Nick Freeman, otherwise known by his Mr Loophole nickname, the lawyer famous for obtaining not guilty verdicts for celebrities charged with driving offences, has once again reasserted his stance that cyclists should be required to display a registration number plate or tabard, be subject to speed limits, penalty points and a host of other legislation applied to motorists.
Freeman has already campaigned for such changes before of course, his 2021 petition on the issue limping across the 10,000-signature threshold for an official response from the government, only to be decidedly rejected by the Department for Transport.
Now, within the context of the former chief of the Metropolitan Police, Lord Hogen-Howe, last week calling for the introduction of legislation to require cyclists to display a number plate on their bicycles to tackle "dangerous" cyclists who are "entirely unaccountable", Freeman appeared on Jeremy Vine's Channel 5 morning show to makes his case.
"There are millions of cyclists on our roads, which is fantastic."
"But we do need to hold everyone to account."@TheMrLoophole argues for licence plates on bicycles because current legislation is outdated and rules of the road are being broken.@theJeremyVine | #JeremyVine pic.twitter.com/nVQpaMz2UT
— Jeremy Vine On 5 (@JeremyVineOn5) November 28, 2023
However, Freeman probably did not get the reception he was hoping for, panellist James Max calling it "the worst idea anyone came up with" and a caller branding it a "completely daft and impractical idea".
In fact, having listened to several minutes of Freeman speaking about the case for cyclist number plates, Max concluded: "What a surprise that a lawyer is calling for more legislation and more opportunity to do loophole-picking... it's now galvanised my views... as soon as I heard the lawyer talking it was like 'actually, every single reason you've given really forces me against this idea'."
He had earlier pointed out: "We're not even able to police the fact that we have people driving on our roads uninsured with cars that don't have MOTs..."
While fellow panellist Poppy Jay added: "I'm learning how to drive again... all I can say is it's the other motorists I'm worried about, not necessarily cyclists. How you would enforce this I have no idea. Bikes get nicked all the time, wheels go missing, you could just take that licence plate off right now, put it on someone else's licence plate, 15-year-olds on the road? Do they need a licence plate? The admin...
"The idea of putting something on a tabard, it doesn't make any sense, how much would it cost? How would you police it? What if I had three bikes? What if my kid has a bike?"
Such was the backlash to Freeman's case, the show's presenter and vocally pro-cycling figure, Jeremy Vine, barely had to address the issue. But what did 'Mr Loophole' say?
"We do need it," he insisted. "It's about legal compliance, we have to recognise Parliament legislated for cyclists some time ago and the legislation is completely impotent because unless we can identify the people that are cycling badly, breaking the rules, going through red lights, cycling on the pavement, there are thousands and thousands of people cycling every day doing that and if we've decided as a society that we want a law to prevent this then there is no point having that law in place and not making it count because it's impotent.
"There's no real means of tracking the cyclists. My view is that we need a whole new set of legislation for cyclists, e-scooter riders, and electric bike riders as well, I would have a system which is exactly the same as we have for motorists. Penalty points, some form of identifiable number on the back of the bike or a registration tabard, helmets, drink drive limit, speed limit, we need law in place.
"When these laws were originally passed, if we go back to the 1988 Road Traffic Act, there were very few cyclists on the road and since lockdown cycling, fortunately, has boomed and there are thousands and thousands, millions on our road on any one day, which is fantastic but we do need to hold everyone to account. We need to hold car drivers to account and we need to hold cyclists to account."
Asking Freeman to name the only country in the world that requires cyclists to have number plates, Vine added: "It's North Korea... does that give you a sense you might be wrong about this?"
"No it doesn't and I'm not trying to be arrogant," he replied. "We have a particular attitude in this country, we share very cramped conditions, the available road space for car drivers and other users is getting less and less, it's becoming a far more dangerous place and stressful environment for everybody. What I'm suggesting is, not only that we need to make a law that counts so that we can enforce it, but it will make our roads safer for all users.
"You imagine taking a number plate off a car, how would that driver drive? Probably far more recklessly and dangerously because he's not going to be held to account."
The Department for Transport has previously repeatedly insisted that no such legislation is planned, despite then-transport secretary Grant Shapps' bizarre few-day flirtation with the idea last summer, and the department said as much in an official response to Freeman's petition.
In August, road safety campaigner CyclingMikey accused Freeman of using cycling issues for publicity, the lawyer's archive of cycling-related comments including making calls for compulsory high-visibility clothing and helmet use, arguing cyclists should be forced to use cycle lanes, that lockdown created a "toxic culture of cycling", and that the Highway Code changes introduced to protect vulnerable road users and pedestrians would cause carnage and more danger.
Freeman posted on social media promoting his appearance on Vine on 5, one reply saying they "hope you've done your homework and can discuss what 'problem' this would solve and how much you expect road KSI [killed and seriously injured] stats to reduce once this is implemented. Then a thorough cost-benefit analysis is in order. Thanks in advance for your thorough homework, research and detailed proposal."
Another said: "Amazing. After your last petition barely got to 10,000 [signatures] and you got completely dismissed, you're back again? What a waste."
If a pedestrian safety is your priority, why are you going after the road users who cause fewer injuries who are unregistered, and not going after the road users who are registered who cause tens of thousands more?🤷🏻♂️
Tell me this isn't about you raising your profile 🤔 pic.twitter.com/ZOnlzbpwS7
— LetMeCycle (@LetMecycle) November 27, 2023
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.