Pedal Cyclists: Insurance - Question

– in the House of Lords at 11:28 am on 23 May 2024.

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Photo of Lord Hogan-Howe Lord Hogan-Howe Crossbench 11:28, 23 May 2024

To ask His Majesty’s Government whether they plan to require pedal cyclists to have insurance.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, the Government considered this matter carefully as part of a comprehensive cycling and walking safety review in 2018. The Government have no plans to require cyclists to have insurance, because the costs and complexity of doing so would significantly outweigh the benefits, and because it would be at odds with the Government’s aim of getting more people to switch to cycling for their everyday journeys.

Photo of Lord Hogan-Howe Lord Hogan-Howe Crossbench

I thank the Minister for his Answer. However, on the department’s own figures, over the last 20 years injuries of pedestrians hit by cyclists have drastically increased—more than doubling. Every day, we see people ignoring one-way signs, going across pedestrian crossings, through red lights and across pelican crossings while pedestrians are on them. Cyclists are not even governed by speed limits in the way that motor vehicles are. Has not the time come for the Government to consider insurance to compensate people for the damage that cyclists can cause, and for registration marks to identify those who have committed an offence and deter those who might? Finally, where a cyclist commits an offence and has a driving licence, their licence might be endorsed with points for the offences which they have committed as a cyclist. Many may consider this to be a vote loser, but I think it is a vote winner.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, dangerous cycling puts lives at risk and is completely unacceptable. Like all road users, cyclists are required to comply with road traffic law in the interests of their own safety and that of other road users. This is reflected in the Highway Code. If road users, including cyclists, do not adopt a responsible attitude or if their use of the highway creates an unsafe environment or causes nuisance, they may be committing a number of offences. The department has considered issues such as a mandatory registration and licensing system for cycle ownership as part of a comprehensive cycling and walking safety review in 2018. In light of the review, the Government have no plans to introduce a mandatory registration system, as the cost and complexity of introducing such a system would far outweigh the benefits.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, my noble friend will be as disappointed as I am that the Bill in my name will not be adopted. The last time he answered a question on this matter at the Dispatch Box, he said that he personally had apprehended a number of cyclists who had breached the rules. Will the Government undertake to confiscate any bicycle if the owner or rider of it perpetrates a major breach of road traffic offences?

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I hear what the noble Baroness says. That is a pretty drastic approach, but she has made her point well.

Photo of Lord Austin of Dudley Lord Austin of Dudley Non-affiliated

My Lords, this is utterly ridiculous. Everybody using the roads should abide by the rules, but the figures bear out that many more pedestrians are hurt by drivers than by cyclists. Frankly, every day I see cars jumping red lights, speeding and going across pedestrian crossings, and the police are not able to enforce all of those at the moment. The best way to make our roads safer is to get more people on bikes. That would improve the environment and public health. Is the Minister not completely right to say that this will cost a fortune, be incredibly complex and massively bureaucratic and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, knows better than anybody, with the pressures that the police are already under, be utterly unenforceable.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The noble Lord makes an excellent point. In terms of getting people out of cars and on to bikes and walking, this Government have done more than any other to promote walking and cycling. We remain fully committed to the vision that, by 2030, half of all journeys in towns or cities will be walked or cycled.

Photo of Earl Russell Earl Russell Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change)

My Lords, 7,000 bikes are stolen every year. Theft, particularly of expensive e-bikes, is out of control and often violent. Does the Minister welcome the clever tactics being used by the City of London Police of using bait cycles deliberately to get them stolen so that the criminal gangs and networks can be tracked, prosecuted and arrested? Will the Minister be encouraging these kinds of tactics to be used by other police forces?

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am aware of the tactic, but I was not aware that it was something that the City of London Police was doing. If it catches villains who choose to steal bicycles, then it is a very good idea and to be encouraged.

Photo of Lord Winston Lord Winston Labour

My Lords, these Benches offered this question to the Government five years ago. It was very clear at that time that some form of licensing system was greatly overdue. It need not be expensive and, electronically done, it would be a very effective way of making sure that we can cut back on some of the accidents that are happening. It will not solve everything, but it is important that cyclists obey the laws of the road, and without licensing that will be impossible.

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am grateful for that question from the noble Lord. The Government have no plans to implement a system of licence plates for cyclists. There are over 20 million cyclists in Great Britain, and a national licensing system for all cyclists similar to the one for cars and motorcycles would be complex and expensive to design and administer. Cycles would need to be fitted with registration plates that are sufficiently visible and robust. Those would not easily be transferred from one cycle to another and the cost of administrating such a scheme would be likely to outweigh the benefits.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, it is not a vote winner with the Young family, but what is the point of introducing new laws on cycling when we cannot enforce the existing ones—particularly new laws which would discourage children from cycling to school, which the Government are supporting with £60 million of funds?

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The noble Lord’s question is properly best directed to the Home Office in terms of enforcement, but I share his view that it does need to be enforced far more heavily than it is at this moment.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Shadow Spokesperson (Business and Trade), Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland)

My Lords, as both a cyclist and a driver I understand the strength of feeling on this issue. Cycling insurance would be impractical to implement, particularly since so many cyclists are young children, and it would be unfair for those who have no other means of transport to explore, commute and exercise. The answer is surely to make roads safer for all by separating different users from each other. When I was a Deputy Speaker, I commuted to Parliament on a bike, using the great cycle lanes that we have here in London thanks to the work of Mayor Sadiq Khan. It was a safe, healthy and efficient way of commuting, and insurance could stop that for others. What are the Government doing to support the regional metro mayors and their walking and cycling commissioners, to help them separate cyclists from pedestrians and other road users?

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

As I alluded to earlier, this Government have done more than any other to promote walking and cycling. Over £3 billion is projected to be invested in active travel up to 2025, including around £1 billion in dedicated capital and revenue investment by the department and Active Travel England in the four years up to 2023-24.

Photo of Lord Birt Lord Birt Crossbench

My Lords, this is a serious issue of growing salience. Cyclists of every kind now make the pedestrian experience in busy urban areas nerve-wracking and hazardous. As the noble Lord, Lord Hogan-Howe, said, they bike the wrong way up one-way streets and they take shortcuts across crowded pavements. This week, a Deliveroo rider ploughed through a dense knot of pedestrians, of which I was one crossing on a pedestrian green light. Most worrying of all, some souped-up electric bikes power along city roads at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour. All this has to stop. Does the Minister agree that bikers, like other road users, should be required to display identifiers and be held responsible for their unlawful and unsocial actions?

Photo of Lord Davies of Gower Lord Davies of Gower Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The noble Lord is absolutely right, but I will not expand on what I have said in terms of the registration of cycles and licensing of riders. However, I agree that we need to look at how these things are enforced. It is a matter for the Home Office and for policing. Perhaps his efforts should be directed there.