Leading article: Free-wheeling ...

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The Government is apparently planning to launch a public consultation about toughening the law as it relates to cyclists. Advance reports say that one proposal envisages swingeing fines for new criminal offences - such as failing to have the bike fitted with a bell. Registration of all bicycles on the road is something else that is being floated.

Now we recognise that not all cyclists are angels. Failing to stop at red lights, weaving in and out of traffic and riding two or more abreast on a busy road are among the infuriating practices that give cyclists a bad name - although it should be added that these actions pale beside the worst offences of motorists. The proposals now being entertained, however, already look like a ridiculous - if all too typical - waste of highly paid government time. Much of the delight of cycling resides in its free-wheeling nature. Bicycles are not such a great risk to public safety that they need to be registered, with all the inconvenience and bureaucracy that would entail. Making it a criminal offence not to have a bell is similarly absurd: besides, having a bell and using one are quite different things.

Instead of dreaming up such stupid ideas, the Government should be doing everything possible to encourage people to get into the saddle. Cycling is a healthy and environmentally-friendly way of getting around. It is not bells, whistles or registration plates that are needed, but more cycle-tracks in urban areas that are properly separated from motor traffic. This is what makes cycling so popular in other parts of Europe, and this is where public money for cycling should be spent.