A transport minister has repeated that there is no prospect whatsoever of the government requiring cyclists to be licensed, even as self-styled ‘Mr Loophole’ lawyer Nick Freeman continues to do the rounds of the media to try and gain support for his petition calling for such a scheme to be introduced.
The solicitor, who defends often high-profile clients facing motoring-related charges and often secures acquittals on technicalities, posted his petition to the government website three weeks ago, but it is currently only halfway to the 10,000 signatures that would oblige ministers to provide a response.
> ‘Mr Loophole’ lawyer Nick Freeman wades into e-scooter debate... by launching petition calling for cyclists to be licensed
Step forward Lord Berkeley, patron of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling & Walking, who perhaps anticipating a lengthy wait for the petition to reach that threshold, if ever, decided to elicit a response himself through a question in the House of Lords.
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.”
The Labour peer’s question got the response that he or anyone who has followed the issue closely would have expected, and demonstrates how a parliamentary question can be used to get a minister on the record.
That’s important in this instance, given that major media outlets including BBC Radio 4 (and ones with rather less reach – Freeman appeared on GB News this morning) have given the lawyer a platform to air his views and promote his petition.
Responding to Lord Berkeley, 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,” she said.
“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.
As with all petitions submitted to the government, Freeman’s will remain live for six months from the date it was posted, expiring on 7 December.
As mentioned above, should it reach 10,000 signatures, the government will issue a response, which would be extremely unlikely to deviate in substance from what Baroness Vere said in her reply to Lord Berkeley.
Petitions that reach 100,000 signatures are considered for a House of Commons debate by the Backbench Business Committee, although in this instance there seems to be very little prospect of that happening.
One petition that has passed that 10,000-signature threshold in the two weeks since it was posted calls on the government to “Run a public awareness campaign to address driver aggression toward cyclists.”
Posted by Helen-Louise Smith, the petition, which you can find here, says: “The Department [for] Transport should run a national public awareness campaign to educate motorists about dangerous, inappropriate and aggressive behaviours that can lead to the injury and even death of cyclists. The attitude that cyclists should not be on roads needs to end.
“In 2019, 16,884 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents, including 4,433 who were killed or seriously injured,” the petition continues.
“These figures only include cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police.
“Many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police. Driver aggression towards cyclists feels to be increasing & we are calling on the Department for Transport to run a national public awareness campaign to educate motorists about dangerous behaviours.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.