The suggestion from Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne that all bikes should display identity markings like car number plates is a strange policy to champion, particularly if you are responsible for the resources that would be needed to police such a scheme. According to current Government statistics (http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06224.pdf) cyclists travel 3.1 Bn miles each year, a figure that has not changed a great deal since the 1960’s when cars become the most popular form of personal transport. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s a staggering 11 Bn miles were travelled by bike. However unlike the 1950’s the majority of bike travel now, takes place off road with a mere 1% of Bike journeys taking place on the roads. This suggests that even if such a scheme was applied, that only a small proportion of bike usage would fall within the purview of the conventional roads policing model. Add to that the relatively small number of cyclists whose actions appear to be anti social or dangerous, there would need to be an enormous amount of time and other resources dedicated to this task to police and impose this new law that Katy is keen to see introduced. It seems possible that the take up of the idea whilst a source of universal humour or even anger amongst bike users, would be rather slow and certainly the few cyclists who do cause frustration and anger by their actions are unlikely to be early adopters of the scheme.
The same Government report provides data on accidents in which cyclists are hurt or killed. The last year for which the data is provided is 2011 which was a bad year for injuries to cyclists nationally and in Sussex 112 fatalities or serious injuries were recorded. Of these 36 or nearly a third were recorded as occurring in Brighton & Hove. It is clear that even though the city is generally seen to have committed significant resources to seperating bikes from cars that we still have a major challenge when it comes to reducing these terrible incidents. It would be fantastic if our Police and Crime Commissioner took an active interest in cycling in Sussex and addressed some of the issues that limit greater use of bikes, particularly as it is clear that we have some very dangerous roads in a small part of her area and some of the most wonderful cycling landscapes in other parts of Sussex. She has worked hard to engage with young people in her 2 years in post and bikes are the only form of transport available to many young people. There are many reasons why she should give Cycling her attention, however focusing on a very small number of dangerous cyclists and proposing the use of a sledgehammer to crack what is a tiny nut is madness. We can ill afford to dedicate extremely limited police officer time to chase after every cyclist without number plates, as a technique for reducing the problems caused by a few rogue cyclists on the pavements or roads.