Police rescue M3 rider before he ends up in Bracknell

Surrey police have helped another confused cyclist who’d followed a phone satnav application on to the motorway.

The latest incident happened on the M3 yesterday afternoon at about 13:50 when Surrey Roads Police tweeted that they were responding to reports of a cyclist on the M3 motorway.

It turned out that the rider was using a phone satnav app and had followed its directions on to the motorway.

Surrey Roads Police (@SurreyRoadCops - worth following if you’re a fan of deadpan cop humour) tweeted: “Last time was M25, they are like buses, haven’t had any for months + months now we have had 2 + r looking for 3rd”

The police responded quickly. It helped that there was a driver training exercise in progress at the time. “He is cycling along the M3 from Sunbury towards the M25. The driving school are training in a group and have him surrounded,” tweeted the police.

Another Twitter user, Michael Gibson (‏@junglybarry) suggested that it was possible the rider had been on the A316 and didn’t notice when it turned into motorway.

“It is [possible],” police said, “but when he did twig he didn’t do anything about it just kept going. Just getting a van to take him off.”

Mr Gibson replied: “I dread to think what he’d do at j2... Go on to j3 and the poor sod’s at Bracknell #baddaytoworse”

Police later said that the rider was using an iPhone, though at the time it was just referred to as “not Android” and “a phone with an edible fruit on it”.

Surrey police added: “We think one maps app has been updated since our last event.”

Anyone who has used satnav apps for bike navigation extensively knows to treat their instructions with caution. Even bike-specific applications can take you by silly routes, though the problem is more often being led down impassible trails rather than illegal dual carriageways.

In this case, the rider copped a fine to remind him to be more sceptical in future.

“It’s similar to the one we had on the M25,” a police spokesman told the Evening Standard's Robin De Peyer.

“The cyclist, in his late 20s, was issued a £50 fine for contravening a road sign, and he was also given some words of advice.

“He was then taken safely off in a van. It seems he was following an iPhone app.”

It's not just cyclists who get into trouble blindly following satnav instructions. In Madrid, Spain last year there were multiple incidents of drivers attempting to go down a pedestrian street that comprises a sequence of flights of steps.

In 2012, 26 drivers were fined during a two-day crackdown on driving in a pedestrian zone in Livingston, Scotland. The majority claimed they had been following their satnavs. 

"Satnavs are a useful tool but they’re not definitive," said Councillor for Livingston South, Lawrence Fitzpatrick.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.