Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

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.

Add new comment

88 comments

Avatar
quiff replied to check12 | 8 months ago
1 like

I'm not sure which bit of hawkinspeter's comment you're disagreeing with... 

Avatar
Capt Sisko replied to Shermo | 8 months ago
1 like

Section 87 of the Road Traffic Act provides the exemption. It states that the exemption applies in the situation that to observe the speed limit would hinder the use of the vehicle for the purpose for which it is being used on that occasion. In this case all the police have to do is to say that they considered the speed of the cyclist inappropiate for the circumstances and they needed to take action. Therefore going faster than the posted speed limit was  approriate and therefore lawful.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
3 likes

That's useful to know, and makes sense. However in this case, on their own evidence, they were pursuing the cyclists for exceeding the speed limit, which itself is not a police matter, rather than for the general manner of their riding, which could be a police matter. So by their own admission the reason they were themselves exceeding the speed limit is not covered by the exemption, unless they are allowed to break the speed limit in pursuit of just any purpose they choose.

Avatar
David9694 replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
0 likes

Are police required these days to give any grounds for stopping a wheeled road user?

Avatar
Capt Sisko replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
1 like

Nope, 39mph in 30 zone has a public safety factor element to it and the police have to act when there is a potential risk to public safety. There are also other charges the police could look for. I doubt the Dangerous Cycling part of the 1988 RTA would apply (unless there were additional factors not seen in the clip) however Careless, and inconsiderate, cycling, defined as "If a person rides a cycle on a road without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road, he is guilty of an offence." could apply. 39 in a 30zone would satisfy the 'without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road' critera. Therefore the police have at least two legitimate grounds for exceeding the posted speed limit.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
2 likes
Capt Sisko wrote:

39mph in 30 zone has a public safety factor element to it...

That only follows logically if you are referring to the speed of something for which the limit was framed.

But the speed limits are not informed by the dangers imposed by the speed of cyclists, any more than, say, bumblebees, since clearly the limits apply to neither. The limits are set with regard to the dangers imposed by motor vehicles, so I fail to see the rationale in using them as a yardstick to infer the dangers imposed by anything else at that speed.

Avatar
Capt Sisko replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
1 like
Sriracha wrote:

. The limits are set with regard to the dangers imposed by motor vehicles, so I fail to see the rationale in using them as a yardstick to infer the dangers imposed by anything else at that speed.

I'll tell you what then, you stand in the middle of the road and let cyclist ride into you at 39mph. In the infamous Charlie Alliston case he was only doing 18mph. Imagine the damage a bike & rider would do to you at over twice that speed. Speed, is all relative anyway. I'll happily drive through my local High Street at 30mph at 5.00am. On a Saturday at say 10.00am when the market's in full swing, 15mph is probably too fast. 

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
0 likes
Capt Sisko wrote:

I'll tell you what then, you stand in the middle of the road and let cyclist ride into you at 39mph. In the infamous Charlie Alliston case he was only doing 18mph. Imagine the damage a bike & rider would do to you at over twice that speed. Speed, is all relative anyway. I'll happily drive through my local High Street at 30mph at 5.00am. On a Saturday at say 10.00am when the market's in full swing, 15mph is probably too fast. 

So, if you had the choice of being ridden into by a 39mph cyclist or driven into by a 30mph driver, which do you think would cause you the most harm?

Or, compare a 39mph cyclist with a 15mph driver - I reckon the cyclist is far less dangerous.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
2 likes

Suppose there was a speed limit for, say, farm vehicles, or HGVs, and a car driver exceeded that limit. Are you saying that fact alone could be taken to indicate dangerous driving by the car driver, for whom the limit was never designed?

Avatar
Capt Sisko replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
1 like

As a road user I'm disapointed that you must have never read the Highway Code. Perhaps you should get aquainted with it as it tells you that separate speed limits already exist for different classes of vehicles. As for the danberous driving bit, where did I say that as you seem to be creating an arguement of something that doesn't exist.

Avatar
quiff replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
3 likes

But that's precisely Sriracha's point - driving a car at 65mph on the motorway is not (of itself) dangerous driving simply because it exceeds the speed limit for a HGV.   

Avatar
Capt Sisko replied to quiff | 8 months ago
2 likes

You've lost me on this one. You suddenly seem to be going off at a tangent. The question was, was it right for the police to follow some cyclists for doing 39 in a 30 limit even if it means they are 'speeding' themselves. As I explained above, they are well within their rights to do so.

Avatar
quiff replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
1 like
Capt Sisko wrote:

You suddenly seem to be going off at a tangent. 

I'd agree with that! I was just trying to elucidate Sriracha's last point, but I agree we're straying a bit from where it started.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
0 likes

And as I pointed out it makes as much sense to pursue a cyclist for exceeding a speed limit imposed on a different class of vehicle as it does to pursue a car driver for exceeding the speed limit imposed on a different class of vehicle.

Would the officers have offered words of advice to a motorist on the strength of them exceeding the speed limits governing agricultural vehicles on the same road? Or HGVs?

Imagine the conversation:
[Officer] do you know why I've pulled you over?
[Motorist] er, no officer, sorry.
[Officer] see that sign there? You were exceeding the speed limit
[Motorist] but that sign is for tractors...
[Officer] nevertheless, it tells me your driving was inappropriate for the circumstances ...
[Motorist] ... if I was driving a tractor, which I'm not.
[Officer] please don't interrupt.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
2 likes

Not quite with you here.  The speed limit posted here isn't some "intermediate" one - it's for the fastest expected vehicle / thing on the road.  (Albeit we all know that mostly motor vehicles would get a pass for this).  Also while it's not a pedestrianised space or an urban area I think you could reasonably expect hazards to suddenly appear (e.g. from the junction).  Why would 30mph be less appropriate for a bike?  (Would it be unreasonable to stop someone on rollerskates doing over that?)  What's the stopping distance for one of those?  I suspect none of the riders would know...

For the sportier end of recreational cycling perhaps it's fairer to question folks' speed?  I suspect such riders are more likely to be interested in how fast they're going.  Albeit not required to have a calibrated measure.

(I hope) I would consider it fair enough *in that particular place* if told to moderate my speed - the fact that it's a "finger in the air" measurement cuts both ways.

Having said that, I think your example could be shorter:

[Officer] Do you know what speed you were going?
[Cyclist] No.
[Officer] (!)
[Cyclist] ... and I am not required to.

Avatar
Sriracha replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
2 likes

I fully agree the riders ought to take account of their surroundings and moderate their speed accordingly, and 39mph is very likely too fast for the conditions, for all the reasons you give. If the officer had done the same calculus I would have no argument.

But he hung his hat on the speed limit sign instead.

Precisely because those who set the limits know they do not apply to cyclists they won't be assessing the particular factors pertaining to cyclists when they weigh up what limit to set. 30mph may be too fast for cyclists given their particular attributes - quiet, slower to stop, less agile in a corner etc. For all we know, the speed limit could have been set with a view to noise or engine pollution. What we do know is that it was not set with a view to cyclists.

The most you could say is if it's too fast for motorists then that's one factor for cyclists to consider along with all the others.

Would you say the same for 20 limits? It's a can of worms once you start saying motor vehicle limits have some application to non-motor vehicles, depending on the situation.

I'd far rather the police spoke to cyclists based on the whole situation, as if the speed limit signs were not there - which effectively is the case for cyclists. They chose the simplistic option instead.

Avatar
Aberdeencyclist replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
1 like

The signs are useful indicators . Nothing wrong suggesting to cyclists that they could consider them as guides 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
0 likes

I would not have been shocked if it had temporarily slipped the policeman's mind that speed limits didn't apply. So it may have had a simplistic motivation. But - to be fair the other way - he did reference "how this will affect you in the event of a collision" and we don't have his words of advice.

It's "reasonable outcome" for me. Sadly, it's not so often police forces are correcting "popular opinion" also (Actually Polis Scotland up here is often doing the opposite..) And of course "dangerous scorchers" is a belief. ("they're holding up traffic, going way to fast, shouldn't be on the roads, they're a danger to pedestrians...").

Could the policeman been doing more good keeping drivers' speeds down? Perhaps ... although I guess his presence on the road was doing that (when he wasn't over the limit...)

Avatar
David9694 replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
1 like

Polis to driver "a little fast there sir for the conditions"

driver to polis "I was under the speed limit so what are you going to do, Juliet Bravo."

I can recall Grant shapps coming out with something about the 20 mph limits applying to cyclists a few weeks ago. Drivers sure like passing cyclists all right but it's mind-blown when the boot is on the other foot. 

Avatar
Sriracha replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
1 like
Capt Sisko wrote:

As a road user I'm disapointed that you must have never read the Highway Code. Perhaps you should get aquainted with it as it tells you that separate speed limits already exist for different classes of vehicles.

You've lost me there Capt Sisko. I was suggesting a scenario where a speed limit was in force for one class of vehicle and exceeded by another - and you accuse me of being unaware that such various limits in fact exist!

Avatar
quiff replied to Capt Sisko | 8 months ago
0 likes

For anyone else struggling to find the reference, it's s.87 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Avatar
skullman | 8 months ago
4 likes

Christ all Roadcc does these days is just stoke the fire between cars and cyclists - every article. Basically the Daily Mail of cycling journalism....

Avatar
Rendel Harris replied to skullman | 8 months ago
11 likes
skullman wrote:

Christ all Roadcc does these days is just stoke the fire between cars and cyclists - every article. Basically the Daily Mail of cycling journalism....

I think you'll find it's actually the police posting this material on Twitter which is stoking the fire, road.cc are simply reporting it as you would expect, given that it is a matter of considerable interest to many of us as to whether the police are going to start pulling us over for exceeding the motor-vehicle speed limit.

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to skullman | 8 months ago
10 likes
skullman wrote:

Christ all Roadcc does these days is just stoke the fire between cars and cyclists - every article. Basically the Daily Mail of cycling journalism....

Well, it's not common for cars to be reading and posting things on websites, so maybe you meant drivers?

Avatar
skullman replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:

Well, it's not common for cars to be reading and posting things on websites, so maybe you meant drivers?

Get a life mate

Avatar
perce replied to skullman | 8 months ago
5 likes

Saw them at the first Windsor Free Festival in 1972. What a great band. 

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to perce | 8 months ago
5 likes
perce wrote:

Saw them at the first Windsor Free Festival in 1972. What a great band. 

Think I encountered them ( backed by Sad Waste, Nothing Better To Do and Procrastination) at the Leeds Nowhere gathering. Times past!

Avatar
perce replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
1 like

Great times indeed.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to skullman | 8 months ago
1 like

Because of course, posting on here shows you have a full life.

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers replied to skullman | 8 months ago
1 like
skullman wrote:

Christ all Roadcc does these days is just stoke the fire between cars and cyclists - every article. Basically the Daily Mail of cycling journalism....

Dont worry, there will be a good article tomorrow on ULEZ, and then one on Wednesday on helmets to enjoy

Pages

Latest Comments