Petition for number plates and enforced cycle lane use fails: measures 'at odds' with plans to boost cycling

In response to a petition, government say a licensing system would reduce the number of people cycling

Commuters on bikes
Commuters in the City of London on bikes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A petition which called for cyclists to be visibly identified and forced to use cycle lanes has failed, with a government spokesperson saying that the costs of such a system would outweigh the benefits.

The petition said that the government should introduce legislation which would "require cyclists and e-scooter riders display visible ID, require that cycle lanes be used where available, and introduce a licensing and penalty point system for all cyclists and licensing system for e-scooter riders".

As it was signed by over 10,000 people, 10,498 in total, it merited a government response. The campaign was spearheaded by "Mr Loophole", Nick Freeman.

A Department for Transport spokesperson made clear that the petition's aims did not tie in with the government's plans to boost walking and cycling. Ultimately, the "introduction of a system of licensing would also be likely to lead to a reduction in the number of people cycling".

They said: "The government considers that the costs of a formal registration system for cycle ownership would outweigh the benefits. The safety case for such a system is not as strong as that for drivers since, by contrast with motorised vehicles, cycles involved in collisions on the highway are highly unlikely to cause serious injury to other road users."

"Cycling provides clear benefits," the statement continued. "Both for those cycling (particularly in terms of health) and for wider society (tackling congestion, reducing CO2 emissions and improved air quality). The introduction of a licensing system would significantly reduce these benefits, especially over the short term. Over the long term, it would deny children and young adults from enjoying the mobility and health benefits cycling brings until they were old enough to pass a formal test."

On cycle lanes, one of the most common cycle-related Google searches is "why don't cyclists use cycle lanes?" This was part of the petition as well, and it is a subject that clearly animates some road users. However, it is not a legal requirement.

The DfT spokesperson made this clear: "Cycle lanes, where provided, offer people cycling an alternative to cycling in the main carriageway, but it is not compulsory to use them and the government has no plans to change this. 

"The majority of people cycling generally use cycle lanes, but there are times when it may be more appropriate for them to use the main carriageway, such as when they are overtaking slower people cycling or avoiding obstructions on the cycle lane, or where it offers a faster, more direct route."

Any changes that would make cycling more restrictive in this country seem to go against the government's "ambitious plans for walking and cycling", which include a £2 billion investment in active travel.

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Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over my professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.