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Mr Loophole makes renewed call for cyclist number plates, but gets shut down by Jeremy Vine show panel

There was a lukewarm reception and criticism for the lawyer's latest cycling legislation appeal, two years on from his petition that scraped across the 10,000-signature threshold, only to be emphatically rejected by the government...

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.

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?"

> Is there anywhere cyclists are required to be licensed, and how has it gone in the past? Or is it just North Korea?

"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.

> Mr Loophole's cyclist ID petition "gathers momentum" says BBC – except it closed last week

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."

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.

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50 comments

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tootsie323 | 3 months ago
4 likes

How many cars are on the UK roads?

How many bicycles are oin the UK roads?

At an individual level, which form of transpport has more potential to cause serious harm?

Having answered the above - what in the absolute name of insert-preferred-expletive-here is this Mr Freeman talking about..?

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MF | 3 months ago
1 like

It's OK for all those drivers to moan about cyclists but they should look at the way they drive going through amber and red traffic lights not giving way at road junctions so let people cross the road not stopping at pedestrian crossings to allow people to cross parking on footpaths and grass verges then complain about potholes and VLD when it is the motor vehicle that does the damage to the roads and pavements
All drivers should after retake there driving test every 10 years
I think that a lot of them would fail it because of the bad practices that they have picked up
If a driver gets disqualified for what ever reason they should have to take a new driving test before they can get their licence back

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Bungle_52 | 3 months ago
4 likes

From the article : "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..."

Gloucester Police officer charged with driving force vehicles while disqualified

Police officer racked up 12 points for speeding, was disqualified but carried on driving.

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/gloucester-po...

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Wheelywheelygood | 3 months ago
0 likes

We do need number plates for bikes so these criminals can be caught , we also need huge fines for all those who drive or ride without regard for the safety of others and total bans from driving or riding for both or even being a passenger , so if u drive badly u can't ride a bike either and vise versa . The roads and pavements have now become so dangerous we must get these people off the roads permanently ,let them walk or use busses . We would soon see a big improvement 

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chrisonabike replied to Wheelywheelygood | 3 months ago
1 like
Wheelywheelygood wrote:

We do need [...] total bans from driving or riding for both or even being a passenger , so if u drive badly u can't ride a bike either and vise versa

.
(Sigh... I shouldn't...) Why?

Wheelywheelygood wrote:

The roads and pavements have now become so dangerous we must get these people off the roads permanently ,let them walk or use busses .

But they haven't though, have they? UK roads and streets are some of the safest, statistically.

In a way that's part of the problem. As eg. RoadPeace note - most people don't take the issue seriously because they are never affected.

However do our streets *feel* safe? People do once they're on the footways (which is why people cycle there - and most don't cycle at all) but maybe mistakenly *.

But it doesn't feel so convenient to get about, because people are squeezed to the edges of streets, or impeded by barriers, or forced to hop into the road - because we've prioritised the use of vast amounts of space by motor vehicles over the convenience of everyone outside them.

Safety by getting rid of the non-motorised users. "They make a wasteland, and call it peace."

Buses won't fix that. I reckon you want... some of those deadly cyclists** (1, 2, 3 or more wheels) - otherwise how are you going to get those drivers to change?

* numbers are run over every year on footways by people in motor vehicles there also despite driving there being illegal.

** the carnage illustrated well here:
https://robertweetman.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/just-one-year/

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BalladOfStruth replied to Wheelywheelygood | 3 months ago
7 likes

Despite your anecdotal assertions that cyclists are all a bunch of murderous bastards that have to be “saved by eagle-eyed drivers” – an utterly ridiculous notion, as you’d see if you were to actually read any of the KSI statistics for the UK (car vs bike KSI’s are fully the drivers fault 2-3 time more often than they are the cyclist’s, and IIRC bike vs ped KSIs are something like 24% more likely to be the ped’s fault than the cyclist’s) – the fact is that the danger presented by cyclists is statistically irrelevant compared to drivers, and there just isn’t any reasonable justification for the money you’d have to spend to implement such a scheme. Do you realise what would be required to do this?

There are 20 million bikes in the UK compared to 33 million cars. The DVLA would have to double in size to manage the extra work – probably triple in size initially seeing as all of these bikes are unregistered – there is no database of them or where they are. If you’re talking about licences and fines and bans, then would you establish a standard of ability? A test? Then the DSA would also have to double in size, new examiners, new techniques, new training, establishing that new standard. Would you have a minimum age? No kids on bikes any more? That’s going to cause a noticeable effect on the economy. What about MTBs?

Current standard number plates could not be fitted to ~90% of bikes, so you’ll have establish a new standard that would fit, but that current ANPR almost definitely wouldn’t be able to read – so every ANPR camera in the country would have to be retrofitted. You would have to establish a new Police database, new training for officers, and all the new staff required to run and maintain the new systems.

You’re looking at tens of billions of pounds to implement this – not including the legislative process before you could even start with the physical changes required – and the taxpayer would never see anything close to anything of value for that outlay – cyclists just do not present enough danger to justify it. All you’d do is put tall but he most staunch cyclists off cycling for good; you’d have more congestion, more pollution, more crashes, more pedestrian deaths. When policing for poor driving is so bad, there is just no reasonable justification for this.

For every pedestrian a cyclist kills on the pavement, drivers kill 50 (ignoring the other 1,950 deaths and 25,000 serious injuries they cause) and this is despite the fact that cars and pedestrians should only ever be in conflict on crossings, whereas every meter of cyclist infrastructure in the UK is either shared with, or adjacent to (but not separated from) pedestrian spaces. How can you look at this and reasonably justify going after bikes instead of re-doubling enforcement efforts against cars?

Also, would it even meaningfully solve the problem? The police don’t seem to have any issue fining RLJ-ing cyclists, and registered/identifiable drivers don’t seem to have any issues getting away with dangerous behaviour – according to the DfT’s own statistics, most drivers are speeding most of the time (something that’s more dangerous than just about anything someone on a 10kg bike is able to do). What percentage of them actually get caught? And we know from this very website that the Police aren’t interested in going after dangerous drivers, even if you give them video evidence.

There’s a reason that the only country fucking dumb enough to implement this is North Korea.

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Hirsute replied to BalladOfStruth | 3 months ago
5 likes

The poster is a bit of a WUM so I doubt that they even believe it.

I find plenty of folk think "it's computerised" so how can it that hard to implement.

They have no idea of what a database is, sizing, design, system integrity, hardware, testing, running costs, licences, DBA. Then there is the whole problem of specifying the requirement ...

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bensynnock | 3 months ago
8 likes

At present we have thousands upon thousands of motorists running red lights, breaking the speed limit, driving on the pavement, driving while using their phones etc, all the while being completely traceable, but still they do it with impunity.

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Steve K | 3 months ago
3 likes

Also - and I feel this is the key question - who the hell fitted the seat pack on that bike?

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Hirsute replied to Steve K | 3 months ago
0 likes

It might be ok. It looks a bit like the combo I had years ago.
Saddle had a slot underneath which matched the lug on top of the pack, then a bit of velcro around the seat post to stop side to side movement.

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Steve K replied to Hirsute | 3 months ago
0 likes

I know the sort of set up you mean, but I'm not convinced it is that (difficult to tell with the picture quality).  It seems to hang down too far.

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Steve K | 3 months ago
7 likes

We should require all car drivers to have 35 hours of training every five years to keep their licence.

That's what HGV drivers have to do.  And Freeman's logic is if one set of road users have to do something, so should other road users regardless of the differences between their vehicles.

(PS - we'll leave aside the fact that some form periodic re-registration for drivers actually would be a good thing!)

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HoldingOn replied to Steve K | 3 months ago
2 likes
Steve K wrote:

We should require all car drivers to have 35 hours of training every five years to keep their licence.

That's what HGV drivers have to do.  And Freeman's logic is if one set of road users have to do something, so should other road users regardless of the differences between their vehicles.

(PS - we'll leave aside the fact that some form periodic re-registration for drivers actually would be a good thing!)

Careful - you might be calling for cyclists to go through training and licencing every five years as well...

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Jem PT | 3 months ago
7 likes

Why stop at cyclists?

I say pedestrians should have a number plate so they can be called to account for dropping litter, etc.

And dogs, so they can be called to account for crapping all over the pavement.

The list is endless!

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Backladder replied to Jem PT | 3 months ago
4 likes
Jem PT wrote:

Why stop at cyclists?

I say pedestrians should have a number plate so they can be called to account for dropping litter, etc.

And dogs, so they can be called to account for crapping all over the pavement.

The list is endless!

The one for lawyers should be fitted across the mouth and hermetically sealed all around!

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IanMK | 3 months ago
6 likes

'There's no real means of tracking the cyclists.'
Of course there is. Google pretty much tracks most of the people most of the time. I believe in Saudi Arabia all cars have trackers and automated fines for specific offences. The system would probably pay for itself and then some. This is a far more efficient way of controlling road safety, getting rid of uninsured drivers and ensuring MOT Compliance. Introduce this and then roll it out to other road users perhaps eventually you can even track pedestrians. Oh, it doesn't sound very libertarian....so why are you suggesting increasing regulation then?

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chrisonabike replied to IanMK | 3 months ago
5 likes

Aargh! Another bloody cyclist calling for more draconian monitoring, like 15 minute cities to keep us from going anywhere! Oh, wait...

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
8 likes

The tabard idea is beyond stupid. Would that mean it would then be illegal to wear a back pack? 

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IanMK replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
4 likes

A couple of weeks back I reported a close pass from a signed van that had a different number plate to the trailer it was pulling. Perhaps a not dissimilar problem. I await a response from TVP.

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wtjs replied to IanMK | 3 months ago
2 likes

A couple of weeks back I reported a close pass from a signed van that had a different number plate to the trailer it was pulling

There are loads of these in Lancashire, along with lots of tractors and quad bikes on the road with no front plates at all, and a smaller number with no rear plates. LC just ignores the reports.

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Adrian Waters replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 months ago
1 like

I'm a cyclist and totally opposed to any kind of registration. But if it came to pass, it would make more sense to register the cyclist rather than the bike.
Some bikes are used by more than one person so a plate on the bike doesn't identify the rider (admittedly true for motor vehicles also).
Some cyclists have more than one bike. It seems excessive to require each one to be registered.
A registration plate on the bike is liable to create drag; and will be easily knocked and damaged.
Whilst a tabard is a silly idea because, as you say, it can be obscured by a backpack, riders could wear a plate attached to their back or backpack so that it's always visible. But then, should they wear one on their front also?

So many issues to be addressed for what? Let's reduce deaths and injuries from motor vehicles first.

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hawkinspeter replied to Adrian Waters | 3 months ago
2 likes
Adrian Waters wrote:

I'm a cyclist and totally opposed to any kind of registration. But if it came to pass, it would make more sense to register the cyclist rather than the bike. Some bikes are used by more than one person so a plate on the bike doesn't identify the rider (admittedly true for motor vehicles also). Some cyclists have more than one bike. It seems excessive to require each one to be registered. A registration plate on the bike is liable to create drag; and will be easily knocked and damaged. Whilst a tabard is a silly idea because, as you say, it can be obscured by a backpack, riders could wear a plate attached to their back or backpack so that it's always visible. But then, should they wear one on their front also? So many issues to be addressed for what? Let's reduce deaths and injuries from motor vehicles first.

Assuming the premise of "there's a problem that can be solved by registering cycles/cyclists", I'm more in favour of having a nationwide network of LoRa capable devices that would be inserted into the bike frame. Then, each bike frame could be part of a big mesh network that enabled location data on each every bike to be read by someone with access to the encryption keys. This would enable registration without any external aerodynamic drag, but the best bit would be that bike thieves could easily be tracked down.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

Assuming the premise of "there's a problem that can be solved by registering cycles/cyclists" ...

Thomas Pynchon wrote:

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.

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brooksby replied to chrisonabike | 3 months ago
0 likes
chrisonatrike wrote:
hawkinspeter wrote:

Assuming the premise of "there's a problem that can be solved by registering cycles/cyclists" ...

Thomas Pynchon wrote:

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.

 3

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chrisonabike replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
1 like

Indeed!

To pinch from CyclingMikey again:

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60kg lean keen ... replied to hawkinspeter | 3 months ago
2 likes

Why are we having this discusion? It is just not going to happen, it is totally unworkable, we have talked about children, what about MTB riders, will they have to reg so as to keep a bike at home just in case they ride on the road?  It is a bonkers idea (bain fart) from a out dated and soon (hopefully) out of power group of people.  They often are the people who shout loudly about 15mins citys and its insult to freedom (what a joke it is also a brain fart!!) but are the fist to call for Me to give account to the goverment every time I pull the bike out of the shed!!!  I would total refuse to be part of this culture war and ride with out plates or reg as I have done all My life, see how long,if we all just on mass defy to play ball (both to talk about it or even if it ever came in to place to reg ourselfs)

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hutchdaddy | 3 months ago
14 likes

I note that quite a few think it was a bad thing Mr Loopfruit being given a plat form, but it was actually very good thing. He was given a chance to showboat, tried to and got shot down at the first opportunity. More peopIe can see him for the opportunistic grifter he is. I know I'm mixing my metaphors.

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Adam Sutton | 3 months ago
0 likes

Seemed little more than a fluff piece that gave Mr Loophole a platform, opportunity completely lost to actually call him out on various instances where he has gotten people off for dangerous driving etc and the double standards that entails.

Well done Jezza, - "Gameshow host, and brother of Edinburgh Fringe winning comedian."

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Born_peddling | 3 months ago
0 likes

Who wants Freeman's most used hotel locations? I even know where his house is..... anyone up for cementing some busted bikes outside his gaff, call it urban art 🎨 😆

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Born_peddling replied to Born_peddling | 3 months ago
0 likes

The only change in law should be insurance companies not being allowed to ruin a cyclists way of life just because the "car" is seen as more important. True it's the oldest mechanical murderer and as a former mechanic nothing scares a bully driver more when you can point out how many LEGAL ways a car can be disabled especially if it's in a secure parking spot....all you've done is enhance the security by disabling it's ability to kill!

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