A shake-up of road laws which could see cyclists forced to display registration plates, buy insurance and face prosecution for speeding has been described as “impractical” and “strange” by transport groups and opposition parties.
Charity Cycling UK accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “proposing expensive barriers” to cycling.
Less than a fortnight after vowing to create a “death by dangerous cycling” law that will treat killer cyclists the same as motorists, the Cabinet minister said he wanted to stop certain behaviour on the roads.
This is despite nearly 60 times more pedestrians being killed in collisions with cars than bicycles per year.
Mr Shapps told the Daily Mail newspaper: “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.”
After his quotes were published online, Mr Shapps gave an interview to the Times in which he said he was “not attracted to the bureaucracy of registration plates”, adding that such a move “would go too far”.
The Department for Transport (DfT) press office was unable to immediately provide clarification.
In November, roads minister Baroness Vere said the Government has “no plans to introduce a mandatory registration scheme for cycle ownership” as the costs of doing so would outweigh the benefits and it would “deter many people from cycling”.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, told the PA news agency: “These latest proposals to regulate cycling are impractical and unworkable, and have been repeatedly dismissed by successive governments.
“They’re also a complete U-turn on current Government policy.
“As cost of living ramps up, we’re seeing more people turning to cycling to meet their local transport needs. Rather than proposing expensive barriers to cycling more – both to the Exchequer and the individual – we need this Government to encourage people to cycle more, not less.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said Mr Shapps’ comments were “utterly absurd”.
Liberal Democrats transport spokesperson Wera Hobhouse described the plan as “strange and pointless”, claiming it would “pile extra costs on to people who are trying to be more active”.
AA president Edmund King said introducing more barriers to cycling would be “a retrograde step”.
He added: “Most adult cyclists are also drivers, and therefore more should be done to encourage harmony on the roads.”
A spokesman for sustainable transport charity Sustrans, said there a “long-standing frustration” shared by all road users is caused by “insufficient infrastructure” to accommodate everyone.
DfT figures show 304 pedestrians were injured and four were killed after being hit by bicycles in Britain in 2020.
That is compared with 11,493 injuries and 237 deaths in collisions with cars.
The Highway Code and Road Traffic Act speeding limits only apply to motor vehicles and their drivers. While local authorities can impose speed limits on cyclists, it has been rarely done.
Earlier this month, Mr Shapps pledged to create a “death by dangerous cycling” law to “impress on cyclists the real harm they can cause when speed is combined with lack of care”.
The move will close a legal loophole which means that cyclists who kill pedestrians can only be jailed for two years.
Under Mr Shapps’ proposal, the new law would be added to the Transport Bill due to be put before Parliament in the autumn.
But he may not be in his current ministerial role when the Cabinet is reshuffled by the new prime minister next month.