As a pedestrian, I’m going to say it out loud: it’s time cyclists were licensed like other road users and bicycles were taxed, insured and carried number-plates like other vehicles. I am what might be termed a super-pedestrian in that I walk some 90 minutes to work every morning. This has enabled me to avoid the horror of the tube (and the gym), but has brought its own problems. At least once a week I experience what would be known in aviation circles as a near-miss involving a cyclist travelling at Tour-de-France speeds along the pavement. In addition, when crossing a road I have to bear in mind that at pedestrian crossings, the green man does not confer right of way over cyclists; “No Entry” signs do not apply to cyclists; and of course red lights certainly do not apply to cyclists. That I have not to date been involved in a collision with one of these selfish idiots is a matter of pure luck, which can hardly continue forever.
I would introduce a category for bicycles on the current driving licence and require all cyclists aged 16 and over to take a test. I would combine motoring and cycling offences into a single category of road traffic offences, which would mean that miscreant cyclists could find themselves banned from driving as well as cycling. Cycling on the pavement would carry a minimum six-month ban from all classes of vehicle. Stiffer penalties would be imposed in cases involving pedestrian injury, including possible jail sentences.
Calls for registration of cyclists and bicycles invariably meet with howls of protest from cycling groups. Only a “tiny minority” of cyclists flout the rules is the usual line. It’s a nonsensical argument. Should we legalise armed robbery because only a “tiny minority” hold up banks? More to the point, there are a lot of cyclists in London, the number having almost doubled since 2000. According to TfL, around half-a-million journeys are now made by bicycle per day. It only takes a small percentage consistently flouting the rules to cause mayhem.
Other frankly lame arguments include “bureaucracy”, “cost”, “it’ll put people off cycling”, etc. But you can’t have your cake and eat it. Until cyclists are subject to the same regulations as other road users, pedestrians will continue to be at constant risk from lawless idiots and the public perception of cyclists – good and bad alike – is unlikely to improve.
(This 400-word piece was written for “The Columnist” in The London Paper. It has not as yet been published.)
© Christopher Seddon 2008