Stricter rules for cyclists should be introduced immediately to combat the increased number of two-wheeled law breakers hitting the road due to the Government’s recommendation for people to avoid public transport.
Ministers ‘must introduce emergency legislation to tackle a boom in the toxic cycling which has emerged during the lockdown period’ and that ‘for too long bad cycling has gone unpunished’, says leading motoring lawyer, Nick Freeman.
Better known as Mr Loophole for his ability to secure speeding acquittals based on technicalities for celebrity clients such as David Beckham, Freeman has called for the Government to introduce insurance and a penalty points system for cyclists.
This is a move that will like prove unpopular among the cycling community.
‘Toxic cycling’: Motoring lawyer to the celebrities Nick Freeman – better known as Mr Loophole – has called on the government to introduce ’emergency legislation’ for the increase in cycling
He says that some riders have developed ‘dangerous habits’ on the road in recent weeks, thanks to a combination of empty roads, good weather and reduced use of public transport.
Last week Halfords, Britain’s biggest cycle retailer, said sales of some biking equipment had risen 500 per cent in lockdown and this month sold more than double it’s normal amount of bicycles.
Meanwhile, cycle-to-work schemes that give tax benefits to employees to buy a new bike from official stores have reported a doubling in sale as more people consider pedaling instead of buses, trains and tubes that are difficult to fulfill social distancing requirements.
Mr Freeman claims this surge in cyclists has created a ‘critical’ situation now that lockdown restrictions have been eased and more drivers are returning to the road in order to commute or travel across England to exercise.
While he claims to be in no way against the cycling community, he urged for new legislation to ensures a ‘safe co-existence’ between motorists and cyclists.
In order to achieve this, he is lobbying for changes that would require cyclists to have insurance and be punished for breaking road laws with penalty points.
Freeman says that laws currently allow cyclists to flout road traffic laws, such as jumping a red lights, and remain anonymous
Last week Halfords, Britain’s biggest cycle retailer, said sales of some biking equipment had risen 500 per cent in lockdown and this month sold more than double it’s normal amount of bicycles
He also urged ministers to introduce mandatory identification – for example the compulsory wearing of numbered tabards registered to the cyclist – in order to protect all road users.
A number of road safety groups have for years been calling for bicycles to display number plates but, like numbered tabards, they would be almost impossible to enforce.
Mr Freeman said: ‘Boris Johnson recently said the near future should be a new golden age for cycling. And I agree – cycling is such a healthy and eco-friendly way to travel.
‘Unfortunately, while there are many responsible cyclists, some seem to have abandoned all road sense since lockdown began.
‘Lack of cars has allowed a culture of toxic cycling to prevail on our empty roads as some riders claim the highways as their own. It has made some cyclists ride with a sense of dangerous entitlement.’
Mr Freeman’s clients include hosts of motoring shows including The Grand Tour’s Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear’s Paddy McGuinness. He helped David Beckham escape punishment for a speeding offence in 2018
He claims the problem is due to cycling never being properly regulated, which has resulted in tension between the sharing of road space between motorists and those who are pedaling.
And he believes the issue is now at its worst because as lockdown eases and motorists return to ‘reclaim’ the road, many cyclists may find it difficult to break free from bad habits they’ve picked up due to reduced traffic levels.
The AA’s latest poll of some 20,000 members found that people claim they are going to drive less after lockdown, with 36 per cent choosing to cycle more.
President Edmund King said more needs to be done on top of pop-up bike lanes to promote safer cycling, stating: ‘Giving up the bit of road space is a sensible thing to do because public transport in our cities won’t be able to cope.
‘But we also need more radical thinking. Perhaps more use of e-scooters and e-bikes as well as out-of-town park and ride and park and cycle facilities.’
A recent poll of 2,131 UK adults by campaign group of Cycling UK found that one in ten people in the UK are cycling more during the crisis.
If that trend was replicated across the UK, that could represent almost six million people getting out on their bikes more.
Over a third (36 per cent) of people questioned agreed that they are now considering cycling instead of using cars and motor vehicles less.
But for people to carry on cycling when the Covid-19 crisis is over, people said they wanted to see:
- Traffic free cycle tracks and paths to high streets and town centres (63%)
- More designated cycle lanes on roads (53%)
- Traffic restrictions in residential streets (30%)
- A reduction of the speed limit to 20mph in residential and built up areas (24%)
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, said: ‘If the roads don’t look and feel safe to cycle, only the brave will choose to do so. If there’s space for people to cycle separated from motor vehicles, millions more will do it.
‘That’s why we’re calling on local authorities to act now to install pop-up cycle lanes and widen pavements to create the space for people to walk and cycle safely while social distancing.’
Mr Loophole suggests that a lot of dangers for cyclists are caused by poor etiquette on their part, which he says has become worse in lockdown.
This includes riding three abreast, not stopping at give way signs, going the wrong way around bollards and ignoring use of designated cycle lanes.
‘What’s more, at the moment cyclists who flout road traffic laws such as jumping a red light, remain anonymous,’ he said.
‘If we are to have a fair and safe system in which drivers and cyclists co-exist then there should be parity with motorists in terms of the law.’
Official government figures show that 6% of all road fatalities in 2018 were cyclists
Furthermore, stats show that some 130 pedestrians were seriously injured in accidents involving cyclists in the UK in 2019
Road casualty figures from 2018 show that 99 cyclists were killed in the UK that year, contributing to 6 per cent of all traffic-related fatalities.
Furthermore, stats show that some 130 pedestrians were seriously injured in accidents involving cyclists in the UK in 2019, and four were killed.
There have been some high profile cases in collisions between cyclists and pedestrians where the former was judged to be negligent.
As a result, this has lead to a reported spike in the number of cyclists taking out insurance, according to sports body British Cycling.
Usually, few cyclists opt to take out an insurance policy in case they are involved in a crash – they are more likely to do do so to protect their bike against theft – but this can prove costly if they do end up running into someone.
Cycling UK provides third party liability insurance for both members and non-members which covers cyclists if someone else is injured by their actions, for example a pedestrian who has stepped into their path or if two cyclists collide into each other.
It also covers people if they have caused (or alleged to have caused) damage to someone else’s property – for example riding into a car or garden fence.
However, Mr Loophole says bad cycling has ‘for too long gone unpunished allowing irresponsible practitioners to use our roads with impunity’.
He said it’s urgent for the government to act now to avoid potentially catastrophic accidents and to make the roads safer for everyone.
Mr Freeman’s clients include hosts of motoring shows including The Grand Tour’s Jeremy Clarkson and Top Gear’s Paddy McGuinness.
One of his latest high-profile case came in 2018 when he helped David Beckham secure an acquittal for being caught driving at 59mph in 40mph zone in Paddington.
The celebrity lawyer proved that police administrators served the legal papers to Mr Beckham too late and the former footballer escaped unpunished.
Cycle-to-work schemes that give tax benefits to employees to buy a new bike from official stores have reported a doubling in sale
A recent poll of 2,131 UK adults by campaign group of Cycling UK found that one in ten people in the UK are cycling more during the crisis
Despite helping celebrities get off driving infringements, he said he was speaking out on dangerous cycling today as police pledged to crack down on motorists who have been abusing the UK’s clear roads.
This morning, Mr Loophole appeared on TalkRadio to discuss the matter, received a mixed bag of reactions online.
While his opinion garnered the support for FairFuelUK campaigner Howard Cox and other, there was an equal number of responses on Twitter slamming the suggestion, claiming that numbered tabards will be easy to falsify and blasting the claims that some cyclists are dangerous.
His comments on cycling also come in the same week that the government outlined new laws for e-scooter use in the UK, including riders not needing training or to wear a helmet.
Co-ordinated by the National Police Chief’s Council, the first phase of the campaign, timed to coincide with an expected rise in traffic as lockdown eases, has involved the use of social media to remind motorists to ‘slow down and save lives.’
The 63 year-old Manchester-based lawyer full endorses the crackdown but says the job is only ‘half done’ if no provision is made for legislating against irresponsible cycling.
‘Without means of identification such as mandatory tabards registered to the cyclist, bike plates and a system to fine and punish those cyclists who break the law, the police campaign lacks teeth,’ he went on.
‘Changes to the law that I`m proposing are not anti-cyclist. Nor would they represent a curtailment of freedom or an assault on civil liberties.
‘It’s just about what is fair and safe. it’s why I also believe there should be provision in the driving test to teach motorists about overtaking cyclists. And there should be robust enforcement if motorists drive dangerously.,’ he added.
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