Sussex crime commissioner puts forward idea that cyclists should sport number plates for accountability


Words by Jack Beavis

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has called for cyclists to wear number plates so that it will be easier for them to be prosecuted for offences.

Despite saying that it was “one for the legislators” she aired the idea at a public meeting that she hosted earlier in the week.

Bourne told the meeting: “I would like to see cyclists wear some form of identification like cars have. So when they go through traffic lights, you can actually identify them and then you can prosecute them for breaking the law.”

Elected to the £85,000 a year post in 2012, she later told the Argus: “It is something that has been at the back of my mind for a long time.

“Because 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.

“But there have been occasions when I have been sat at red lights and seen cyclists go through.”

She did admit that “it is the few that ruin it for the many” however, exonerating local cycling club members, saying: “they are great, they are the ones that adhere to all the laws.”

Tony Green of the Brighton and Hove Cycling Campaign dismissed the idea as “totally unrealistic” in administrative and practical terms.

Green said that cyclists were “easy targets” and that there is a perception from people that “they are getting something for free.”

He also pointed out that car tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) is not for the upkeep of Britain’s roads, instead going into the central government pot.

“Road tax was abolished in 1937” said the 67-year old Brighton resident.

  • Peter

    Not road tax, but VED, Vehicle Excise Duty. Yes a tax on using a vehicle, not the road itself and based on emissions – because some motor vehicles incur zero tax for VED. But yes you’ve followed the logical argument, and found the farce in it 😀

  • Peter

    Two words… General Taxation. It was good enough for Winston Churchill in 1937, so it’s good enough for me today. Don’t want anything for free, I want my tax money spent on (quality!) cycling infrastructure (I.e. Safe). As well as quality roads for when I’m driving the taxed, insured, fuelled, MOT’d car in accordance with the full licence I have.

    Someone’s gotta pay for it, and currently those people are all taxpayers! Pretty fair.

    We could always register and tax pedestrians, and charge a higher levy on those who are overweight or have big feet. But then fewer people would walk anywhere at all and the roads would be congested even more…

  • Peter

    Who mentioned tax? Only numberplates. All UK income tax payers already contribute fully to road maintenance through general taxation, although as noted above, bicycles cause less damage to the road so have a higher net contribution! #ipayroadtax

  • Keith Miller

    What worries me is the number of riders (of all ages) I see riding around on bikes with no lights, no helmets and the seat far too low; so they’re uncomfortable and getting nothing out for the effort being put in. Obviously bought the bike from somebody who has no idea of how to fit it to the rider, and just wanted the money and sod the outcome! I’ve mentioned this to riders in such circumstances; guess what the replies have been? Answers on a postcard please to………………………………………………

  • chris morton

    Correct me if I am wrong but I thought road tax is based on the level of emissions from a car. So surely a bicycle would qualify for zero tax using the current system? Shocking that a person elected to oversee a police force doesn’t know this. Also if she uses the argument cyclists don’t pay to use roads, can I demand that drivers who pay less road tax than me move out my way?

  • Josh Tambini

    “…get most of *them* to…”
    “…give *us* a…”

  • Hogspace

    Well the first and most obvious thing is to stop fleecing the motorists, VED should be collected specifically for road building and maintenance. Better still scrap VED, scrap the deeply reactionary and arbitrary fuel taxation and replace it with a single fuel levy hypothecated for….yes! road building and maintenance. With an exception for HGV traffic responsible for most of the surface damage, they need to pay by weight/axle in addition to fuel levy.
    Rapidly followed by devising a scheme for cyclists which can……yes you see it coming, pay for much desired cycle lane infrastructure. Then nobody can moan. Plates on bikes, or ID Sam brown belts or bibs will do just as well, or hey, this is 2014, electronic tags.
    Yeah Yeah I know, you don’t want to be identified, you want it all for free. Yeah like the rest of us. Tough, suck it up.

  • Ian Chedzey

    I drive through London early in the morning and I have many near misses with cyclists who have no lights and often wear dark clothing. I don’t want a them and us situation. Just please give us a chance

  • Josh Tambini

    Who can’t you get to fit lights? And surely you’d have to have a number before fitting a light to light it?

  • Marc

    Great! ^^

  • Jacob Garrod

    I wouldn’t because I spend almost all my time off the roads in forests! So the small amount of time I was on roads I would be riding with one finger up to that woman who is a councillor in my county! Now where does she live…

  • Ian Chedzey

    You can’t get most of them to fit lights. Fat chance with number lights.

  • Peter Fisher

    Bring back the Locomotive acts!

  • Glenn Nienaber

    Not living in England, I wish they would do this in the US. However all monies raised from a cycling tax would be used to improve cycling infrastructure.That is why cyclist need to get in front of this before someone takes the control and a tax is paid, but is not used to improve road conditions for cyclist.

  • Daniel Laraman

    I dont see the point because your not gonna see many cyclist and you can normally tell whos riding it the idea behind number plates is because there are so many cars on the road you cant tell the difference.

  • Pee Bee

    So would these number plates be featherweight carbon and aero as some of us need all the help we can get? Would they display the year of registartion as that could be good for bike sales as we would all want to keep up with Mr Jones who has a new carbon flyer every year? Would they be those upright ones which motorbikes used to have on the front mudguard which might catch crosswinds causing riders to swerve into oncoming traffic? As I live in France would I be exempt when I return to blighty with my left hand drive vélo (the brakes) or would UK Boarder Control hold me up at the port in the same way that they do when I arrive in my French registered car – until they discover I’m British! Mind you, it could save the sportive industry money as there would no longer be a need to issue dossards for each event. How about personalised number plates? B1KE or perhaps FA5T for example.

  • Daniel Kenning

    Isn’t the corollary of “Vehicle Excise Duty goes into the general treasury pot”, the fact that “road maintenance is paid for by all who pay income tax”, which of course includes all people who pay income tax who also ride bicycles (some of whom sometimes drive cars as well). So lucky it is that the PCC understands these things. One could argue that because bicycles cause less road damage than cars, the net contribution from cyclists is higher, and so people who ride bicycles have more claim to the road than those same-contribution-but-higher-cost car driving people!
    Also, number plates were introduced for cars in 1903 because of the need to identify them after accidents – I’m not sure how that either does or does not apply to bicycles.

  • Neil Murray

    So if your vehicle is green you pay less tax. I’ve not checked recently but I’m sure my bike has no emissions.
    As for licence plates wouldn’t it be easier to set up cameras at problem hot spots to catch the culprits, just like they have to do to catch vehicle’s who break the law. Obviously they would have to have police up the road to stop the errant cyclists.

  • Peter Coupe

    When they do this for horses I’ll happily join in.

  • Alex Baker

    In that case pedestrians should wear number plates too as they are a hazard for cyclists and surely pay to use pavements. Maybe pedestrian crossings should be coin operated tolls!