Southwark plans crackdown on 20+mph cyclists

Mind your speed south of the river

by John Stevenson   July 22, 2014  

20 mph sign (CC BY-ND 2.0 licensed by Tony Hall:Flickr)

The recent widespread introduction of 20mph speed limits in built up areas has been welcomed by road danger reduction campaigners, but it might turn out to be inconvenient for cyclists. That’s the prospect in the London borough of Southwark, where the council plans to include cyclists and horse-drawn buggies in the scope of the 20mph limit to be introduced at the end of July.

The Borough has long had an unusual relationship with cyclists, until recently refusing to even consider segregated cycling infrastructure because it believed mixing cyclists with motor traffic would help get drivers to slow down. Although new Southwark cabinet member for transport Mark Williams  has said he will reverse this policy, Southwark did for a long time appear to consider cyclists to be mobile speed bumps.

Now, it seems, cyclists are to be included in an initiative intended to reduce the danger to pedestrians from being hit by heavy motor vehicles and not soft, fleshy bike riders.

According to the London SE1 website, the council plans to circumvent the usual exclusion of cyclists from speed limits (which in the Road Traffic Act apply only to motor vehicles) by referring simply to 'vehicles' in its proposed traffic management order.

Although it appears never to have been used foer the purpose of applying speed limits to cyclists, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 allows for speed limits to be imposed by local acts.

That ‘vehicles’ includes cycles is the same logic used by the Metropolitan Police to prosecute cyclists for exceeding the speed limit in Richmond Park. Carelessly framed traffic regulations refer in part to vehicles, although read as a whole they are clearly intended to apply only to motor vehicles.

As far as we are aware, nobody has ever mounted a serious legal challenge to a cycling speeding fine in Richmond Park. In a response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by road.cc last year, the Metropolitan Police said it was unable to find any record of legal advice indicating the limit applied to cyclists.

In Southwark, the council seems to think that cyclists are just as much of a hazard as motor vehicles (when they’re not using cyclists as unwitting moving-target traffic-calming, of course).

In a response to a member of the public who pointed out that  it was unrealistic to expect unpowered vehicles to be able to accurately monitor their speed, the council's head of public realm Des Waters wrote: "The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 does indeed refer to 'motor vehicles' however since 1984 cycling as a modal share has grown substantially and the council receives a number of complaints from residents – particularly pedestrians – about the excessive speed of cyclists.

"Therefore it would be inappropriate to treat cyclists differently to any other form of traffic and effectively tie the hands of police when it comes to speed enforcement."

The Metropolitan Police seem quite happy to have their hands tied, though. In the Met’s formal objection to the plan, Catherine Linney of the force's traffic management unit said that enforcing the limit would be “unrealistic” and it should not be introduced unless the “look and feel” of the road made it obvious to drivers that the limit was 20mph. The Met apparently believes drivers are too dense to notice dirty great round signs with the number twenty on them.

Linney wrote: "Introducing speed limits where traffic speeds are too high places an unrealistic expectation to enforce on the Metropolitan Police.

"Whilst any reduction in speed is of benefit, the number of offenders will increase significantly in the roads which presently have average speeds of over 24 mph, placing an expectation on the Police for enforcement which we do not have the extra resources to fulfil.

"The Metropolitan Police objects to a 20 mph speed limit on any road in the London Borough of Southwark where the mean speed is above 24 mph.

"We also object to the implementation of the 20 mph limit where it is not obvious to the motorist through the look and feel of the road that the speed limit is 20 mph."

96 user comments

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brooksby wrote:
bikebot wrote:
brooksby wrote:
I don't see how Southwark would enforce a speed limit on bicycles, any more than I see how the Royal Parks do... Does it just come down to a policeman saying, "Ooo - that seemed a bit fast!"?

Yes.

Well, thats just silly! Silly

How do you think the traffic Police deal with most offences. Only a few can be measured, most tickets are the subjective view of the issuing officer.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 15:02

40 Likes

bikebot wrote:
How do you think the traffic Police deal with most offences. Only a few can be measured, most tickets are the subjective view of the issuing officer.

So a police officer who likely never cycles, can look at someone cycling, think that they seemed to be going a bit fast, and issue them a ticket??? Thinking That's actually quite worrying. I'd just always assumed that speeding tickets were issued based on something a bit more measurable...

(Where is the poster called Stumps when you need them, for the cop's eye view on it? Wink )

posted by brooksby [161 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 15:13

40 Likes

kie7077 wrote:
cyclingDMlondon wrote:
JeevesBath wrote:
cyclingDMlondon wrote:
seven wrote:
You can't simply make a law that says "it's an offence to step over this here line when you're wearing blue shoes"

Yes they can. In this country, the government can do whatever it likes, and nothing or nobody can stop it.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that you live in a democracy.

Not accurate. A new law has to be presented in a Bill, which is discussed in Parliament. It must then pass the House of Lords before it can receive 'Royal Assent'. All of these are opportunities for your democratically elected representatives to prevent it being made.
I agree that stopping the Government is not easy, but as recent cases from the European Court have shown, unjust legislation can be overturned.

Please.

There is no power on earth that can 'overturn' legislation passed by Parliament, except for a subsequent Parliament. This is part of the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty. All that can be done is a declaration of incompatability, which the government can use to wipe its collective arse.

And with a sufficient majority, the government can stick its middle finger up at Parliament.

Other than a jury you mean.

And you missed the bit where Britain signed away it's sovereignty to the EU, EU law trumps UK law, there's no 2 ways about it.

Juries don't 'overturn' legislation, son.

And EU law is only relevant in that domestic law has to be the subject of a declaration of comptability in the House. But even that is only because inter alia of the Human Rights Act 1998 which, at the risk of repeating myself, can be repealed.

Disclosure: I'm a solicitor.

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [226 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 15:13

44 Likes

cyclingDMlondon wrote:
Disclosure: I'm a solicitor.

Are you sure, I don't see a bill anywhere? Big Grin

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 15:19

49 Likes

bikebot wrote:
brooksby wrote:
bikebot wrote:
brooksby wrote:
I don't see how Southwark would enforce a speed limit on bicycles, any more than I see how the Royal Parks do... Does it just come down to a policeman saying, "Ooo - that seemed a bit fast!"?

Yes.

Well, thats just silly! Silly

How do you think the traffic Police deal with most offences. Only a few can be measured, most tickets are the subjective view of the issuing officer.

Except that speeding offences need an instrument reading by an approved and calibrated instrument... there's no subjectivity, besides in who they manage to get a reading off of.

posted by jacknorell [463 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 15:22

47 Likes

jacknorell wrote:
bikebot wrote:
brooksby wrote:
bikebot wrote:
brooksby wrote:
I don't see how Southwark would enforce a speed limit on bicycles, any more than I see how the Royal Parks do... Does it just come down to a policeman saying, "Ooo - that seemed a bit fast!"?

Yes.

Well, thats just silly! Silly

How do you think the traffic Police deal with most offences. Only a few can be measured, most tickets are the subjective view of the issuing officer.

Except that speeding offences need an instrument reading by an approved and calibrated instrument... there's no subjectivity, besides in who they manage to get a reading off of.

You're referencing the national legislation, and the wording they use to enforce speeding by "motor vehicles". As I understand it, the requirements for enforcement in Southwark may be entirely different as it's a byelaw.

But we have a solicitor in the room, and for the moment he's forgotten to bill anyone. I say we take advantage of him before he suddenly remembers.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 15:29

39 Likes

I'm getting tied up in knots a bit thinking about this. If every locality is able to make their own road rules then any road user travelling from A to B needs to be aware of any specific local bylaws for any area that they travel though in addition to national laws. I understand that ignorance of the law is no excuse but it seems unreasonable to expect everyone in the land to be aware of specific local bylaws for any area that they might travel through.

posted by Matt eaton [410 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 16:01

42 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:
I'm getting tied up in knots a bit thinking about this. If every locality is able to make their own road rules then any road user travelling from A to B needs to be aware of any specific local bylaws for any area that they travel though in addition to national laws. I understand that ignorance of the law is no excuse but it seems unreasonable to expect everyone in the land to be aware of specific local bylaws for any area that they might travel through.

Well in theory no, all byelaws are approved by the relevant government minister at the national level so as to avoid conflicts. But it does still happen, parking regulations are different in almost every single London borough, and that's something that motorists are always complaining about.

I am interested in knowing what Southwark will be doing to signpost this rule, as they absolutely will have to do something for it to be enforceable.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 16:14

28 Likes

bikebot wrote:
Well in theory no, all byelaws are approved by the relevant government minister at the national level so as to avoid conflicts.

Every new by-law has to be thumbprinted by Eric Pickles in jam Rolling On The Floor

posted by brooksby [161 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 16:19

31 Likes

kie7077 wrote:
ollieclark wrote:

Ever been hit by a bike at 30mph? It hurts. Sometimes more than a car due to all the sticky out bits.

Perhaps you should consider not repeatedly walking out in front of fast moving cars and bikes. Wink

I wonder how well that attitude would go down here applied to cyclist the next time one gets run over... I'm told by reliable sources sometimes cyclists run red lights so it's not as though walking out means the pedestrian is in the wrong, is it?

Maybe you should consider not cycling on the road the next time you get butthurt about some KSIed cyclist, eh?

posted by nuclear coffee [164 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 16:39

28 Likes

brooksby wrote:
bikebot wrote:
How do you think the traffic Police deal with most offences. Only a few can be measured, most tickets are the subjective view of the issuing officer.

So a police officer who likely never cycles, can look at someone cycling, think that they seemed to be going a bit fast, and issue them a ticket??? Thinking That's actually quite worrying. I'd just always assumed that speeding tickets were issued based on something a bit more measurable...

(Where is the poster called Stumps when you need them, for the cop's eye view on it? Wink )

Yup, as they can with motorists. How often is that a problem, really?

To make law enforcement work you need police officers who can be trusted to make the right call >99% of the time, for the <1% that's what appeals are for.
Really, this won't affect you unless you actually are riding like a tit.

posted by nuclear coffee [164 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 16:42

26 Likes

bikebot wrote:
cyclingDMlondon wrote:
Disclosure: I'm a solicitor.

Are you sure, I don't see a bill anywhere? Big Grin

Smile

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [226 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 17:00

32 Likes

Creek Road heading east towards the Greenwich Market Square. At the lights on the left, there is a new Waitrose, and the pavement round to the car park is pretty narrow, with a railing preventing anyone stepping off the kerb onto the road.

Nonchalantly and arrogantly cycling against the flow of pedestrians... seven touring cyclists, four panniers each, butterfly handlebars, large-frame Giant or Dawes..

Pedestrians had to flatten themselves against the wall to let them past, and a guy in an electric wheelchair had to stop and wait against the wall until they had past.

'Why are you on the pavement??' I shouted. 'Why does a guy in a wheelchair have to stop to let you pass??'

They ignored me.

I don't often get 'outraged', but tonight, on my commute home, I would have cheered if these scrotebags had been nicked.

(sorry, I know that this has nothing to do with Southwark, but I am really, really pissed off right now..)

'It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning' (Henry Ford)

cyclingDMlondon's picture

posted by cyclingDMlondon [226 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 17:29

41 Likes

@cyclingDMlondon

Rights and responsibilities, that's the heart of it.

As a cyclists I want rights, including the right to be protected by law. In return, society will burden me with responsibilities towards others.

I think I would have been quite vocal with a group such as you describe, and I'm really not a very confrontational person.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 17:57

37 Likes

pikeamus wrote:
Has anyone ever tested standard police radar guns on cyclists? I would imagine that they are less accurate than when used on a car, due to the lack of a large reflective surface and the greater amount of relative motion from flapping clothing and turning wheels.

Some time ago going down the A4 into Reading there was a police officer in a bus lay-by with a radar gun who kindly shouted out my speed to me as I went past. Yes it was the same as what my garmin was showing.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [595 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 19:02

38 Likes

Id be interested in how the Council can circumvent a Law thats on the Statute Books, with what based on a "What they please" basis. Not that im condoning speeding, just wondering how the council can do it. Be the same as deciding that although you need to be 18 to buy Alcohol they will decide that shops in their Borough could legally sell alcohol to 12 year olds.

Das's picture

posted by Das [77 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 19:13

22 Likes

Das wrote:
Id be interested in how the Council can circumvent a Law thats on the Statute Books, with what based on a "What they please" basis. Not that im condoning speeding, just wondering how the council can do it. Be the same as deciding that although you need to be 18 to buy Alcohol they will decide that shops in their Borough could legally sell alcohol to 12 year olds.

Are you interested enough to read the comments that have already explained this.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
23rd July 2014 - 21:08

33 Likes

Re unenforceable - Aren't the council allowed to install speed cameras? Are our politicians so in fear of Jeremy Clarkson and the tabloids?

posted by vbvb [256 posts]
24th July 2014 - 0:36

24 Likes

JeevesBath wrote:
cyclingDMlondon wrote:
seven wrote:
You can't simply make a law that says "it's an offence to step over this here line when you're wearing blue shoes"

Yes they can. In this country, the government can do whatever it likes, and nothing or nobody can stop it.

Disabuse yourself of the notion that you live in a democracy.

Not accurate. A new law has to be presented in a Bill, which is discussed in Parliament. It must then pass the House of Lords before it can receive 'Royal Assent'. All of these are opportunities for your democratically elected representatives to prevent it being made.
I agree that stopping the Government is not easy, but as recent cases from the European Court have shown, unjust legislation can be overturned.

Provided said government has a majority and can whip its members, then yes the government can, quite literally, do what it likes, your democratically elected member be damned. Lord Hailsham didn't call Westminster the elective dictatorship for nothing.

posted by giobox [311 posts]
24th July 2014 - 0:48

23 Likes

Who's gonna catch a 20mph cyclist anyway?

posted by daddyELVIS [450 posts]
24th July 2014 - 6:13

11 Likes

nuclear coffee wrote:
brooksby wrote:
bikebot wrote:
How do you think the traffic Police deal with most offences. Only a few can be measured, most tickets are the subjective view of the issuing officer.

So a police officer who likely never cycles, can look at someone cycling, think that they seemed to be going a bit fast, and issue them a ticket??? Thinking That's actually quite worrying. I'd just always assumed that speeding tickets were issued based on something a bit more measurable...

(Where is the poster called Stumps when you need them, for the cop's eye view on it? Wink )

Yup, as they can with motorists. How often is that a problem, really?

To make law enforcement work you need police officers who can be trusted to make the right call >99% of the time, for the <1% that's what appeals are for.
Really, this won't affect you unless you actually are riding like a tit.

I can't help but share bikebot's concerns somewhat. When a traffic officer makes a subjective assesment of someone's driving it's based on a great deal of training and experience, inevitably including the experience of being a normal motorist. When they make a subjective judgement about a cyclists behaviour the same may not be true. Many motorists beleive that any speed over about 15mph to 'too fast' for a cyclist regardless of what the speed limit is.

posted by Matt eaton [410 posts]
24th July 2014 - 9:27

25 Likes

"The Metropolitan Police objects to a 20 mph speed limit on any road in the London Borough of Southwark where the mean speed is above 24 mph.

The MPS objects to a 20mph speed limit anywhere it is required.

FFS

posted by SimonS [8 posts]
24th July 2014 - 9:53

18 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:

I can't help but share bikebot's concerns somewhat.

You mean brooksby, I'm mostly fine with the idea.

I'm a regular user of Richmond Park where the Police do enforce the speed limit against cyclists. I've never seen or heard of them fine a cyclist who wasn't exceeding the limit by a large margin. It's actually quite rare for them to issue a ticket at all, they usually just stop people and give a safety lecture.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
24th July 2014 - 9:54

11 Likes

Matt eaton wrote:

I can't help but share bikebot's concerns somewhat. When a traffic officer makes a subjective assesment of someone's driving it's based on a great deal of training and experience, inevitably including the experience of being a normal motorist. When they make a subjective judgement about a cyclists behaviour the same may not be true. Many motorists beleive that any speed over about 15mph to 'too fast' for a cyclist regardless of what the speed limit is.

Yeah, I wasn't bothered by this when I thought it required some objective measure of speed (and I'm not a speedy cyclist anyway unless there's a steep downward hill of which there aren't many in Southwark), but police officers (and, dear God, will this be enforceable by PCSOs?) are often not the most knowledgeable/reliable when it comes to making judgement calls about cyclists.

I mean, what if this woman moves over here and becomes a PCSO, eh?

http://road.cc/content/news/124321-video-california-reserve-police-offic...

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [699 posts]
24th July 2014 - 9:54

17 Likes

I imagine this is a story getting blown slightly out of proportion. As a chap who rides his bike through Southwark a lot - I live in the glorious republic of SE15 and work in the slightly less glorious areas of Shoreditch, Soho and occasionally other parts of town - I guess I could potentially be affected by this new law rather a lot. Looking at my best Strava times, and as a pretty quick cyclist, very few of them exceed 32kph by much. That's not to say I don't go a lot faster at times - I do - but the average speed in town is pretty slow if you stop for lights. So I wonder how easy it would be to get caught out? Do radar guns work on a cyclist? Do speed cameras? CCTV is the main way to spot illegal drivers, but that doesn't work for a bike.
Maybe it's more of a warning thing. I'll keep an eye out for the rozzers, and report back if I see any change in attitude or enforcement.

posted by bashthebox [647 posts]
24th July 2014 - 9:59

14 Likes

Pleasantly surprised at how much comment this has drawn.

An awful lot of the statements here about road law are wrong however. Chapter and verse from the CTC in today's follow-up:

http://road.cc/content/news/124735-southwark-can%E2%80%99t-impose-speed-...

The TL;DR: councils cannot impose laws willy-nilly. The regs that allow them to impose 20mph speed limits apply only to motor vehicles. They can no more legislate bike speeds than they can pedestrian speeds.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1132 posts]
24th July 2014 - 13:54

18 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
They can no more legislate bike speeds than they can pedestrian speeds.

That could be interesting: Apparently Usain Bolt can top 27mph.

posted by mbrads72 [129 posts]
24th July 2014 - 23:03

4 Likes

We've had a 20mph limit in LB Camden for over a year. Is it enforced?

Of course not. The local Police commander admitted in Camden New Journal newspaper the Police does not have resources to enforce 20mph limit in Camden. If you cycle in Camden every day you'll see a lack of enforcement with prevalence of speeding, red light jumping, asl infringing, mobile texting motorists...as well as cyclists doing whatever the hell they like and pedestrians walking willy-nilly all over the place

posted by hampstead_bandit [169 posts]
24th July 2014 - 23:18

6 Likes

hampstead_bandit wrote:
We've had a 20mph limit in LB Camden for over a year. Is it enforced?

Of course not. The local Police commander admitted in Camden New Journal newspaper the Police does not have resources to enforce 20mph limit in Camden. If you cycle in Camden every day you'll see a lack of enforcement with prevalence of speeding, red light jumping, asl infringing, mobile texting motorists...as well as cyclists doing whatever the hell they like and pedestrians walking willy-nilly all over the place

I find it quite interersting that the police admit that they don't have resource to enforce a 20mph limit. This would suggest that enforcing a 30mph is less resouce-hungry but for the life of me I can't understand why this would be. To my mind they either have the resouce to enforce speed limits (regardless of the actual limit) or they don't. Why is 20 more difficult than 30?

posted by Matt eaton [410 posts]
25th July 2014 - 9:57

2 Likes

was it a "good" speed?

was he shouting it out in "encouragement", like -
"well done, 45mph, bravo"

or shouted more like this -
"oi you are doing 45 in a 40mph zone!"

lol

Feel the fear and do it anyway

hood's picture

posted by hood [117 posts]
25th July 2014 - 15:05

1 Like