unnecessary for them to have compulsory insurance.

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TriTaxMan replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
3 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

You can claim, you just have to claim against the person instead of an insurance company. I can't believe this has to be explained again, but the reason motorists have to carry third-party insurance and cyclists don't is that motorists are capable of writing off other vehicles at costs that could run into the tens of thousands, causing massive damage to buildings that could run into hundreds of thousands, and causing physical damage to other road users that could have lifelong consequences running into millions. The odds of a cyclist causing damage that would be more than a couple of hundred quid (and so for most people able to be met out of their own pocket) are so minimal that the law deems it unnecessary for them to have compulsory insurance.

That is the point that people fail to grasp.  I have been involved in one collision where there was damage to my bike and a car.  (Motorist was 100% at fault).  The aftermath of the collision was that my bike was a write off... front wheel buckled, carbon fibre frame split in 3 places, handle bars buckled.  Cost to replace was into 4 figures.  The total damage to the car was a dent on the bonnet where I landed, the damage to their car would have cost maybe £200 if that.

An out of control cyclist crashing into a parked vehicle will damage that one vehicle, maybe costing a thousand pounds at a push.  An out of control car hitting a parked vehicle can, and quite often will, cause catastrophic damage to multiple vehicles and private property running into the tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds

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JimM777 replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
2 likes

Yeah right, its so easy to claim against a person rather than their insurance. Don't be ridiculous.

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Awavey replied to JimM777 | 1 year ago
6 likes

Actually it is, if you are fully comp'd your insurance co will do it for you, and set the bailiffs on them if they dont pay up.

If you arent, hire a solicitor, same deal.

Or just go via the small claims court process yourself, fill in a form, pay a fee, sit back & wait.

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Rendel Harris replied to JimM777 | 1 year ago
3 likes

JimM777 wrote:

Yeah right, its so easy to claim against a person rather than their insurance. Don't be ridiculous.

Have you heard of the Small Claims Court at all? That's exactly what it's there for and lodging a claim against someone, as I know from experience (a landlord who witheld our deposit, a plumber whose work wasn't up to scratch, won both times), is simplicity itself, you just fill in a form online, pay the fee and wait for your court date. I suggest you might like to clue yourself up before calling other people ridiculous, otherwise that epithet might end up being applied to yourself.

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grOg replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
1 like

Good luck with small claims courts; getting a judgement is one thing.. getting the guilty party to cough up the amount awarded is entirely something else; the time and expense to enforce a judgement is not worth it for the typical small claim; ask me how I know..

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Rendel Harris replied to grOg | 1 year ago
0 likes

grOg wrote:

Good luck with small claims courts; getting a judgement is one thing.. getting the guilty party to cough up the amount awarded is entirely something else; the time and expense to enforce a judgement is not worth it for the typical small claim; ask me how I know..

Guess it depends on personal experience, both times I've been I've recovered not inconsiderable sums (£1400 and £450, respectively), taken me two hours including travelling time, and the other party paid within a day.

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JimM777 replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

That assumes that the cyclist who bashed your car gave you his correct name and address. Yeah right.

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Mungecrundle replied to JimM777 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Is your point that insurance or lack of it is a red herring in this debate, and that the base problem is that a lot of people are just gits with no respect for the property of others?

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Rendel Harris replied to JimM777 | 1 year ago
3 likes

JimM777 wrote:

That assumes that the cyclist who bashed your car gave you his correct name and address. Yeah right.

And if cyclists had insurance, that would prevent them giving you a false name and address to save their no claims, would it? 

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chrisonabike replied to JimM777 | 1 year ago
2 likes

JimM777 wrote:

That assumes that the cyclist who bashed your car gave you his correct name and address. Yeah right.

That's on them though.

As pointed out, if someone on a horse, in a car with false plates, on a spacehopper or a pedestrian did so - how would that be different?  One of my bikes would be more expensive to replace than some cheap cars - and more easily damaged - so I've skin in the game there.

Personally I've got 3rd party cover through Cycling UK in case I cause damage and would recommend same to others.  But you can tell the scale of the problem by the fact that it's not bankrupting them.

If you want some kind of ID for everyone (tattooed on the back of their neck / on an implanted RFID so you can scan them before they scarper that's something else, no?

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JimM777 replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
0 likes

I'm only pointing out the obvious. If a conscientious cyclist damages a car, he will offer to pay for the damage and you don't need to take him to court. If on the other hand, he is a rascal, then good luck getting compensation from him.

If cyclist insurance etc was compulsory, then as is the case for most motorists, in the event of an accident, the cyclist would be covered by third party insurance, and for most incidents, the insurance would work as intended. Of course, as for cars, there would be those who would not insure themselves. None of this implies that I am in favour of compulsory cyclist insurance etc.

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Rendel Harris replied to JimM777 | 1 year ago
2 likes

JimM777 wrote:

I'm only pointing out the obvious. If a conscientious cyclist damages a car, he will offer to pay for the damage and you don't need to take him to court. If on the other hand, he is a rascal, then good luck getting compensation from him.

If cyclist insurance etc was compulsory, then as is the case for most motorists, in the event of an accident, the cyclist would be covered by third party insurance, and for most incidents, the insurance would work as intended. Of course, as for cars, there would be those who would not insure themselves. None of this implies that I am in favour of compulsory cyclist insurance etc.

If insurance for cyclists was compulsory then insurance companies would doubtless introduce the same rules as for cars, i.e. there would be an excess to pay and premiums would go up in the event of any claims required. Why would your "rascal" give you correct details when it would mean s/he would have to pay an excess and an increased premium? 

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JimM777 replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
0 likes

I didn't say that the real rascals would conform. My original post was simply pointing out that your argument against compulsory cyclist insurance, that, without such insurance, one could take the cyclist to court, was not a very convincing argument, because of the difficulties involved (as someone else has pointed out). And to make a small claim you have to first shell out over £90, which you may not get back.

In the other hand, if there was compulsory cyclist third party insurance, properly regulated, the cost per cyclist should be reasonably small so that might tend to encourage cyclists to follow procedure in the event of an incident. Of course there would always be a few rotten apples.

Just because I don't find your argument against compulsory cyclist insurance convincing does not imply I am in favour of such insurance. I think the cost of maintaining and properly policing such a scheme would be grossly excessive compared to any overall benefit.

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Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago
7 likes

I've heard that drivers cause lots of damage but as this short thread shows, it's a rare thing
https://road.cc/content/forum/car-crashes-building-please-post-your-loca...

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TriTaxMan replied to Troon | 1 year ago
4 likes

It's interesting how some motorists repeatedly bleat about uninsured cyclists causing damage to cars, yet how many of them would provide their insurance details if for example they scraped someone elses parked car in a supermarket?  Or if they clipped the wing mirror of a parked car as they were driving past?  Or damaged a fence? (I know a farmer who had to replace around £2k of fencing damaged by a motorist who caught a verge, and was pulled into the verge damaging multiple fence posts and a gate and they drove away)

How many of them would check to see if anyone was watching, and if no one was watching, just drive off leaving their victim to deal with the costs of their actions?  Why would they do that?  Because they know that in their car they have an excess to pay and a loss of no claims discount..... then it doesn't cost them anything and in their mind "well the other person can claim from their insurance".

And you have a serious misunderstanding of third party insurance..... Third party insurance indemnifies you against claims against you, it most definitely does not ensure you are not left out of pocket if someone damages your bike.  In the same way that if a motorist who is insured Third party crashes their car into another vehicle/object.... their insurance will pay for the damage that the motorist caused, it will not pay for any damage to the motorists car.

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Troon replied to TriTaxMan | 1 year ago
2 likes

TriTaxMan wrote:

And you have a serious misunderstanding of third party insurance.

I don't: I think you misread my sentence. I said "I'd like to see all road users to have third-party insurance […] so that in the event of someone causing damage to my property (car, bike or person), I'm not left out of pocket"

It may be that the clause I've omitted above was the cause of your misinterpretation. If so, I apologise.

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grOg replied to TriTaxMan | 1 year ago
2 likes

I've heard of motorists that after clipping a parked car, stop and looking very contrite in front of passersby, write on a piece of paper and place the note under a wiper of the parked car; the owner returning to their car finds the note has fake details..

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Rendel Harris replied to grOg | 1 year ago
2 likes

grOg wrote:

I've heard of motorists that after clipping a parked car, stop and looking very contrite in front of passersby, write on a piece of paper and place the note under a wiper of the parked car; the owner returning to their car finds the note has fake details..

I've heard stories of notes being found that read "Lots of people saw me hit your car so they think I'm leaving you my details but I'm not." One disgraceful suggestion I've seen, which nobody should ever follow, is always to ask black cab drivers for their business card whenever one takes a ride with them; in the event of scraping someone's car, simply write "Sorry, please contact me" on the back of one and slip it under the wiper.

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Jimmy Ray Will replied to Troon | 1 year ago
3 likes

Ironically, the clearest demonstration (for me) that cycling insurance is not necessary, also highlights that for an adult, its a no-brainer to have it. 

I'm talking about cost. Third party liability insurance comes with my BC membership, and is literally something stupid like £20 a year. That's the scale of perceived risk a cyclist is deemed to carry.

Which brings me to self-insurance. As many have already stated, the chances are, I am positioned to directly cover the costs of any damage my indiscretions may cause. 

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Clem Fandango replied to Muddy Ford | 1 year ago
6 likes

...and "they" (ie  the angrier and more vocal element of the drivist community) will all calm the f*ck down and patiently wait behind for a safe overtaking opportunity without objection if cyclists were to be registered. 

Of course they will because it's the ability to make a claim in the (unlikely) event that a cyclist damages/writes off their car,  and the ability to identify road traffic offenders through reg plates (which has been so effective in stamping out speeding, mobile phone use, RLJing, insurance dodging etc amongst drivists) that is their main concern here.  Not cyclist bashing because they get "held up" occasionally & don't like it.  No, definitely not that.

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TriTaxMan replied to Clem Fandango | 1 year ago
4 likes

I find that asking one of those drivers "If you got all of your wishes and cyclists had to have licences, insurance, registrations, paid VED to use the roads..... will you give cyclists respect?" it tends to end any discussion about it.

You do occasionally get one who says "No, even if they have to do all of that I won't give cyclists any respect until they stop breaking the rules of the road"..... always said with zero irony....... as if all motorists obey the rules of the road 100% of the time

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chrisonabike replied to TriTaxMan | 1 year ago
3 likes

Even "respect" doesn't matter though when they don't notice you're even there.  As so many say.  I'm even willing to believe this occasionally on account of all the other big, non-moving, often brightly coloured stuff (houses, bridges, bollards) that people drive into all the time to their own detriment.

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