Cyclists don't need number plates, and there is no such thing as ‘road tax’

Surely these lazy myths have been debunked by now?

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Katy Bourne sort of punctured her own misguided suggestion that cyclists should have number plates before she even made it. The original Argus report of a public Q&A the elected police and crime commissioner for Sussex hosted on Monday reads:

“Faced with repeated questions about cyclists breaking the road rules, Mrs Bourne said she wanted to ‘stick up’ for them a little bit, suggesting an unruly few gave the rest a bad name.”

Quite so, just as, perhaps, she went on to give police commissioners a bad name by adding:

“I would like to see cyclists wear some form of identification like cars have. So when they go through traffic lights, you can actually identify them and then you can prosecute them for breaking the law.”

Ignoring her own “minority” argument and the the practical, legislative and financial implications of such a scheme, Bourne-Yesterday then steered her argument into a ditch by saying:

“It is something that has been at the back of my mind for a long time. Because when you use the road, if you are driving a car you have your number plate. Other people register, they pay to use the roads. Cyclists don’t, admittedly.”

Not only misguided, but plain wrong, as an official of her standing really ought to know (we all pay for roads through general taxation, regardless of how or whether we use them. There is no ‘road tax’, only car tax, which is linked to emissions).

Moreover, cyclists have identities - their names - and can be fined for jumping lights or breaking any rule of the road that applies to us all. That relies on police being able to stop them, which they rightly and routinely do. The difficulty of establishing a cycling number plate system to challenge those who aren't stopped should also be clear to Bourne.

We've been here before. In 2006, the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said he wanted cycling number plates. At the time, Peter King, then the chief executive of British Cycling, said "more could be achieved by promotion of mutual respect between both groups of road users." And Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said: "We need to encourage cycling rather than put people off."

It is fair for Bourne to be concerned, and to respond to those concerns of her community, but lazily repeating myths about road use as a way to support an unworkable policy is not going to help, particularly if doing so only risks further distorting popular perception of how we all behave on our roads. 

Meanwhile, there are a small number of countries where cyclists have to carry number plates if Bourne wanted a case study to support her calls. One example: North Korea.