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Police stop cyclists riding at 39mph in 30mph zone despite speed limits not applying to bicycle riders

"Offered appropriate words of advice": The roads policing unit's social media post about the incident has since gone viral, video footage showing a group ride descending into a village at close to 40mph...

A group of cyclists riding on Dartmoor yesterday were stopped and spoken to by police officers after being seen riding at 39mph in a 30mph zone.

While there are no speed limits for cyclists in the UK — except where local byelaws apply, such as in some parks — Devon and Cornwall's Roads Policing Team explained on Twitter how the group was stopped by officers who asked them to "be mindful of your speeds and just how this will affect you in the event of a collision".

The traffic unit shared footage of the group descending yesterday morning just after 9:30 on the A386 into a village with a 30mph speed limit for motorists, the video having now been watched almost half a million times in the day since.

On the speedometer visible, the cyclists are shown to be travelling at between 39 and 37mph on the descent.

"Cyclists, please be mindful of your speeds and just how this will effect you in the event of a collision," the police unit's post said. "This group today on Dartmoor observed travelling at near 40mph on a 30mph restricted road. All stopped and offered appropriate words of advice."

The Highway Code sets out speed limits for vehicles, but does not include bicycles,  meaning — byelaw-restricted areas such as some promenades, paths or parks aside — cyclists cannot be fined for speeding.

> Cyclists in Richmond Park face crackdown for 'speeding' – even though limits do not apply to them

Instead however, cyclists can be charged with dangerous cycling, under the 1988 Road Traffic Act Section 28, which states an offence is committed if "the way they ride falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist" and it "would be obvious to a competent and careful cyclist that riding in that way would be dangerous", with "dangerous" referring to "danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property".

The charge of 'wanton and furious cycling' can also be applied if an injury is caused in the case of a collision.

Predictably, the video has caused much debate on social media, a retired police advanced driver, Marcus Laine, joining the discussion to defend the officers' actions, saying it was "entirely the right thing to do".

"Educate and inform," he said, asking what if "the cyclists approach the restricted vision crossroads and a motorist pulls out expecting traffic to be travelling at 30"?

> Speeding fine for Richmond Park cyclist clocked riding at 41mph — but is penalty lawful?

"It's about safety and that includes pedestrians who misjudges the bikes speed or elderly drivers. How about some personal responsibility?"

Road safety campaigner CyclingMikey was also on hand to reply to people who suggested the cyclists should be fined as a motorist would be, seemingly not aware of the fact speed limits do not apply to cyclists.

"They weren't breaking the law," he said. "The speed limit doesn't apply to cyclists. That's probably quite reasonable when a bicycle weighs maybe 10kg and an average car 1.5-2 tonnes."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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88 comments

Avatar
HoarseMann | 7 months ago
4 likes

"It's not illegal, but don't do it again" can also apply to going too slowly...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-56618809

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qwerty360 | 7 months ago
4 likes

Alternative text for tweet:

 

"Cyclists so law abiding that the only thing we can find to post to show we also enforce laws on riders is stopping them when they were cycling completely legally"

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Judge dreadful | 7 months ago
1 like

Okay officer, if you reckon I was riding at a speed in excess of the posted limit, I'll have to take your word for it, given I don't have a speedometer on my bicycle, nor is there a legal requirement to have one. Now jog on, and catch someone possibly actually breaking a law.

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IanMK | 7 months ago
5 likes

I think the Police were trying to do the right thing but got the messaging wrong.

Firstly, how a collision might affect them? Not sure that the Police would do this anywhere else. Do they stop and warn rock climbers about the dangers, or sea swimmers, the list of other riskyer hobbies is endless. I don't think they want or need to police every risky activity.

I did just see a jogger on a busy A road this morning,  not sure how the police would react to this. 

Better messaging would be if they were likely to put at risk (or even startle) more vulnerable road users. The elements of that argument in this thread have more resonance.

Discussion of speed limits is just plain misleading given that they don't apply. Really makes the post look like click bait waiting for a reaction from drivists. Specifically goes against the "just trying to educate" idea.

Of course we don't know what was said to the cyclists only what they chose to put on Twitter. Perhaps all that's required is a better understanding of how social media works.

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ChrisB200SX replied to IanMK | 7 months ago
5 likes
IanMK wrote:

I think the Police were trying to do the right thing but got the messaging wrong.

Discussion of speed limits is just plain misleading given that they don't apply. Really makes the post look like click bait waiting for a reaction from drivists. Specifically goes against the "just trying to educate" idea.

... Perhaps all that's required is a better understanding of how social media works.

Exactly this. The dangerous anti-cycling bigots (and hate-sirring media) are all over this tweet and using it as ammunition.

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Aberdeencyclist | 7 months ago
3 likes

Fellow cyclists . We really do need to consider why speed limits are there as it is generally because of increased hazard . Just because laws on speed (signs) generally don't apply to us doesn't mean we can consider that they might be due to an elevated risk and chill a bit 

 

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cmedred | 7 months ago
9 likes

Because cyclists never think about the consequences when descending at speed given all the armor surrounding them. 

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KDee replied to cmedred | 7 months ago
2 likes

Exactly this

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giff77 | 7 months ago
4 likes

On a lighter note. How many clubs can add an item to their AGM regarding a chaingang exceeding a posted limit and being pulled over by the peelers. 
 

There's a particular radar on one of my old loops which I would burst  myself trying to trigger a frown. Never succeeded. I did however trip a temp speed recorder in a twenty once. Have a pic from my cam somewhere showing 23. 

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Benthic | 7 months ago
10 likes

Were the cyclists also chastised for not wearing seatbelts?

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cyclisto | 7 months ago
1 like

The problem with road bikes with narrow 23c tires and caliper brakes, is that based on my experience, they have very poor braking performance and most road cyclists use such. Test the worst performing car in braking from 40mph in wet and compare it to the best performing bike with 23c tires and calipers in same conditions. So yes 40mph in a 30mph zone can be too much.

But the thing is, how many pedestrians are actually killed on accidents caused by cyclists annually? They are about double compared to struck by lightning deaths level probability, so not something that we should worry too much, as it is kind of a freak unsual accident.

https://www.nationalworld.com/news/politics/pedestrians-killed-dangerous...

https://www.torro.org.uk/research/lightning/incidents

High speed recreational sport road cycling can be dangerous on open fast roads (sadly many road.cc accident articles are about such riding), but the actual danger is for themselves, not for others. And so is smoking or eating fast food in excessive amounts every day, but I don't know many other people that get pissed off about what others eat, drink or smoke.

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Rendel Harris replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
15 likes
cyclisto wrote:

The problem with road bikes with narrow 23c tires and caliper brakes, is that based on my experience, they have very poor braking performance and most road cyclists use such.

Unless things are startlingly different in other parts of the country, I reckon you could go to any popular road cycling venue and unless there was a group training for the Eroica present you'd be hard pushed to find more than one in fifty these days using 23mm tires and calipers together.

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KDee replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
0 likes

Evidence? 

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David9694 replied to KDee | 7 months ago
0 likes

25s and 28s in the winter. 23s I used to run are faster in summer - don't listen to Big Tyre - but too many pinch flats on corners. 

Any braking system is only as good as its weakest link - that's rider reaction time/  skill and on the non-human side, road traction, which in the case of anything 23-28 is a major weakness. 

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brooksby replied to David9694 | 7 months ago
1 like
David9694 wrote:

25s and 28s in the winter. 23s I used to run are faster in summer - don't listen to Big Tyre - but too many pinch flats on corners. 

Any braking system is only as good as its weakest link - that's rider reaction time/  skill and on the non-human side, road traction, which in the case of anything 23-28 is a major weakness. 

What bag is that you're using, David?

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Mr Hoopdriver replied to brooksby | 7 months ago
0 likes
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David9694 replied to brooksby | 7 months ago
2 likes

Carradice Zipped Roll In burgundy. 

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brooksby replied to David9694 | 7 months ago
0 likes
David9694 wrote:

Carradice Zipped Roll In burgundy. 

Nice. Thanks.

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SaveTheWail replied to David9694 | 7 months ago
1 like
David9694 wrote:

Carradice Zipped Roll In burgundy. 

I prefer pears in brandy.

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cyclisto replied to KDee | 7 months ago
0 likes

Narrow tires on caliper brakes definitely is not a good thing for braking, let's let poor bears on their privacy after having eaten a feast of salmons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reVAYWOeoA0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHFSSXOSnxs

@Rendel Harris I you must be right for more affluent areas, I wish I could see more bike porn on my streets. Having briefly owned an Eroica age road bike, the braking experience was by far the worse aspect of it. Steel rims and Mafac brakes. But even on modern 23c caliper brakes I felt unsafe. On the contrary, riding a MTB with huge tires and hydraulic disks I was super supriced by the braking power. Haven't ridden a modern hydro disk road bicycle with wide tyres, but I believe it will be quite close to the MTB experience I had.

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ChrisB200SX replied to cyclisto | 7 months ago
2 likes
cyclisto wrote:

Test the worst performing car in braking from 40mph in wet and compare it to the best performing bike with 23c tires and calipers in same conditions.

Highway Code braking distances are based on a rather ols Ford Anglia... I don't believe that this test you suggest is going to go the way you think, at all.

Speed limits were introduced for Motor Vehicles for very good reasons.

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IanMK | 7 months ago
11 likes

"Educate and inform,"

Totally agree. Why not start with drivers? In fact, why not start with the drivers that respond incorrectly to your twitter feed? If they don't know this section of the highway code I suspect they'll be equally ignorant on other parts of it - like protecting vulnerable road users.

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Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
3 likes

I should imagine the police were (illegally) following the cyclists hoping that they'd do anything, anything at all, that would indicate that they were speeding inappropriately so they could pull a 'wanton and furious driving' charge on them, however once the road leveled out, the bobbies had to settle for a stern word and online slating instead. 

 

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Capt Sisko replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 7 months ago
0 likes

Please expand on how the police illegally follow road users (of any description).

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Shermo replied to Capt Sisko | 7 months ago
0 likes

The police car is keeping up with the bikes so must be speeding? Don't believe police can/should exceed the speed limit without their lights on?

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hawkinspeter replied to Shermo | 7 months ago
3 likes
Shermo wrote:

The police car is keeping up with the bikes so must be speeding? Don't believe police can/should exceed the speed limit without their lights on?

I believe that emergency vehicles are exempt from speed restrictions, but they should be using lights when doing so, though arguably 39mph in a 30 zone is about typical for motorists.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
4 likes

All emergency service vehicles must stick to the speed limit when not running blue lights and sirens (unless for reasons of noise pollution). It is also misconcieved that ambulances and fire engines are allowed to break the speed limit - which is a myth. Only police officers with specialist Advanced Driver Training can drive (under blue light conditions) over the speed limit. Fire and Ambulance service drivers are not given this advanced tactical driving training but a more basic blue-light course.

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LeadenSkies replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 7 months ago
3 likes

The blue light course undertaken by appliance drivers in my service meets the requirements of Section 19 of the Road Safety Act 2006 which is the section that deals with exemptions from speed limits. The rules were tightened as a result of that Act and most services had to scramble to requalify their drivers before the grace period expired but this was completed some years ago.

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qwerty360 replied to Matthew Acton-Varian | 7 months ago
3 likes
Matthew Acton-Varian wrote:

All emergency service vehicles must stick to the speed limit when not running blue lights and sirens (unless for reasons of noise pollution). It is also misconcieved that ambulances and fire engines are allowed to break the speed limit - which is a myth. Only police officers with specialist Advanced Driver Training can drive (under blue light conditions) over the speed limit. Fire and Ambulance service drivers are not given this advanced tactical driving training but a more basic blue-light course.

 

Nope;

They don't have to use blue lights.

However there is an argument that they can only speed where necessary for official police business. As the riders speeding isn't an offence on its own AND they would have likely caught up with the riders at the bottom of the hill when they slowed anyway, there is a good argument that speeding wasn't necessary for police business however...

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check12 replied to hawkinspeter | 7 months ago
0 likes

Nope, must follow all laws of the road, but can exceed speed limits and go through red lights only with lights on.

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