Cyclists could be made to abide by 20mph speed limits and have number plates on their bikes under strict new road laws being considered by the government.
It comes less than two weeks after the Transport Secretary vowed to create a “death by dangerous cycling” law that would treat killer cyclists the same as motorists, with Grant Shapps saying he wants to stop certain behaviour on the roads.
More cycling lanes are being introduced around the country and with 20mph zones also being brought in, there have been calls for cyclists to also respect the speed limits.
What new rules for cyclists have been proposed?
New laws would see cyclists who break the speed limit face fines or penalty points, as is the case for motorists.
The Welwyn Hatfield MP told the Daily Mail: “Somewhere where cyclists are actually not breaking the law is when they speed, and that cannot be right, so I absolutely propose extending speed limit restrictions to cyclists.
“Particularly where you’ve got 20mph limits on increasing numbers of roads, cyclists can easily exceed those, so I want to make speed limits apply to cyclists.
“That obviously does then lead you into the question of: ‘Well, how are you going to recognise the cyclist? Do you need registration plates and insurance? And that sort of thing.’
“So I’m proposing there should be a review of insurance and how you actually track cyclists who do break the laws.”
The Highway Code and Road Traffic Act speeding limits currently only apply to motor vehicles and their drivers, and while local authorities can impose speed limits on cyclists, it has been rarely done.
“I don’t want to stop people from getting on their bike,” Mr Shapps told the Mail, adding: “It’s a fantastic way to travel. We’ve seen a big explosion of cycling during Covid and since, I think it has lots of health benefits.
“But I see no reason why cyclists should break the road laws, why they should speed, why they should bust red lights and be able to get away with it.
“I think we do have to not turn a blind eye to that and I’m proposing setting up a review to do exactly that.”
The Department for Transport has not commented on Mr Shapps’ interview, but Department officials did acknowledge to the Mail that the measures would require cyclists to have number plates or other identification markings for enforcement purposes.
Will there be a ‘death by dangerous cycling’ law?
Mr Shapps said earlier this month that a “death by dangerous cycling law” is needed to “impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care”.
The move would close a legal loophole which means that cyclists who kill pedestrians can only be jailed for two years.
It comes four years after the government ran a consultation on proposals for new offences of causing death or serious injury while cycling.
Mr Shapps wrote in the Mail+ that a “selfish minority” of cyclists believe they are “immune” to red lights.
He said: “We need the cycling equivalent of death by dangerous driving to close a gap in the law and impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care.”
Under Mr Shapps’ proposal, the new law would be added to the Transport Bill which is due to be put before Parliament in the autumn.
However, it is possible that Mr Shapps may no longer be in his current ministerial role when the Cabinet is reshuffled by the new Prime Minister next month.
What has been the reaction to the news?
The proposals have largely been met with disdain online, with social media users pointing out that reaching a speed of 20mph would be difficult for most casual cyclists.
One Twitter user said: “Another non-existing issue this excuse for a govt uses to distract attention from the real issues. I would love to take Shapp cycling to show him how hard you have to pedal to break the 20mph speed limit!”
“I’m a reasonably fit and very experienced cyclist. The only time I can exceed 20mph is on a decent downhill gradient”, another said.
A third added: “unless you’re a super fit roadie type you ain’t going to pedal faster than 20mph ,utter nonsense as usual.”
Other users accused the government of targeting cyclists as a “distraction tactic” and said such rules would deter more people from cycling on the roads.
“Enforcement of the road laws is pitiful right now (owing to decreased traffic cops and resources) so targeting cyclists is a distraction tactic,” one user said.
Another added: “I can see where they’re coming from with this but it’s only going to push people away from cycling.”
Meanwhile, some users said that making commercial bike users, such as couriers, identifiable via number plates would be a good idea, and that these cyclists should be insured.
It was also suggested that the government should instead focus on stopping cycling on pavements or the wrong way along one-way streets, to offer better protection for pedestrians, rather than imposing a speed limit.
One user wrote: “Never mind observe the speed limit. Stop at red lights, at pedestrian crossings, stop cycling on the pavement and the wrong way down one way streets, stop racing down canal paths forcing pedestrians to jump aside.”
How many pedestrians are killed by cyclists each year?
According to a 2020 report by the parliamentary advisory council for transport safety (Pacts), which uses Department for Transport (DfT) figures, “pedal cyclists and small motorcycles were involved in very few collisions where pedestrians were killed”.
The report states: “Cars are the mode by far the most frequently involved in fatal collisions [in 2019]. There were 736 collisions where a car driver/passenger was killed and 721 collisions where the car was the ‘other vehicle’ in a fatal collision.
“Cars are also likely to be involved in a significant proportion of multiple (‘3+’) vehicle collisions.
“Pedestrians and cyclists, sometimes viewed as ‘unsafe’, pose very little risk to other road users. In fatal collisions between motor vehicles and pedestrians or cyclists, it is almost always the pedestrian or the cyclist who dies, not the occupants of the motor vehicle.
“There were three people in motorised vehicles killed in collisions with pedestrians and cyclists in 2019. By contrast, 517 pedestrians and cyclists were killed by motorised vehicles.”