James May suggests speed restrictions not needed for cyclists as majority not fit enough to go fast

TV presenter James May

TV presenter James May has suggested further restrictions should not be imposed on cyclists because most people aren’t fit enough to go fast.

Mr May, a keen cyclist best known for his work on motoring shows Top Gear and The Grand Tour, made his comments after The Telegraph revealed an elderly dog walker died following a collision with a cyclist.

Hilda Griffiths, 81, died after a collision with cyclist Brian Fitzgerald in Regent’s Park, London, two years ago.

An inquest earlier this month found that Mr Fitzgerald had reached speeds of up to 29mph while racing around the park and completing timed laps using a Garmin device.

After Mrs Griffiths’ death, police said there was “insufficient evidence” to prosecute the cyclist. Dangerous driving laws only apply to “mechanically propelled” vehicles.

Disrespectful and irresponsible

Mr May told Times Radio on Monday: “I don’t think people should try to achieve personal bests through places like London.

“And I don’t think people should race around the park. I think that is disrespectful and irresponsible and can lead to accidents.

“The vast majority of people can’t achieve even 20mph on a bicycle. I ride a lot in London, and I’m not particularly fit and I’m getting quite old. But even so, my average speed is usually 10 to 12mph and I’m putting my back into it.”

Mr May also rejected calls for number plates to be fitted to bicycles because the machines cannot cause the same level of harm as cars, and that regulating them was “completely against the spirit” of cycling.

He said: “Trying to cure the world’s problems by adding more admin is pointless and expensive and makes life miserable.

“I’ve been listening to various debates, including one yesterday on another radio station … There were some terrible things being said on that about regulating bicycles, and bicycles were being blamed for drivers speeding and people were saying insurance would make bicycles safer and all sorts of things that were, to my mind, nonsense.”

During Mrs Griffiths’ inquest, Mr Fitzgerald said that he and a group of three other riders were travelling at up to 29mph.

Split second to respond

The speed limit in Regent’s Park of 20mph also applies to cyclists because of  the park’s bylaws.

Mrs Griffiths, a retired nursery teacher, was walking her dog at the time of the collision. Mr Fitzgerald said he had only a “split second” to respond, which “didn’t allow for evasion”.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory MP, is hoping to close a loophole in the law that has seen cyclists who hit and fatally injure people charged only under a Victorian law intended for riders of horse-drawn carriages.

He has tabled a series of amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill that would impose tough new penalties on riders of bicycles, e-bikes, electric scooters, unicycles and similar “personal transporters” if they injure or kill pedestrians.

Under current laws, a cyclist who kills while riding recklessly or dangerously can be jailed for a maximum of only two years under an 1861 law that criminalises “wanton or furious driving”.

In contrast, motorists face a life sentence if charged and convicted of causing death by dangerous or reckless driving.