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Random bloke says Grant Shapps stole his compulsory insurance for cyclists idea

Bizarre claim comes as one bike insurer backs idea of compulsory third party cover for bike riders

A man from Barrow in Cumbria has claimed that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who earlier this week said that cyclists should be made to take out third party insurance, stole the idea from him.

The North West Evening Mail reports that Mark Bell asked Simon Fell, the Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness, to raise the issue with ministers after a child on a bike apparently scratched his car a few months ago.

Now he is claiming credit for the idea of cyclists having to carry insurance – despite calls for just that being made since well before was wearing nappies, having Johnson’s Baby Powder sprinkled on its backside and being forced to drink cod liver oil at the end of the Noughties.

He told the newspaper: “I sat back and thought, if this has happened to me, how many other cars are being hit?

“I contacted Simon Fell and said to him, ‘why are cyclists allowed to go into cars and we are paying for the damage?’ There should be some give and take because if we hit a cyclist and they get injured, they can get thousands off us.

“Maybe by holding them responsible they might cycle more sensibly and be less of a risk.”

In response to his concerns, Trudy Harrison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said: “We have previously considered the possibility of introducing a compulsory insurance system for everyone who cycles on the highway, but this would be likely to lead to a reduction in the number of people cycling.

“To be effective, such a requirement would also need to be introduced alongside a mandatory licensing and registration system to allow those cycling to be identified and insurance details to be exchanged at the scene of any incident, which would be costly and complex.”

“I am afraid that I do not think that compulsory insurance for all those who cycle would be a proportionate solution,” she added.

Shapps floated the idea earlier this week in an interview with the Daily Mail in which his comments were in direct opposition to those consistently made in recent years by ministers and civil servants in his own department.

> Grant Shapps: Cyclists should have number plates, be insured and subject to speed limits

While North Korea requires cyclists to be licensed, no country in the world currently requires cyclists to have mandatory third party insurance; Switzerland did have such a system, requiring cyclists to show a vignette on their bike to prove they had but cover, but it was ditched because it proved far too burdensome to administer and enforce.

The fact is, most adult cyclists do have third party insurance for potential liability to third parties for incidents they are at fault for when riding their bikes – whether through their own household policy, club membership, or being signed up to an organisation such as British Cycling or Cycling UK.

Drivers of mechanically propelled vehicle such as cars, vans, and lorries, are required to have minimum third party liability cover under the Road Traffic Act 1988, but cyclists are not.

That reflects the greater risk of harm that motorists pose to other people such as fellow vehicle occupants or pedestrians.

Legislation apart, the entire insurance industry is based on assessment of risk, so some may see it as disappointing that one specialist cycling insurer embraced Shapps’ comments this week.

Cycleplan CEO Paul Williams said: “The government no doubt faces a challenge to launch such a system as part of any move to make cycling insurance mandatory, especially given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

“Though legislation should indeed be on the government’s long-term roadmap, particularly as micro-mobility usage accelerates, many families simply do not need an additional cost burden right now.

“However, mandatory cycling insurance would bring huge benefits to victims of incidents involving uninsured cyclists and may also encourage better cycling behaviour with tougher rules on dangerous driving, speed limits, traffic lights, and so on.”

He added; “It could also help to reduce cycle crime – in particular, bike theft, which as we know, continues to blight London and other major cities,” although quite why cyclists being made to take out third party insurance would prevent their bikes being stolen was not explained.

Simon joined 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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