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Updated: Court hears crowd-funded fixed-penalty appeal

Case may set precedent for treatment of riders breaking law to protect themselves

Alex Paxton, a London cyclist who is fighting a fixed penalty notice imposed after he was unable to safely use an advanced stop box, yesterday pleaded not guilty at Lavender Hill Magistrates Court. A trial date was set for December 5.

Earlier this week, his barrister Puneet Rai filed a letter with the CPS asking them to review whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. The judge has  given the CPS until 6 November to respond.

Alex is being supported by the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF), a charity set up by the CTC to fund precedent-setting cases involving cycling and the law. The £2000 needed for his case was raised through crowd-funding.

If the case goes ahead, CDF will help Alex and his barrister prepare his case. 

Police imposed the fixed penalty notice on Alex in August, when he rode past the line of an advanced stop box because it was occupied.

Not wanting to cross three lanes of moving traffic in order to turn right, Alex positioned himself ahead of the  vehicle in the ‘cycle box’, which technically meant he ran a red light even though he remained at the junction.

A police officer who saw Alex radioed a colleague stationed along the road he turned down. That officer issued Alex with the fixed penalty notice. Alex argues that as the officer who issued the fine had not witnessed the offence, he was not able to assess the greater danger Alex would have been in had he complied with the law.

Alex received advice from CDF on how to contest the fine and was given assurance that CDF would assist with funding the legal challenge. He will contest the fixed penalty notice at Lavender Hill Magistrate’s Court, Battersea, on at 2pm this afternoon.  The case is likely to conclude the same day.
 
Alex said recently: “My resolve probably would have faltered taking this to court had there not been such overwhelming support from fellow cyclists to back my case.”

When fixed penalty notices for footway or pavement cycling were first introduced, the Government assured cycling organisations that the penalty would be applied fairly and only when a cyclist’s actions endangered pedestrians, not, for example, when a cyclist uses the pavement to avoid a dangerous road.

CDF’s coordinator, Rhia Weston, said: “The same discretion that the police are expected to use when issuing fixed penalty notices for pavement cycling should also be applied when issuing fixed penalty notices to cyclists who fail to stop at advanced stop lines.

“Advanced stop lines are there for a good reason: around 70% of cyclists’ collisions occur at or near junctions. They are by no means perfect, but when used properly they have the potential to save lives. We understand that the Department for Transport is planning to update regulation around ASLs to overcome the considerable problems with their access, which does give us some hope that they will also clarify what a cyclist should do if an ASL is illegally occupied by a vehicle.”

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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56 comments

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clayfit | 171 posts | 9 years ago
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update: the case has been dropped, and Alan has been cleared:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/02/case-against-london-c...

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Al__S | 1297 posts | 9 years ago
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almost every vehicle I see stopped in an advance stop line box I see roll slowly in to it... very rare to see see a vehicle stop in one legitamtely, invariably if they're across they're own line they'll gun it rather than stop.

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lakeland bimbler | 16 posts | 9 years ago
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Oh and while I'm in full 'pedant' mode:

"Case may set precedent for treatment of riders breaking law to protect themselves"

If I remember my law studies correctly magistrates can't establish precedent so unless this ends up in the crown court it is unlikely to have any bearing on the future .

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dp24 replied to lakeland bimbler | 207 posts | 9 years ago
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lakeland bimbler wrote:

If I remember my law studies correctly magistrates can't establish precedent so unless this ends up in the crown court it is unlikely to have any bearing on the future

Correct. Even in the Crown Court, it isn't necessarily binding either.

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700c | 1254 posts | 9 years ago
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The case may be a 'nonsense', but by bringing it to court hopefully there is going to be some clarity on how you should act in this situation. Or at least, pressure on the government to quickly change the law about behaviour which is to protect oneself even though it is technically illegal, as I understand they are planning to do anyway..

As for cycling up to the right of traffic, it puts you in a tricky position when they set off , plus you cannot enter the ASL that way.. Not to mention the danger from drivers who will not expect you to be there (@NND's experience) and the numptys who will berate you for not using the cycle lane..

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EK Spinner | 578 posts | 9 years ago
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the junction design itself is fundamentally flawed, cyclists are encouraged to approach on the extreme left and can only legally access the advance box from the left.

If turning right as in this case you then need to turn perpendicular to the traffic direction to cycle across 3 lanes and position yourself within the box to turn right. at no time do you know when the lights are about to change and the cars start to move forward.

I would say that if I were turning right at this junction I would want to be in the right hand lane on approach, but since there is then no legal access to the Advance Stop Box there is no point in filtering through the traffic. A cycle lane between Lanes 2 and 3 allowing safe access to the Advance box would possibly help.

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badkneestom | 135 posts | 9 years ago
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Must suck for the ticketing officer taking all the heat. You bet they didn't know all the details and simply trusted the colleague

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andyspaceman | 260 posts | 9 years ago
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Car shouldn't have been in the box. But he didn't have to ride to the front. Could have waited behind at a safe place.

I don't like having to do that, but sometimes do, if there's no safe/spare room in the box.

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andyp | 1607 posts | 9 years ago
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'Stopping infront of a white line on the road, but still not going over a junction should not be an offence'

So why not apply the same to cars? Just get rid of ASLs, right?

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andyp | 1607 posts | 9 years ago
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'You can have that one for free.'...used whilst in pedant mode - hilarious.

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Actium | 38 posts | 9 years ago
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Was the police car the one in the ASL?

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Gkam84 | 9471 posts | 9 years ago
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Going to trail on 5th Dec, but they have to make up their mind by 6th Nov if its in the public's interest.

:edit, I see that's in the updated version.

I hope it does go to trial, so that the issue is raised in the national media

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Karbon Kev | 776 posts | 9 years ago
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very unfortunate situation, did what he thought was right I guess ...

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LondonCalling | 152 posts | 9 years ago
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What really gets me about this, is that the police officer obviously ignored the car illegally occupying the ASL box.

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Northernbike | 228 posts | 9 years ago
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'At traffic lights, I act like a car, take my place in line and play it safe'

If you acted like the car in this case then wouldn't you use the bike ASL box?

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Overweightrider | 6 posts | 9 years ago
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This case is ridiculous. If a car stopped illegally in the ASL, then the driver should have been given a ticket instead of the cyclist who try to find somewhere safe to stop. Lets hope someone recorded the incident on video.

Also, doesn't the ASL basically marked out the blind spot of a HGV. If I get a HGV stopping behind me at the light, I'd want to move forward out of the ASL and out of the danger zone. If that is illegal, then the law needs changing

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eurotrash | 88 posts | 9 years ago
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So anyway, a vehicle in the advanced stop box is not "illegal", as the vehicle might have already been there when the lights changed, and that's perfectly legitimate. What they're not allowed to do is enter when the light's already red. So we don't know the motorist did anything wrong.

And yeah I do this sometimes, if I can't see the box and I filter up there and it's full, what am I supposed to do? I can't just stay there beside the traffic. I'll pull in behind if I can, sometimes there will be a bit of space in the "gutter", but if not then I'll position myself ahead of the vehicle and thus outside the box, to ensure I am seen. Booking anyone for doing so in that circumstance is taking the piss.

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CotterPin replied to eurotrash | 62 posts | 9 years ago
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eurotrash wrote:

..., if I can't see the box and I filter up there and it's full, what am I supposed to do? I can't just stay there beside the traffic. I'll pull in behind if I can, sometimes there will be a bit of space in the "gutter", but if not then I'll position myself ahead of the vehicle and thus outside the box, to ensure I am seen. Booking anyone for doing so in that circumstance is taking the piss.

I would suggest riding on the outside of the lane of the traffic rather than the "gutter" where you are more visible and may be able to see further ahead to note whether an ASL is already blocked. Drivers are more likely to expect to be overtaken on the outside and will check this side more regularly, and you are less at risk of being sideswiped by drivers turning into side roads across your path or pedestrians stepping out.

If the ASL is clear and you have time to get to it before the lights change then enter it from the outside. If you think it is blocked or you don't think you can get to it before the lights change then wait in line. You can usually find a space just in front and on the outside of the driver behind you. Look back at them and make sure you have eye contact with them so they know you are there. Make sure you have set the pedal ready to go. When the lights change set off. Chances are the driver will be a little bit slower in setting off (they'll need to put the vehicle in gear and take the handbrake off) and you can drop into the gap in front of them.

If you don't feel confident doing this then I would suggest sitting in the line of traffic, in the eyeline of the roaduser behind you, again looking back at them - it's amazing what eye contact can do. Nowhere in the Highway Code does it say cyclists must get to the front of the line of traffic  1 If there are only two or three vehicles in front of me at the lights I will stay where I am. The driver behind me can see me and, as mentioned above, he or she will take a little bit longer to get going than me. Once we are through the lights I will check to see if there is somewhere safe for me to allow the driver to pass.

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lakeland bimbler replied to CotterPin | 16 posts | 9 years ago
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Ahem...

Entering an ASL when the lights are at red via any other route than the filter (in the gutter) is an offence.

(Sorry and all that - but I have no discretion sir)

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NDD replied to CotterPin | 8 posts | 9 years ago
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A few years ago, I cycled up the middle of the road to overtake rather than undertake cars to get to an ASL box. A kind Foxtons estate agent decided she didnt want to wait in the traffic and performed a u-turn without looking/indicating. She managed to drive over my front wheel, bent my frame and sent me flying into the path of oncoming traffic. Fortunately I didn't break anything.

My point is that riding up to traffic junctions during rush hour is inherently dangerous. Car drivers and cyclists are both often in a rush and want to get to the front/get away promptly.

Having been knocked off I would rather be infront of traffic where they can see me, and not tucked inbetween vehicles in blind spots or in places where drivers are not expecting to see you.

As for this case - it's nonsense. Stopping infront of a white line on the road, but still not going over a junction should not be an offence. At almost every set of lights I stop at when cycling or driving, there is someone who has over shot the line for one reason or another. This smells of semantics and over zealous police officers who were out to make an example of a cyclist that day.

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CotterPin replied to NDD | 62 posts | 9 years ago
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NDD wrote:

A few years ago, I cycled up the middle of the road to overtake rather than undertake cars to get to an ASL box. A kind Foxtons estate agent decided she didnt want to wait in the traffic and performed a u-turn without looking/indicating. She managed to drive over my front wheel, bent my frame and sent me flying into the path of oncoming traffic. Fortunately I didn't break anything.

My point is that riding up to traffic junctions during rush hour is inherently dangerous. Car drivers and cyclists are both often in a rush and want to get to the front/get away promptly.

Having been knocked off I would rather be infront of traffic where they can see me, and not tucked inbetween vehicles in blind spots or in places where drivers are not expecting to see you.

As for this case - it's nonsense. Stopping infront of a white line on the road, but still not going over a junction should not be an offence. At almost every set of lights I stop at when cycling or driving, there is someone who has over shot the line for one reason or another. This smells of semantics and over zealous police officers who were out to make an example of a cyclist that day.

But how do you get to the front of the traffic to be in that space in the first place? If you sit in the line of traffic then you are visible to the most important person to you on the road, which is the driver immediately behind you. Putting yourself at the front of the traffic may work in the same way but you've still got to get yourself there.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to CotterPin | 2975 posts | 9 years ago
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CotterPin-
"I would suggest riding on the outside of the lane of the traffic rather than the "gutter" where you are more visible and may be able to see further ahead to note whether an ASL is already blocked. "

As Lakeland Bimbler already said (though I wanted to point it out as well!) the flaw in this suggestion is its illegal to enter the ASL other than in the "gutter"! You are suggesting breaking the law, so if you are going to do that you might as well cross the stop lane anyway!

I reckon ASL's and the laws concerning them, are an ill-thought-through mess and need to be either scrapped or reworked.

For starters the fact that cars can drive into them if the light is just about to go red makes it impossible to enforce them. Perhaps the rules should be rejigged so that motorists can't enter them on amber? That would surely mean that any car in them when the light is at red can be assumed to have broken the rules?

The fact you can only legally enter them on the left makes them problematic if you want to turn right, and also creates potential hazards from motorists turning left.

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CotterPin replied to FluffyKittenofTindalos | 62 posts | 9 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:

CotterPin-
"I would suggest riding on the outside of the lane of the traffic rather than the "gutter" where you are more visible and may be able to see further ahead to note whether an ASL is already blocked. "

As Lakeland Bimbler already said (though I wanted to point it out as well!) the flaw in this suggestion is its illegal to enter the ASL other than in the "gutter"! You are suggesting breaking the law, so if you are going to do that you might as well cross the stop lane anyway!

I reckon ASL's and the laws concerning them, are an ill-thought-through mess and need to be either scrapped or reworked.

For starters the fact that cars can drive into them if the light is just about to go red makes it impossible to enforce them. Perhaps the rules should be rejigged so that motorists can't enter them on amber? That would surely mean that any car in them when the light is at red can be assumed to have broken the rules?

The fact you can only legally enter them on the left makes them problematic if you want to turn right, and also creates potential hazards from motorists turning left.

You're absolutely right and I would love to see a case being brought against a cyclist entering the ASL other than through the approach cycle lane and "gate" on the left hand side, especially in the light of the fact that there are some ASLs which don't have any "gate" and effectively NOBODY should enter them when the lights are red! ASLs are a pointless device, bordering on dangerous, in my opinion.

Having said that, my main concern was with cyclists who feel they need to get to the front of the traffic whether this is in an ASL or beyond the stop line. The cyclist may feel that they have made themselves more visible by doing so but what about the actual act of moving through the traffic to get to the front? Too often I see cyclists who feel they have to move to the front of the queue, unwittingly putting themselves at risk, and when they get there they often continue to put themselves at risk by stopping at the left, out of the eye line of the driver behind them.

So I would personally agree with GKam and just sit in the lane of traffic, making sure that I am in the eye line of the driver behind me. That way I am visible to the most important person to me at the moment. Of course, if there is a long queue of motor traffic then I might choose to filter, usually down the outside, rather than the inside. I would then either stop in the line of traffic, using the technique I mentioned above, or continue into the ASL, even if I am breaking the law!

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to CotterPin | 2975 posts | 9 years ago
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CotterPin wrote:

So I would personally agree with GKam and just sit in the lane of traffic, making sure that I am in the eye line of the driver behind me. That way I am visible to the most important person to me at the moment. Of course, if there is a long queue of motor traffic then I might choose to filter, usually down the outside, rather than the inside. I would then either stop in the line of traffic, using the technique I mentioned above, or continue into the ASL, even if I am breaking the law!

Two reasons why I filter:

I get quite irritated at being hugely delayed because of all the drivers who chose to drive a ridiculously oversized vehicle (and cars do seem to be getting bigger and bigger!) thus clogging up the road ahead of me. Not helped by the frequency with which one reads hypocritical and illogical complaints by motorists at cyclists 'causing congestion'.

And, also, if I wait in the queue what happens repeatedly is the drivers in front of me seem to fall asleep (or start texting) and so take an age to start moving once the lights change. But of course I have less acceleration than they do once the queue actually does start to move. So almost invariably the driver just in front of me will get to the junction just in time to whizz across on amber (or even after the light has gone red) while I'll end up having to stop and wait for the _next_ phase, as unlike drivers I don't jump reds (partly because its riskier for a cyclist to do so). (And while I'm waiting too often a whacking great lorry will draw up beside me!)

But as I say, much of the time I just give up, dismount, and walk along the pavement, as that is often quicker than waiting for the traffic to move (and safer than filtering).

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jarredscycling | 453 posts | 9 years ago
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it costs 2,000 pounds to make an appeal of a ticket???

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Gkam84 | 9471 posts | 9 years ago
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He broke the law, no matter if it was for safety or not. As I said in the other article that brought this to everyone's attention.

Filtering can be done when safe, but some cyclists see it as a "I must get to the front" http://road.cc/content/news/94166-londoner-challenge-red-light-fixed-pen...

I don't know what I want the outcome to be, I want to see sense prevail, but I also want him to be made an example of. You cannot just do things because you think its right.

In my eye's, the worst place you can put yourself, is right in front of a queue of traffic. They will all be eager to get past you in most places. So to be, that's dangerous. At traffic lights, I act like a car, take my place in line and play it safe.

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FluffyKittenofT... replied to Gkam84 | 2975 posts | 9 years ago
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"In my eye's, the worst place you can put yourself, is right in front of a queue of traffic. They will all be eager to get past you in most places. So to be, that's dangerous. At traffic lights, I act like a car, take my place in line and play it safe."

Hmmm. Maybe. Have to say I often resort to dismounting and walking on the pavement and crossing as a pedestrian when the ASL is clogged up (or when I decide a junction just looks too nasty)

But do you have the acceleration required to 'act like a car' when the lights change? Because you _aren't_ a car, which is kind of the basic problem here.

And surely there are _still_ going to be cars behind you eager to get past you, so are you really that much better off doing it your way? Especially as the lights will likely change back to red just as you finally get to the front so you'll end up in the very position you said was 'the worst place to put yourself'.

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dullard replied to Gkam84 | 140 posts | 9 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

He broke the law, no matter if it was for safety or not. As I said in the other article that brought this to everyone's attention.

Filtering can be done when safe, but some cyclists see it as a "I must get to the front" http://road.cc/content/news/94166-londoner-challenge-red-light-fixed-pen...

I don't know what I want the outcome to be, I want to see sense prevail, but I also want him to be made an example of. You cannot just do things because you think its right.

In my eye's, the worst place you can put yourself, is right in front of a queue of traffic. They will all be eager to get past you in most places. So to be, that's dangerous. At traffic lights, I act like a car, take my place in line and play it safe.

And your eyes are wrong. Certainly in London, the safest place to be is in front of a queue because it's the most visible. In traffic, you won't be seen, you get swamped, and you're more at the mercy of larger vehicles where visibility is severley limited.

If it does go to court, I'm pleased you won't be the judge.

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mrmo | 2091 posts | 9 years ago
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The talk of absolute offences, it is illegal to ride on the pavement, but if you read the Home office guidance no one should be prosecuted unless they are acting in a way that threatens others safety.

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thx1138 | 72 posts | 9 years ago
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Looks like a date of 5th Dec has been set for the trial - http://www.ctc.org.uk/news/trial-date-set-for-cyclists-fixed-penalty-not...

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