Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been widely condemned after announcing a plan which could force cyclists to display registration plates.
Motoring experts, transport groups, legal experts and opposition parties criticised the proposal, describing it as “impractical”, “strange” and “a retrograde step”.
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.
His plan could involve a requirement for cyclists to display number plates and buy insurance, as well as face prosecution for breaking road speed limits.
This is despite nearly 60 times more pedestrians being killed in collisions with cars than bicycles, and many cyclists not being able to reach even 20mph.
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 later clarified it is not Government policy to introduce speed limits for cyclists and any proposals would need to be reviewed by the new prime minister.
A spokeswoman for the department said: “While there are no plans to introduce registration plates on bicycles, we continue to look at how we can improve road safety across all forms of transport and we are considering bringing forward legislation to introduce new offences around dangerous cycling.”
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 the proposals to regulate cycling are “impractical and unworkable”, and have been “repeatedly dismissed by successive governments”.
He added that more people are cycling due to the cost-of-living crisis and the Government should “encourage people to cycle more, not less”.
Simon Munk, campaigns manager at London Cycling Campaign, said the proposals have already been deemed “unworkable and costly to implement” by DfT officials.
He continued: “They wouldn’t deal with road danger, they’d make cycling more expensive in a cost-of-living crisis, and discourage people from cycling in a climate crisis.”
Mr Munk branded the plan “a distraction”, adding that several cycling organisations already offer free insurance to members because “the insurable damage caused by those cycling is small”.
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.”
Nicola Hall, a personal injury solicitor at law firm Osbornes Law, which represents injured cyclists, said Mr Shapps’ comments were “an unprecedented attack on cyclists who instead of facing more laws should be getting greater protection”.
She added: “Apart from the fact that these plans are completely impractical they are also an insult to cyclists who sometimes take their lives in their hands by going onto the roads, especially in busy cities, and they need to be abandoned immediately.”
Labour’s shadow transport minister Gill Furniss said: “Buses are in crisis, rail services are being slashed, fares and fuel are soaring – and the Transport Secretary’s big idea is to slap number plates on tens of millions of bicycles.
“This absurd and unworkable plan would create a mountain of bureaucracy for cyclists, and force people away from active travel.”
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”.
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.