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Cyclists blast Italian government’s “extremely worrying” plans to introduce bike registration plates and insurance

But manufacturers say the reforms, which also include making helmets and bike indicators mandatory, are “more about stopping the spread of bicycles than increasing safety on the roads”

Less than a year since the UK’s then-Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pledged to bring in registration plates for cyclists, before almost immediately backtracking on his comments, his Italian equivalent has introduced a controversial road safety bill which would force cyclists to carry number plates on their bikes, pay insurance, and make helmets and indicators mandatory.

> Italy’s Deputy PM Salvini backpedals on number plates for cyclists

In a speech to the Italian parliament on Wednesday, transport minister Matteo Salvini outlined his plans to increase road safety in the country through legislation which he says will guarantee “more rules, more education, and more safety on Italian roads”.

Salvini, who leads the Lega party, which forms part of the right-wing coalition led by prime minister Giorgia Meloni, said that under the plans cyclists will be forced to wear helmets and carry licence plates and indicators on their bikes, while also paying insurance.

The bill also includes the introduction of lifetime bans for motorists found to be driving under the influence of drugs, the Times reports.

> Confusion as Grant Shapps now says he is "not attracted to bureaucracy" of number plates for cyclists

However, Salvini’s focus on cyclists, 154 of whom were killed in collisions with motorists on Italian roads last year, has been heavily criticised by campaigners and members of the bike industry.

The Lega leader has long been a critic of moves to introduce more safe cycling infrastructure, describing bike lanes in his home city Milan as “radical chic environmentalism” and a threat to businesses.

In September he told the Italian senate that many cycle lanes were being installed in “highly dangerous areas” with lots of traffic, thus “creating difficulty for cyclists, car drivers and the local police”.

Since Salvini was appointed transport minister following the election of Meloni’s government last year, significant budget cuts have led to funding being withdrawn from new bike lane projects.

And cycling campaigners reckon that this latest bill is yet another attempt by the transport minister to curb cycling in Italy.

> "Not at all surprised": Cyclists react to research showing riders wearing helmets and high-visibility clothing seen as "less human"

The bicycle manufacturers association, the ANCMA, which notes that the cycle industry in Italy generates an annual turnover of €3.2 billion, said in a statement that the proposed reforms – which would be a first for Europe – are “extremely worrying” in a country which instead requires a “structural and educational commitment” to ensure the safety of its most vulnerable road users.

“This reform seems to be more about stopping the spread of bicycles than increasing safety on the roads,” the association said.

Meanwhile, the online cycling journal Bikeitalia also claimed that the legislation would simply have the effect of discouraging people to ride bikes, and challenged Salvini to “name one country in the world which obliges the use of helmet, number plate, insurance, and indicators for bikes: certainly in no country that promotes the bicycle as a means of transport”.

Bikeitalia also noted the minister’s apparent hypocrisy by highlighting how his mantra of “we won’t put our hands in the pockets of Italians” – which has led him to cutting excise duties on petrol and opposing speed cameras – doesn’t appear to stretch to cyclists.

And all that despite, as the website pointed out, Salvini himself dismissing a left-wing politician’s plan to introduce bike registration plates in 2015 as “crazy” on Twitter.

> “No plans to introduce registration plates” for cyclists, insists Grant Shapps

The Italian government’s plans to enforce tougher rules for cyclists comes less than a year after the UK’s then-transport secretary Grant Shapps caused a great deal of confusion after the Daily Mail reported that the Conservative cabinet minister had promised to introduce number plates for cyclists, a pledge that was almost immediately contradicted in a separate interview with the Times.

The Mail’s initial report, which claimed that Shapps said that cyclists should be insured, carry licence plates on their bikes, and be subject to the same speed limits as motorists, prompted something of a media frenzy, forcing the minister to backtrack on his comments.

In an interview three days later with LBC, Shapps insisted that there were “no plans to introduce registration plates” for bikes and that he was simply making a “wider point” that “it's got to be right to ensure that everybody who uses our roads does so responsibly”.

“What I was actually talking about at the time was cyclists who perhaps bust through red lights, we see that an awful lot,” he said.

“There is no way to prosecute a [cyclist] who might run into somebody else, and sometimes you get these very sad cases of death by dangerous cycling, and we are proposing to bring in death by dangerous cycling as a specific offence, along with other changes to car drivers and for other users of the road as well.

"So this is not a plan which is – as I think has been suggested – somehow going after cyclists.”

> “If mandatory safety measures are acceptable for car drivers, they should surely be acceptable for cyclists”: MP calls for cycling helmets to be made mandatory

The parliamentary debate over tougher cycling rules has not abated since Shapps’ climbdown, however, with a Conservative MP just this week calling for the government to make wearing a helmet while cycling a legal requirement.

Introducing a compulsory cycle helmet bill into the House of Commons, Mark Pawsey, the MP for Rugby, argued that if mandatory safety measures are acceptable for motorists, they “should surely be acceptable for cyclists”.

However, in December, the Department for Transport insisted that the government has “no intention” of making helmets mandatory, following a question from the Conservative MP for Shropshire constituency The Wrekin, Mark Pritchard.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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HoldingOn | 11 months ago
1 like

I'm new to all this, so please try to forgive any silly questions - I have a yearning curiosity of most things...

It says "number plates on bikes" do they mean actually "on the bike"? I'm struggling to think where that could attach? Unless its really thin, but that then makes it less legible?
How would the registration of the number plates work? If the plate is on the bike, then you register the bike when you buy it, but does that then mean a load of paperwork when you sell it/ scrap it? If the plate is on the rider, then same again - do you have to register to say you have given up cycling? Would you have to register your appearance, so if someone attempts to duplicate your plate, you can claim "but that doesn't look anything like me" If you are able to do that - wouldn't that mean that the reporting party would have to look at the plate & a description of the rider, to corroborate that it isn't a duplicated plate?
Indicators - do they mean similar flashing lights as cars? At the rear of the bike makes sense, but that means you would have to run a wire along the bike to buttons on the handlebar. Guess that means it would only be on new bikes?

So many questions.

bensynnock replied to HoldingOn | 11 months ago

The problem with the whole thing is that it's just unworkable. Number plates do not stop motorists from disobeying driving laws, a requirement for insurance doesn't stop people from diving without insurance, the presence of indicators doesn't compel their use.

In the UK at least the existing laws can't be enforced and we rely on cooperation from motorists. Having spent some time in Italy I'm not even convinced they have driving laws, so it seems odd to introduce for cyclists.

chrisonabike replied to HoldingOn | 11 months ago
HoldingOn wrote:

... If the plate is on the rider, then same again - do you have to register to say you have given up cycling? Would you have to register your appearance, so if someone attempts to duplicate your plate, you can claim "but that doesn't look anything like me"...

Shurely "tattooed on the back of their necks?"

If that won't do then can't we just use some of these chips I'm sometimes reading about here, that the gub'mint / illuminati / some random rich dude has apparently implanted in us?

Having said that cycling seems such a positive, enabling and largely decentralised "medium tech" activity that I'm sometimes suspicious when those in power claim they're in favour of it.

lesterama | 11 months ago

There is no Italian equivalent to Grant Shapps, though I'm sure a few of their politicians would approve of his former double life as an internet marketing salesman called Michael Green

AidanR | 11 months ago

I guess they thought they'd put Salvini in a ministry where he couldn't do too much harm. That's worked nicely...

marmotte27 replied to AidanR | 11 months ago

For most people, domineering, harassing, endangering cyclists isn't doing a lot of harm.

Steve K | 11 months ago

Awful news for cyclists in Italy (and for the environment) but on the plus side, when this impractical scheme crashes and burns, we can but hope it will prove once and for all how stupid these sort of policies are.


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