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Editorial in The Times – which in 2012 urged ‘Save Our Cyclists’ – calls for dangerous cycling law and riders to be licensed and insured

Newspaper’s call comes almost 10 years to the day since the launch of its award-winning Cities Fit For Cycling campaign

Almost 10 years to the day after it launched an award-winning campaign to make Britain’s roads safer for people on bikes, and on the eve of the introduction of changes to the Highway Code aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, The Times has today called for cyclists to be licensed and insured and for a new offence of causing death by dangerous cycling to be introduced.

Launched on 2 February 2012 with a front page headline of 'Save Our Cyclists' accompanied by a picture of Mary Bowers, the Times journalist left with life-changing injuries when a lorry driver ran her over outside the newspaper’s then headquarters in Wapping, the Cities Fit For Cycling campaign set out an eight-point manifesto calling among other things for safety improvements on lorries and at junctions, the building of “world class” infrastructure, and for cities to appoint a cycling commissioner.

‘Save Our Cyclists’ – The Times launches major cycle safety campaign

The campaign sparked a House of Commons debate later that month, with the then All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group holding a six-week inquiry the following year which culminated in the publication of the Get Britain Cycling report.

https://road.cc/content/news/53285-parliamentary-debate-cycling-takes-ce...

> Get Britain Cycling report calls for 10 per cent of journeys to be made by bike by 2025

Times journalist Kaya Burgess, who was heavily involved in the campaign, also spoke at a conference in Milan entitled Cycling and Road Safety in the City hosted by Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, one of whose journalists had been killed while riding to work in the Lombard capital in 2011.

> Kaya Burgess of the Times talks to road.cc about Cities fit for Cycling campaign

Then as now, the newspaper today made its current position on cycling clear through a strongly-worded lead article – although the contents of the two editorials published a decade apart could hardly be more different, with the latest leader entitled The Times view on dangerous cycling: Safety Standards.

Echoing comments made by Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, who earlier this week called for an offence of causing death by dangerous cycling to be introduced, the newspaper described it as “a sensible proposal to deal with a genuine problem.”

> Grant Shapps calls for new ‘death by dangerous cycling’ law

In response to his Shapps’ comments, Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at Cycling UK, told road.cc: “Introducing new cycling offences in isolation however would simply be a sticking plaster on a broken system, because our current careless and dangerous driving offences aren’t fit for purpose – replicating them for cycling makes no sense at all.”

The Times acknowledged that of 146 reported deaths in collisions involving cyclists on Great Britain’s roads in 2020, almost all the victims – 141 – were bike riders, the editorial insisted that “It is not a plausible objection to new legislation that many more pedestrians are killed by motorists than by cyclists each year.”

Few legal observers would argue that it is unsatisfactory that the only options open to prosecutors in a case involving the death of a pedestrian are to charge a cyclist with causing bodily injury through wanton or furious driving – an offence under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861 – or manslaughter.

However, such cases are rare – in England, there have been two successful prosecutions within the past five years with both cyclists receiving custodial sentences after being convicted of the former offence but cleared of the latter – and, as Dollimore points out, reform of laws regarding motorists who kill, many of whom even if convicted are given suspended sentences, should be the priority given the number of cases involved.

However, in its editorial, The Times insisted: “Legislation would not penalise cyclists but merely correct an anomaly whereby those who recklessly cause death on two wheels are treated differently from those who do so on four.

The newspaper continued: “It would further enhance safety and equity if cyclists were required to hold licences and take out liability insurance, just as motorists are.”

It said: “The overwhelming majority of cyclists are scrupulous in their road use and sensitive of pedestrians. The problem lies with a small minority who are aggressive and regard traffic signs, safety features, and a strict division between road and pavement as optional.

“No-one seriously queries that motorists should be required to hold driving licences and take out mandatory third party insurance, and have mandatory forms of identification, namely number plates. Requiring the same of cyclists is fair, and would deter antisocial and dangerous behaviour by the few who are tempted to engage in it,” said The Times – with no mention of the estimated 1 million uninsured drivers on Britain’s roads, let alone how laws against speeding or using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel have failed to curb such behaviour by a large proportion of drivers.

Moreover, the government has consistently rejected calls for cyclists to be licensed and insured, including in its response last month to a petition from the motoring lawyer Nick Freeman.

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

Laughably, The Times went on to say that requiring cyclist to have insurance, be licensed and have registration plates on their bikes “would also combat bike theft.”

It saved the best for last, though, suggesting that cyclists should pay to use the road, even though they are funded from general taxation.

“The objection that it would deter legitimate cycling is not persuasive,” it said. “The road network is a service available to everyone, and it is reasonable to expect those who benefit from it to abide by its regulation and contribute to its upkeep. The delicate network of relations between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists needs tougher legislation in favour of those on foot,” it added.

We can’t argue with that final sentence. But with drivers, not cyclists, involved in upwards of 99 per cent of pedestrian fatalities in Great Britain each year, it’s clear where efforts would best be concentrated.

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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48 comments

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 2 years ago
1 like

Hmm, as already commented, this looks like we are building up to the roll out for whatever was the trade for the new HC rulings... probably the introduction of dangerous death cycling laws, or mandatory use of cyclepaths, or insurance / taxation. Maybe all of it.

I'd suggest the press have been quietly steered towards building and concentrating populist momentum on this subject so that 'action must be taken'.

The cycling authorities and indeed all cyclists need to take stock and action - where possible - as none of these potential measures will deliver safety, or equity, or even satisfy the masses, the only deliverable will be less cycling.

There are plenty of powerful groups that would benefit greatly from cycling being removed from our highways, the most obvious being anyone associated with facilitating self driving technology. 

If you chuck in enough barriers, then kids won't start riding, and if you don't ride as a child, you are unlikely to ride as an adult. Problem solved. 

Self driving vehicles are far easier to implement, and the benefits greater, without slow moving organic matter in the way! 

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grOg | 2 years ago
2 likes

'Mary Bowers, the Times journalist left with life-changing injuries when a lorry driver ran her'.. now there's an understatement; Bowers is now in a minimally conscious state and will spend the rest of her life in a care home; the criminal negligence of the Romanian truck driver was unbelievable.. he was behind her stopped at a traffic light and while talking on his phone, drove over the top of her when the light went green; he then stopped and got out, neglecting to apply the handbrake, which allowed the truck to roll back over Mary.

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grOg replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

another good article and even better, not in The Guardian..

https://www.warwickshireworld.com/news/people/the-rugby-advertisers-view...

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iandusud | 2 years ago
4 likes

I've got an idea. Why not have the government provide third party insurance for all cyclists and pay for it from all the money said cyclists are saving the government by choosing to use a mode of transport that doesn't polute or cause wear and tear to the roads. Seems fair to me. Who could possibly not think that to be fair?

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hawkinspeter replied to iandusud | 2 years ago
6 likes

iandusud wrote:

I've got an idea. Why not have the government provide third party insurance for all cyclists and pay for it from all the money said cyclists are saving the government by choosing to use a mode of transport that doesn't polute or cause wear and tear to the roads. Seems fair to me. Who could possibly not think that to be fair?

I bet the cost would be so tiny that it would hardly be worth accounting for. Whilst we're at it, provide similar 3rd party insurance for all pedestrians, scooterists, horse-riders, skateboarders etc. Basically cover anything that's less damaging than a tonne of speeding metal.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
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Ah but (as I heard in the context of some misogyny) "but what about all the accidents they cause?"

Agreed - but in fact the government context seems to be "we need to be seen to give cyclists some extra burdens as a 'compensation' for their 'extra rights' in the HC wording review because fairness".  So I doubt any positive contributions are on the cards for a while.  I'd rather even that trifling sum get put in the coffers of Active Travel England to assist Chris B though.

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Rome73 | 2 years ago
5 likes

The effing idiots. What about pedestrians - why don't they pay 'road tax' then? they have loads more infrastructure than cyclists do - there are pavements, traffic islands, footbridges, toucan, pelican, zebra crossings, underpasses, pedestrian traffic lights . . . . Everywhere. Why don't pedestrians pay for those then? Or cycle licence and insurance? When? At the age of 5? Or maybe a ten year old should have a licence? Bu then mum and dad would have to pay for that, so let's say at 18. And would my mate have to be insured if he / she popped on my cycle down to the shops? The fuckin idiots. More read meat for the brexitty demographic to salivate over. 

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MattieKempy | 2 years ago
10 likes

The Times and the Torygraph, are simply the more 'respectable' versions of the Daily Mail and Daily Express. They're not even fit for wiping your @rse on.

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grOg replied to MattieKempy | 2 years ago
1 like

Guardian reader?

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nikkispoke | 2 years ago
6 likes

I wish the editor of the Times would read out aloud the article and then realise how bad it is, we have nearly 1 million uninsured car drivers in the UK. Despite each car  displaying a number plate and thousands of cameras to read and track such plates. I would happily afford a small amount of money to ensure I can travel safely along roads but why not charge everyone which includes pedestrians? If we are applying such a principle, base it on the harm or danger created to individuals or society and the effect that vehicle has in damaging the road ? The BBC also has a more positive article on the new highway code changes, hopefully the pressure applied with people writing in about the more harmful articles and bias is having some effect ? Highway Code: How the update could improve road safety - BBC News

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Hirsute replied to nikkispoke | 2 years ago
7 likes

My current pasttime is to count the number of vehicles with numberplates so dirty, they can't be read.

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Sriracha replied to Hirsute | 2 years ago
8 likes

Mine is counting the number of fully valeted cars with numberplates that can't be read.

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wtjs replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
2 likes

Mine is counting the number of fully valeted cars with numberplates that can't be read

Have you reported these to the police in your area? What was the result? In Lancashire, they just don't respond- as opposed to, as in the case of untaxed vehicles, making a statement of number plates are nothing to do with us

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Sriracha replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
6 likes

Why report them to the police? That would only be necessary if they were not already aware. But you see these "stealth" cars daily. And then there's all the others with number plates, yes, but not so as you could read them - they are that heavily smoked. They are legion. It is not credible that the police are unaware. So I conclude that they don't care and are not going to enforce the law. Given the ever increasing numbers of these infractions, Joe Motorist has evidently come to the same conclusion.

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wtjs replied to Sriracha | 2 years ago
4 likes

Why report them to the police?

Because you're compiling lists, with photographs and report details, of examples of all the traffic offences they do nothing about! The lists are divided into 3 sections: those the police are prepared to state are nothing to do with us (untaxed vehicles, crossing double white lines while overtaking cyclists etc.); those where they dare not state it, but which are in practice nothing to do with us (close-passing cyclists, crashing through red lights, handheld mobile use while driving etc.); and the newest category which is where they pretend to be doing something but the evasive and ambiguous nature of the 'action letter' tells you that in reality they're also all going in the bin 

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Awavey | 2 years ago
11 likes

The Times doesnt normally play these games though, the audience who get outraged about things tend to read the Mail or the Express instead, hence why they could run the Mary Bowers cycle safety campaign and it not be out of step with the readership or get any blowback from them.

Yes we can cite two columnists in the past decade who wrote objectionable comment pieces on cycling, but other newspapers print equally hostile to cycling pieces on a near weekly basis.

So this is something different, I wonder if theres been a recent change in editors, though still typical of its dual headed approach to cycling they are just as likely to publish an article like air pollution is bad cycling is the answer,or Neah Evans says cycling is great you should try it, as they are "Killer Cyclists may be classed like motorists" https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/killer-cyclists-may-be-classed-like-m... or "Dangerous cycling needs stiffer sanctions and tighter regulation" editorial

the frustrating thing for me is how did we get from a national conversation about improving safety on the roads for vulnerable road users like cyclists, to end up in this Grant Shapps led cul-de-sac, who the Times say is a "keen cyclist" so clearly any bats*** crazy thing he proposes must be right I guess by their logic.

It even claims the "...problem of dangerous cycling on both rural and urban roads is known to every regular motorist."

yes I often think as Im passed within inches approaching a blind bend by a motorist travelling at near 60mph, Im the one causing the danger.

But this is basically a posh way of saying whataboutRoad Tax isnt it ?  "and it is reasonable to expect those who benefit from it to abide by its regulation and contribute to its upkeep."

and yet Im pretty damn sure my taxes that I pay, contribute to the upkeep of the roads already, and if they want to get picky, I just paid £155 VED on my car, because yes Im a cyclist and a driver, yet I rode twice as many miles as I drove last year, I paid taxes to the upkeep of the road and I lowered congestion, I lowered air pollution, I lowered the wear & tear on the roads by choosing to cycle instead of driving, frankly they should be paying me.

as for the abide by regulation stuff, well if you dont follow the rules on the road you are more likely to end up as one of those KSI stats, funnily enough the fear of permanent injury or death tends to focus the mind not to muck about cycling on the roads as its too dangerous to, if only that were the same for drivers.

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Brightspark replied to Awavey | 2 years ago
0 likes

See my comment under the Grant Shapps story.

I told you so...and so it begins. I have a comment uner the HC story next that relates.

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wtjs | 2 years ago
9 likes

The Times has gone over to The Dark Side to join the Mail, Express, Sun etc.- this may prove to be a mistake, as there are only so many crazed nutters to go round. Is the Times prepared to join the bidding war for ever more right wing misanthropic copy, when up against the real professionals at it?

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TheBillder replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
11 likes
wtjs wrote:

The Times has gone over to The Dark Side to join the Mail, Express, Sun etc.- this may prove to be a mistake, as there are only so many crazed nutters to go round. Is the Times prepared to join the bidding war for ever more right wing misanthropic copy, when up against the real professionals at it?

Are you assuming that the number of crazed nutters is constant? New ones are being created all the time, in a much more efficient process than bitcoin.

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Flintshire Boy replied to TheBillder | 2 years ago
0 likes

I know, I know. Depressing, isn't it?

If ONLY people were exactly like you - sanctimonious, prejudiced, correct about everything all the time - well, the world would be a much better place.

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spen replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
5 likes

Flintshire Boy wrote:

I know, I know. Depressing, isn't it?

If ONLY people were exactly like you - sanctimonious, prejudiced, correct about everything all the time - well, the world would be a much better place.

 

I've often thought exactly that, but it would probably end up resembling the Citaddel of Ricks

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hawkinspeter replied to spen | 2 years ago
3 likes

spen wrote:

I've often thought exactly that, but it would probably end up resembling the Citaddel of Ricks

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Rendel Harris replied to Flintshire Boy | 2 years ago
4 likes

.

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Hirsute replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
0 likes

Wrong thread.

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grOg replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
0 likes

'crazed nutters'.. 'right wing misanthropes'.. I think I must be in the comment section of The Guardian, not road.cc..

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marmotte27 | 2 years ago
16 likes

Yet more proof, if it was needed, that rightwing and hypocrite are the same word.

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grOg replied to marmotte27 | 2 years ago
0 likes

better than left wing and stupid..

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brooksby replied to grOg | 2 years ago
2 likes

grOg wrote:

marmotte27 wrote:

Yet more proof, if it were needed, that rightwing and hypocrite are the same word

better than left wing and stupid..

Really? Why is that?

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
1 like

brooksby wrote:

grOg wrote:

marmotte27 wrote:

Yet more proof, if it were needed, that rightwing and hypocrite are the same word

better than left wing and stupid..

Really? Why is that?

More power / more money?

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