Bicycle bell crackdown has a ring of the nanny state
By Melissa Kite, Deputy Political Director
Last Updated: 12:35 AM Paris on September 10, 2006
From Labour plans to seize new laws requiring every bicycle to have a bell and each cyclist to use it to warn pedestrians to their presence.
Those convicted of driving without a bell face on-the-spot fines, with maximum penalties of up to £ 2500 or two years' imprisonment.
High-profile cyclists, as Conservative leader David Cameron and Tory MP Boris Johnson, should be vigilant in compliance with the new rule. President George W. Bush could be in difficulty if it had been in force last year, when he crashed his bike into a policeman during the G8 summit in Gleneagles. It is not known if his bell rang.
Some critics see the nanny state at work. Graeme Obree, the Scottish world record-holding cyclist, marks the passage a "pointless exercise in bureaucracy." He said: "If a cyclist is on the verge of striking a pedestrian, they are not going to hit a bell - they'll scream. Bobby What will enforce a law like this? Yobs will take the bell out of anyway. Only officials could come up with crazy ideas like that. "
The figures show that 12 pedestrians died after being hit by cyclists in the past five years. The number of cyclists killed on the roads has increased by 10 percent last year to 148 - the most since 1999. Current laws require bells to be fitted on new bicycles before being sold, but cyclists are not required to keep them. The ministers want to close the loophole when harmonised European Union cycle construction standards are applied in the fall.
Stephen Ladyman, Transport Minister, said in a written parliamentary answer: "[It is] a good time to review our current policies on cycle construction, including the question of bells." He pledged to consult the public first.
There were also calls for crackdown on cyclists who jump red lights or riding on sidewalks. The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said it plans to require cyclists to wear license plates.