Home » Cycle Licensing – Putting Public Safety At The Forefront Of The UK’s ‘Cycling Boom’.

Cycle Licensing – Putting Public Safety At The Forefront Of The UK’s ‘Cycling Boom’.

May 25, 2020,
Hennah Abbas,
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Two years ago, whilst driving home from work, a cyclist swerved in front of me and was recklessly riding his cycle whilst looking directly at me, clearly trying to distract me.  He followed me home and waited until I parked up before cycling away.  I called the police but unfortunately they couldn’t do much as there was no way in which to identify the cyclist.

During my time as a trainee solicitor working in personal injury, I came across countless cases where we were unable to pursue a claim, or help someone, because a cyclist was unidentifiable.

Motorcycles, cars, tractors and other motorised vehicles are identified by their number plate, yet there is no law which requires a cyclist to show any identification.  Even motorised wheelchairs and mobility scooters are required to be registered if being used on the road, yet cyclists have no such obligation.

Given the recent government bid to boost cycling and walking in the UK, the question arises as to how a member of the public or anyone injured due to a cyclist is supposed to report the incident or pursue a claim.

The Rules

Cyclists are subject to many of the same rules which govern other road users.  Various sections of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (RTA 1988) refer to cyclists being obliged to follow rules such as; section 28, which deals with dangerous cycling; section 29, which deals with careless and inconsiderate cycling; and section 30, which deals with cyclists under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Cyclists must also comply with the Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 which was amended in 2015. These regulations provide clear guidelines for the fitting and maintenance of cycles.

Fatalities and Incidents caused by Cyclists

The last recorded data, in terms of injuries caused, is from 2016, in which 2 people were killed and 96 people were seriously injured after being hit by a cycle or injured in an accident caused by a cyclist.  It makes one only wonder how many other accidents or injuries are caused to others due to a cyclist not adhering to the above rules.

Approximately, 2.3 – 2.9 million cyclists use their cycle on the road as a mode of transport and this number is increasing year on year in an effort to minimise pollution. However, as these numbers rise, there is a high chance that the number of accidents and injuries caused by cyclists will also increase.

Relevant Case Law – R v Alliston [2017]

This was a case where a reckless cyclist was identified and justice was brought.  The cyclist had caused the death of a mother of two.

Mr Alliston described himself as an experienced cyclist on the roads of London.  On the incident date, he was cycling at 18 mph with no front brake and collided with the Defendant, causing her death a week later in hospital.

He was charged with manslaughter and sentenced to 18 months in prison.  The cycle he was riding had no front brakes and was described by the court as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

In the sentencing remarks of Her Honour Judge Wendy Joseph QC, it was noted that it is against the law to ride any bicycle on a public road without a front-wheel brake.

The cycle was unlawful, yet there are no requirements for cycles which are used on the road to be inspected or deemed roadworthy. For example, had a motorised vehicle been involved it would have been subject to an MOT and, with no working brakes, would have been an illegal vehicle.

Had there been necessary checks and registrations in place, the cycle would not have been deemed roadworthy and the accident could have been prevented.

Implementing the Licensing of Cycles and Cyclists

This is something that is easily implementable as it is in other countries and could be vital in bringing justice to many.

Each cycle would be required to be registered by the owner before it is allowed to be used on the road.  This could allow for it to be regulated and monitored as other road users are.

Countries such as Japan and Switzerland have introduced ways in which to license and register cycles.  Japan now requires all cycles that are sold to be registered with the government.

The strain that this may add to the Department of Transport is recognised, however, this is also an essential change that must be implemented in order to protect the public.


Given the current restrictions with COVID-19, I have seen more cyclists on the road, this has been described as the Coronavirus ‘Cycling Boom’.  In addition to the cyclists, the number of people walking instead of using their vehicle has also increased.  With this, the possibility of incidents caused by cyclists has become greater.

Taking into account the changing nature of how we use our roads in the UK, which has been highlighted by recent events, there is still a gap in the law which needs to be addressed.  Cyclists need to be held responsible for incidents caused by them.  There needs to be clear accountability in place for cyclists in the same manner as it is place for other road users.

Accountability can only be imposed when cycles can be identified and subject to regular checks in the same way as other on the road vehicles are.


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