Should cyclists in Birmingham have number plates to curb road dangers? Here's what Brummies think

Brummies tell us whether they think cyclists should have number plates, like cars, and be insured
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The debate over whether cyclists should have number plates and insurance has been raging on for quite some time - with many people in Birmingham backing the calls.

Lord Hogan-Howe, a former Met Police chief, reignited the discussion last week after he suggested that number plates should be introduced on the back of bikes to stop cyclists in the capital 'being a danger on London streets'. During a debate in the House of Lords, he argued that number plates would enable cyclists to be 'held to account' like pedicab drivers.

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Number plates and insurance would mean cyclists who flout the law could be tracked down by police. Hogan-Howe said a registration plate for cyclists would mean they are not without consequences if they "choose to ignore things that are meant to keep us all safe."

His comments come after the Government previously dismissed a petition to introduce new requirements for cyclists. The petition, which was sent to the Government in 2021, wanted laws to be introduced that would require cyclists and e-scooter riders to display visible ID, require that cycle lanes be used where available, and introduce a licensing and penalty point system for all cyclists. Responding to the petition, the Government said it had 'no plans to introduce any such requirements for cyclists'.

Following this, in 2022, the-then Transport Secretary vowed to create a “death by dangerous cycling” law that would treat killer cyclists the same as motorists, with Grant Shapps saying he wanted to stop certain behaviour on the roads. In September 2023, Justice minister Edward Argar said the Department for Transport (DfT) was considering bringing forward fresh legal provisions that focus on addressing dangerous cycling, but he did not provide a time frame for the legislation to be introduced.

Birmingham most dangerous city for cycling

As the UK's third biggest city, this is also a hot topic in Birmingham. Safety concerns have long been raised about the city's e-scooter scheme following a number of crashes in the last year. And a report by in 2022 showed that Birmingham is the most dangerous city for cycling. Bikers in Birmingham are most likely to suffer from poorly-maintained road surfaces and steep pathways where less than 50% are equipped with optimal lighting, according to the report.

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In June of this year, four cyclists and pedestrians were killed in Birmingham, and four were seriously injured by drivers in separate incidents during the same month. There's no doubt that dangerous driving at high speeds is a major concern for residents across the city.

But what do Brummies think of more provisions being put in place for cyclists, and specifically, number plates being brought in for cyclists?

Better Streets for Birmingham, a local road safety organisation, dismissed the idea of number plates being introduced, saying low-traffic cycle routes is the way to improve safety around cycling. Martin Price, Co-chair, Better Streets for Birmingham, told BirminghamWorld: "The idea (of number plates) has been dismissed by the Government several times. The way to improve safety is to provide a network of protected and low-traffic cycle routes for local trips and commutes. This remains one of our focuses and we continue to press the Council to deliver new routes at pace."

Cyclists on the roadCyclists on the road
Cyclists on the road

'Cylists number plates a distraction'

In a statement Adam Tranter, the Mayor's Cycling & Walking Commissioner said the debate around number plates for cyclists is a 'distraction' from the aims of providing safer infrastructure for active travel.

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He said: "The only country in the world that requires cyclists to have a number plate is North Korea. The UK Government has repeatedly said that the cost of any scheme to administer registration of cyclists would outweigh any benefits. This is a distraction from the important work of providing safer infrastructure for active travel; we should be removing as many barriers to helping people choose sustainable transport as possible."

We also spoke to people in Birmingham city centre and asked our readers on Facebook whether they believe cyclists should have number plates and insurance. Quite a few people were in favour of the idea, while others less so. Here's what they said:

Tim gives us his viewsTim gives us his views
Tim gives us his views

We think cyclists should have number plates - and insurance?

Birmingham presenter and businessman Phil Oldershaw also weighed in on the debate. Responding to the question, he said: "Definitely. And they should have insurance!I Mentioned this to Andy Street ages ago! The city and streets are unsafe with motorised cyclists and scooters, if it has a motor or goes on the road or a public place or highway, it should have insurance."

Edwin said: "Yes, it's a great idea, also a proficiency test. It may help save lives too, and compulsory adequate bike lights front and rear." David said: "Yep, purely for registration and ownership purposes."

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Martin said: "Absolutely YES along with the legal requirement for insurance plus a tax to contribute to the millions spent on cycle lanes." Bob replied to the question, writing: "They should definitely be insured."

But, Ben wasn't so keen on the idea. Responding on Facebook, he wrote: "Nowhere in the world requires number plates for bicycles, and the few countries which mandate bicycle registration do so as an anti-theft measure.

"Requiring cyclists to be registered and insured would almost certainly significantly reduce the number of cyclists, who, regardless of legislation, tends to be the most disfavoured form of transport: at an average speed of 10-15mph, they're 3-5x the speed of pedestrians but typically less than half the speed of motor vehicles. Both those cohorts would prefer cyclists give way to them."

Guy wrote: "Do you think motorists will be any more considerate towards cyclists just because their bikes have number plates on them? It’s a joke. Make all motorists take and pass a cyclist proficiency test and take their cars away until they have." Simon echoed these thoughts. He wrote: "Maybe drivers should have to have passed a compulsory cycling proficiency.Also should have to redo the theory test every few years."

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Roland said: "Good idea. It would cut down on bike thefts and make careless cyclists traceable. They should also be insured for public liability."

Terriann wrote: "Should cyclists have designated cycle lanes that are wide and safe enough to use and should Birmingham roads have less pot holes so bikes can stay safer and closer to the curbs?Let's be real here, cyclists aren't a danger. Inadequate infrastructure to accommodate them is."

David and MarionDavid and Marion
David and Marion

We also spoke to people in Birmingham city centre about the subject. Marion told us: "I can understand why because there are cyclists that break the law like any other transport user, however, actually having number plates on a bike could be impractical."

Her partner David told us: "I think there's enough regulation already and it will put costs on cyclists, perhaps they should insure themselves but voluntarily perhaps."

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Ismail said: "I think it could help to reduce certain incident, although I don't think it's necessarily a big concern as I don't know too many people who have died from being hit by a bike, but it would certainly help for tracking of crime if someone was using it for a getaway vehicle."

Tim said: "In my view, it should be nationwide, because if you have a lorry behind you and can't see the cyclist and they come riding behind you when - cyclists have got to take responsibility for their actions - when they go behind lorries the way they do, people aren't always going to see them. I've seen them many times jump red lights and you can't always just blame the driver. They cause a lot of problems for road users. I cycle myself but I try to be as respectful as I can for drivers."

Avery said: "I think they should have them as it would be a lot easier for people to identify the people using them for crime and it would be useful for those who are in road traffic accidents.

"As someone whose high school friend was killed in a road traffic accident because he was on a bicycle and we didn't know for several hours because they couldn't identify him, it would of been nice to have known before that and having the licence plates on the bikes would make it a lot easier as well if the bikes get stolen. They do it with cars, why not do it with the bikes?"

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