Should cyclists have reg plates?

11th September 2019

Earlier this year, Lord Winston called for cyclists to have a licence plate. This was after his claim an aggressive cyclist kicked him repeatedly after he had politely advised her of the dangers of cycling on a pavement. It was his belief that by enforcing licence plates for cyclists, it would help prevent ‘aggressiveness’ shown by some cyclists, who can currently remain pretty much anonymous.

He isn’t alone in his calls for higher standards of riding among cyclists. A report by Halfords saw 59% of people would back the introduction of number plates for cyclists, believing it would encourage responsible riding. The report also showed 86% of people want tougher penalties for cyclists who don’t abide by the highway code and 81% want to see tougher action for cyclists who ride aggressively.

Worryingly, a new study found more than half of car drivers think cyclists are not completely human. Whilst this study was done in Australia, it reflects a negative sentiment towards cyclists we often see here in the UK. Those who saw people on bikes as less than 90% human were found to display 1.87 times more direct aggression towards them than those above that mark.

The lead author of the study, Dr Alex Delbosc, said: “When you don’t think someone is ‘fully’ human, it’s easier to justify hatred or aggression towards them. This can set up an escalating cycle of resentment.”

Driver-cyclist tensions

According to the study, 17% of respondents said they had used their car to deliberately block a cyclist, 11% had deliberately driven their car close to a cyclist and 9% had used their car to cut off a cyclist. These are extremely dangerous actions towards cyclists, who are among the most vulnerable road users due to not having the same protection provided by being inside a vehicle.

It would appear people tend to generalise cyclists from the actions they have seen from bad cyclists. Yet, you don’t tend to see people labelling all motorists as bad drivers, despite encountering several bad drivers on the road.

It's understandable why some motorists feel they are held at a different standard to cyclists. Cyclists are not required to pass a test, have a licence, register or insure their bicycles and there are no laws regulating the training of cyclists. This could be a big source of frustration for drivers. However, the suggestion to require cyclists to have licence plates carries many complications.

As having a licence plate would require a licensing system, Roger Geffen, policy director at the charity Cycling UK, said this would “either massively deter cyclists or be a massive cost burden” to the government. With cycling providing great health benefits, as well as being environmentally sustainable, it’s vital that this is not discouraged.

It’s important to realise those cyclists that run red lights, cycle on the pavement and break other laws are in the minority. To make the roads a safer and a much less stressful place, cyclists and car drivers need to find a way they can respect each other and share the road. So that there is more understanding, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) have put together some things that cyclists would like drivers to know, as well as things drivers would like cyclists to know.

What cyclists would like drivers to know!

  • They feel threatened by inconsiderate driving
  • They need to keep away from the gutter to avoid pot holes and debris
  • They feel exposed when turning right
  • They feel very threatened by close overtaking
  • They are not deliberately trying to get in your way and slow you down.
  • When they are riding in the middle of their lane, this is so they can see and be seen better and often because there isn’t room for drivers to overtake them safely.
  • Large vehicles pose a very high risk to them when they turn left at junctions.

What drivers would like cyclists to know! 

  • They find it very difficult to see cyclists who don’t use lights at night
  • They get annoyed when cyclists ignore traffic lights
  • They get dazzled when very bright cycle lights are not adjusted correctly.
  • They get annoyed when cyclists ride two abreast (even though it’s not illegal)
  • They sometimes find it difficult to predict what a cyclist is going to do
  • They don't always understand why cyclists sometimes ride in the middle of the lane.
  • When driving large vehicles, they can find it very difficult to see cyclists on their nearside, even with all their extra mirrors.

The Guardian (Apr 2019)
This is money (Oct 2017)

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