Cyclists could be forced to abide by 20mph speed limits and face penalty points or fines under a shake-up of road laws.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said he wanted to close a loophole that allowed cyclists to break speed limits and even overtake cars in low-speed zones that are spreading across Britain.
Department for Transport officials acknowledge that such a regime of sanctions would require cyclists to have number plates or some other form of identifiable marking for enforcement purposes.
The Highway Code and Road Traffic Act speeding limits only apply to motor vehicles and their drivers. Local councils can impose speed limits on cyclists, but it has been rarely done.
‘Make speed limits apply to cyclists’
Mr Shapps told the Daily Mail: “Somewhere where cyclists are actually not breaking the law is when they speed, and that cannot be right, so I absolutely propose extending speed limit restrictions to cyclists.
“Particularly where you’ve got 20mph limits on increasing numbers of roads, cyclists can easily exceed those, so I want to make speed limits apply to cyclists.
“That obviously does then lead you into the question of: ‘Well, how are you going to recognise the cyclist? Do you need registration plates and insurance? And that sort of thing.’
“So I’m proposing there should be a review of insurance and how you actually track cyclists who do break the laws.
“I don’t want to stop people from getting on their bike. It’s a fantastic way to travel. We’ve seen a big explosion of cycling during Covid and since, I think it has lots of health benefits.
“But I see no reason why cyclists should break the road laws, why they should speed, why they should bust red lights and be able to get away with it.
“I think we do have to not turn a blind eye to that and I’m proposing setting up a review to do exactly that.”
Mr Shapps may no longer be Transport Secretary when the new prime minister, announced on Sept 5, reshuffles the Cabinet. However, he would press any successor to take on the review.
It is also expected to consider mandatory insurance for cyclists. If reckless riders seriously injure or kill pedestrians, this would enable the victims to secure compensation.
Pedestrians hit by cars can make sizable claims that are paid by the motorist’s insurer, but this is not possible for victims of reckless cyclists. If the rider has little wealth, they also cannot be sued for damages.
It would be part of a wider overhaul to punish a minority of aggressive riders, which would also result in a new offence of death by dangerous cycling created.
At present, a legal loophole means killer cyclists can be jailed for a maximum of two years. Motorists can be jailed for life.
The review of road laws aims to create greater parity between drivers and riders amid growing tensions following changes to the Highway Code.
These changes, announced in January, mean cyclists have priority over motorists and are even encouraged to ride in the middle of the road on some streets.
The number of 20mph zones is expanding, but some cyclists have been suspected of breaking these limits, causing issues for pedestrians and drivers. Surrey County Council is to pilot new 20mph and 30mph restrictions across roughly 80 sq miles south of the A25, between Guildford and Dorking.
Oxfordshire County Council is also introducing more 20mph limits right across the town of Witney, David Cameron’s former constituency. Last month, the Welsh Parliament voted to make 20mph the default speed limit on residential roads, instead of 30mph.