A new survey from the market research firm YouGov has found strong levels of support for compulsory registration of cyclists – even apparently among cyclists, defined as people who confirmed they have ridden a bike in the past year.
The survey follows the petition launched by motoring lawyer Nick Freeman – who styles himself ‘Mr Loophole’ for his history of getting often high-profile clients cleared of driving-related offences, often on technicalities – urging that cyclists being licensed.
Conducted among 1,888 adults in Great Britain, the survey found that six in 10 respondents (60 per cent) backed the idea of cyclists being made to wear numbered tabards so they could be identified, with around half (31 per cent) expressing “strong support.”
71 per cent of people who voted Conservative at the 2019 general election supported the proposal, compared to 55 per cent who voted Labour. While response rates across socio-economic groups and regions were broadly similar, support rose steadily with age – from 45 per cent of 18-24s to 72 per cent of those aged 65 and above.
Just 28 per cent of people said they were against the idea, and only 15 per cent strongly opposed it – sentiments most likely to be held by Labour or Lib Dem voters, men, and younger people.
Among people who have cycled in the past year, 51 per cent were against the notion of having to wear a numbered tabard, of whom 37 per cent were strongly opposed – but a surprising 42 per cent were in favour, with 15 per cent expressing strong support.
Freeman also wants cyclists who have broken the rules of the road to be subjected to penalty points on their driving licence, should they possess one – something backed by 70 per cent of all respondents, and 58 per cent who had ridden a bike in the past year.
While the YouGov survey suggests strong support for Freeman’s proposals, his petition - posted more than six weeks ago – has only attracted 6,332 signatures at the time of writing.
That’s less than two thirds of the 10,000 votes required that would oblige the government to respond – and more than 90,000 short of the 100,000 needed before the Backbench Business Committee would even consider the issues raised in the petition for debate.
Helpfully, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Baroness Vere of Norbiton reiterated the government’s position just last month in response to a written question from Lord Berkeley, patron of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling & Walking.
> Minister repeats there is no prospect of requiring cyclists to be licensed as ‘Mr Loophole’ lawyer Nick Freeman continues to push his petition
He asked the government “what assessment they have made of the possible (1) advantages, and (2) disadvantages, of introducing a licensing system for cyclists.”
In response, the minister 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.
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.