Bicycle number plates demanded to stop rogue riders

Cyclists should wear identification similar to car number plates to help curb misbehaviour, according to a police commissioner. However, safety campaigners say the proposal is unrealistic.

Katy Bourne, the police and crime commissioner for Sussex, told a public meeting: “I would like to see cyclists wear some form of identification like cars have, so when they go through traffic lights you can identify them and prosecute them for breaking the law.”

A similar idea was dismissed by the RAC in 2006 as “impractical, bureaucratic and dangerous”. Carlton Reid, author of Roads were not Built for Cars and executive editor of BikeBiz, said: “It has been tried and is not something that has worked in any country ever.”

The plate would have to be big enough to be visible to traffic cameras, making it difficult to fit on to an average bicycle, he said.

“Number plates don’t stop motorists texting at the wheel, going through red lights or speeding,” he said.

“It’s an ill-thought-through idea. Does she expect every six-year-old to have a number plate on their bicycles?”

Ms Bourne told the Brighton Argus: “When you use the road, if you are driving a car, you have your number plate. Other people register; they pay to use the roads. Cyclists don’t, admittedly.”

The myth that motorists pay for the roads while pedestrians and cyclists do not is frequently debunked by The Times’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. Road maintenance is funded from general taxation paid by all taxpayers. Motorists do not pay for “road tax”, which was abolished in 1937, but they do pay vehicle excise duty, which is linked to emissions and does not go back into road maintenance.

Mr Reid said: “This is not something you expect from an elected official. Everybody pays for the roads. The NHS isn’t just paid for by sick people, and the roads aren’t just paid for by motorists.”

Tony Green, of the Brighton and Hove Cycling Campaign, described the licensing of cyclists as unrealistic. “There are cyclists who break the law, but ten or one hundred times as many motorists break the law,” he said.

MPs will debate cycle safety in the House of Commons a week today as calls intensify for the government to create an annual cycling budget worth £10 per capita. The demand has been supported by the AA, British Cycling, the Commons transport committee and James May, the Top Gear presenter.

The Department for Transport has promised to publish a “delivery plan” for improved cycle provision, but campaigners fear it will not be made public before the debate and will not pledge an annual fund.

Labour last year published a “cycling manifesto” and pledged to provide “long-term funding” for cycling, but Mary Creagh, the shadow transport secretary, has so far refused to commit Labour to establishing an annual budget for cycling.

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