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London borough accepts that law doesn't allow speed limits for bikes...

The London borough of Southwark has this afternoon announced it will not attempt to impose speed limits on cyclists as part of its adoption of a 20 mph limit across the borough.

While lower speed limits are to be welcomed as reducing road danger for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, there was concern that attempting to apply the limit to cyclists was beyond the council’s legal powers, and would provide police with another excuse to harass cyclists in light of the Met’s disproportionate attention to cyclists in Operation Safeway.

Cycle campaign charity CTC pointed out that the Road Traffic Regulations Act gives local authorities the power to impose new speed limits only on motor vehicles, not cyclists.

Following road.cc’s stories on this issue yesterday and this morning, Southwark Council issued the following statement.

Councillor Mark Williams, cabinet member for transport: "The council sees the establishment of a 20 mph borough as significant step forward in ensuring the safety of all road users not least cyclists and pedestrians. To achieve this we feel that all vehicles should limit their speed to 20 mph.

"The report published on the 18 July to determine the statutory objections relating to a borough-wide 20mph speed limit makes it clear that orders made under Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 can apply to motor vehicles only and as such any prosecution by the police for breaches of the speed limit under that Act would be limited to motorised vehicles only. Accordingly the traffic order will be amended to make reference to "motorised vehicles" only.

"The council does not have powers to prosecute cyclists who travel in excess of 20 mph and recognises that dangerous cycling is a matter for the police alone. Nor are we seeking to " target" cyclists for enforcement, rather to reflect the concerns raised by pedestrians about the problems caused by a small minority of cyclists whose speed endangers other road users."

In addition, the council’s head of public realm, Des Waters said in an email: “We have been looking again at our whole approach to cycling, with people from Denmark and the Netherlands and we are planning on bringing forward a new approach to increase cycling in Southwark later this year.”

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.

23 comments

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nuclear coffee [209 posts] 2 years ago
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Why do I get a feeling cycle campaigners have won a totally pointless battle and in doing so have started a completely unnecessary war...

Frankly it's fair to ask cyclists to keep to a reasonable speed as well. We are at best second in the pecking order: the needs of pedestrians come first. So if councils can't enforce a limit on their own, they'll have no choice but to ask national government, for whom far less discretion will be applied...

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jacknorell [966 posts] 2 years ago
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Not entirely pointless.

Putting laws that will be spottily/selectively enforced (or have no legal standing but come with FPNs) isn't exactly a good thing.

Laws do need to be enforceable, fairly applied, and relevant. This possibly met the second criteria.

I also wish new laws were a bit more rare, but that's not going to happen.

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Pauldmorgan [225 posts] 2 years ago
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I think the point here is that there is little or no enforcement of 20mph limits for motor vehicles and as there is no basis in law for any limit with cyclists the whole thing smacks of political posturing. Most city cyclists don't get over 20mph, most city drivers do. Most speed related injuries and fatalities are caused by motor vehicles. Focussing on cyclists is bogus until the higher risk (and actually illegal) behaviour is tackled.

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bikebot [1924 posts] 2 years ago
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Could someone arrange for a photographer to be there when the "people from Denmark and the Netherlands" first visit the Elephant & Castle. I want someone to capture the moment their jaws hit the ground.

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levermonkey [664 posts] 2 years ago
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My cynicism-muscle is twitching.

Was there ever any serious intention of implementing a borough wide 20mph speed limit?
Is it an attempt to stir-up yet more ill feeling between road users?
Is this putting in an early excuse for not implementing a 20mph speed limit on the grounds that it would discriminate against motor-vehicles?
Who are these pedestrians? Des Waters? Friends and cronies of Des Waters?

Why am I depressed again?

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pdw [54 posts] 2 years ago
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What's most revealing about this incident is the utterly disproportionate fear that people have of cyclists. A cyclist doing noticeably more than 20mph around town on the flat is really quite rare, yet people have the perception that speeding cyclists are a problem.

I suspect that the issue is that bicycles aren't noisy enough, so people are more easily startled by them, but are quite happy to share their space with 1.5 ton noisy metal boxes doing 30mph because they can hear them coming.

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Quince [382 posts] 2 years ago
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Even for those who can top 20 by pedal power, their speed is effectively limited by the rather larger armoured mobility scooters to whom the speed limits do apply.

We effectively have a reverse of the previous situation in which the vulnerable were being used to slow the invulnerable. The worst that should happen is that some idiot on a bike crashes into the back of a law abiding person in a car. Which is infinitely preferable to some idiot in a car crashing into the back of a law abiding person on a bike.

Also, I am hugely in favour of 20mph zones in built up areas, for actual safely reasons and for creating a much more pleasant environment altogether.

However dodgy the road has been leading up to this law, I am highly glad of the outcome.

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crazy-legs [768 posts] 2 years ago
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nuclear coffee wrote:

Why do I get a feeling cycle campaigners have won a totally pointless battle and in doing so have started a completely unnecessary war...

I think part of it is just frustration.
At every single turn, there are politicians mouthing platitudes, groups coming up with (usually fairly rubbish) "safety" or "awareness" campaigns but behind the scenes it's the same depressing rubbish designed to make it look like they're doing something.

The much publicised safety campaigns which are actually nothing more than PCSO's handing out free lights and hi vis vests while ignoring the speeding, texting drivers all around them. Councils making vague promises to increase cycling provision and then bunging some green paint on the roads and a rubbish cycle rack round the back where it won't "get in the way". Some twat of a politician getting a few column inches by suggesting number plates/insurance/road tax* for bikes or compulsory helmet/hi-vis use* for cyclists. Putting stickers all over buses, lorries and even small vans basically telling cyclists not to go anywhere near them and it'll be their own fault if they die.
*delete as applicable

All of it is designed to neatly avoid doing anything like building proper infrastructure or putting out any sort of proper plan. Hence the frustration and the general "oh FFS, not this AGAIN" response.

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hampstead_bandit [614 posts] 2 years ago
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@crazy-legs

Spot on

Police response during their limited 'campaigns' in London are a sad joke

Ignoring asl-infringing, traffic light jumping, mobile obsessed drivers in favour of soft targets like cyclists, or just ignoring all and standing in pairs chatting at lights instead of doing any enforcement.

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JamesJ [36 posts] 2 years ago
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I believe I am the member of the public who originally complained about this plan during the consultation period and who was quoted at the relevant council meeting.

I am not looking for a battle and I am not an especially fast cyclist doing most of my riding on a folding commuter bike. I certainly never blast my way though busy roads and past pedestrians. I'm copying my submission to the council below. As you can see my main points of concern were that 1) it would be confusing if there were differences in policy on bikes between boroughs and between boroughs and national rules and 2) cyclists would be penalised for accidental speeding when going downhill keeping up with traffic. In relation to (2), Southwark is not all commuter grid-lock there are some fast roads on hills as you get to the south of the borough.

Date: 18 March 2014 18:56
Subject: Re: PRP/PD/TMO1314-034 (Introduction of borough-wide 20 m.p.h. speed limit)
To: traffic.orders [at] southwark.gov.uk

Dear Sir/Madam,

Re: PRP/PD/TMO1314-034

I would like to object to the wording of the draft Traffic Management Order included as part of the proposal to introduce a borough-wide 20 m.p.h. speed limit.

Specifically, I am concerned by the wording in Section 2.1 of the traffic order where I maintain that the term "vehicle" should be replaced by "motor vehicle":

"2.1 No person shall cause or permit any vehicle to proceed at a speed in excess of 20 miles per hour in any road, street or part thereof as lies within the London Borough of Southwark."

It is unreasonable that non-motorised vehicles should be subject to the traffic order on the following two grounds:

1) It creates an inconsistency between national legislation and local traffic management rules. The relevant statue (Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, sections 81 & 89) governing national speed limits specifically refers to "motor vehicles". If different wording is used in Southwark to that used in national legislation, this will create confusion and uncertainty amongst the public.

2) It is not realistic to expect those in control of all non-motorised vehicles to know their speed accurately, and therefore it is unreasonable for them to be subject to maximum speed limits. For example, a cyclist travelling downhill could easily but unknowingly exceed 20 mph even without pedalling and it would be unjust for them to receive punishment for doing so.

I hope that you will agree that the change of wording is both reasonable and desirable and the draft Traffic Management Order will be amended accordingly.

Yours faithfully,

James

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
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crazy-legs wrote:

At every single turn, there are politicians mouthing platitudes, groups coming up with (usually fairly rubbish) "safety" or "awareness" campaigns but behind the scenes it's the same depressing rubbish designed to make it look like they're doing something.

At the same time we have us lot with our views, ideas and experiences but I bet most of us spend more time moaning to each other on the internet than actual campaigning or constructive action.
Maybe we should all get some spray cans and go out riding our bikes and painting circles round pot holes or something, or try to bring these issues to a wider audience.

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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The most troubling thing , and least surprising frankly, is the basic lack of knowledge from council officers.
If they dont even bother to check out the legality of imposing a pretty fundamental piece of policy how can we expect them to trusted with building any decent cycling infrastructure?
In my experience local councils are inhabited by well meaning but useless officers hamstrung by clueless and myopic elected members. A perfect environment for incompetence and inactivity.

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truffy [653 posts] 2 years ago
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jacknorell wrote:

Putting laws that will be spottily/selectively enforced (or have no legal standing but come with FPNs) isn't exactly a good thing.

Yep, there are enough of those already (driving while using a mobile, anyone?)

jacknorell wrote:

Laws do need to be enforceable, fairly applied, and relevant. This possibly met the second criteria.

Agreed. I didn't see this, as one person wrote, as targeting cyclists, merely treating all road users in the same manner. Rightly or wrongly.

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BikeBud [205 posts] 2 years ago
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I don't necessarily disagree with ALL traffic being limited to 20mph in built-up areas, but points already raised here are valid:
1. Existing speed limits are not enforced.
2. The council in this case have not been aware of what they can and can't legislate on.

The truth of the matter is that few cyclists will speed in built up areas, and many motor vehicles will.

At least they've acknowledged their error rather than beligerantly pushing it through!

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Roger Geffen [57 posts] 2 years ago
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Nuclear coffee said:
"Why do I get a feeling cycle campaigners have won a totally pointless battle and in doing so have started a completely unnecessary war..."

We didn't pick a battle. We simply responded to an info request from road.cc, who were absolutely right to publish it.

Fortunately that was enough to get Southwark Council to rethink. End of story (hopefully!)

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director, CTC

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Cranky Acid [40 posts] 2 years ago
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nuclear coffee wrote:

Why do I get a feeling cycle campaigners have won a totally pointless battle and in doing so have started a completely unnecessary war...

...

Dangerous cycling can still be enforced.
This simply removes one string from the knee-jerk, tabloid fuelled, bow aimed at cyclists and used to such wasteful effect in the police reactions seen with Operation Safeway and Manchester's OpGrim. Busting a few cyclists whilst ignoring dangerous driving and scofflaw abuse of ASL, right in front of the officers, just removes a few more cyclists from bothering again. Net result is less safe cycling environment.

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Paulo [112 posts] 2 years ago
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As bikes are not legaly required to carry computers/speedometer.... how is anyone on a bike supposed to tell how fast they are going???
I believe I heard of a case some years ago where a cyclist had broken the speed limit with a computer fitted! but the judge threw it out beacause its pretty ridiculas to impose such a precedent on a machine that is not required to tell you what speed you are going.

So called 'Dangerous cycling' is just an opinion that is almost impossible to proove from observation... eg I can ride considerably faster than my Mum and still remain safe because I have the skill... Peter Sagan could ride much faster than me & remain safe for the same reason.

very wierd proposal imo  35

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ggeoff [2 posts] 2 years ago
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Yes, locally we have a 20mph limit recently introduced in a village. The perception of speed and danger is different when the driver is cycling or in a car. Possibly pedestrians are more aware of a cyclist moving "fast" as they are quieter. Pedestrians are also exaggerating a motor vehicle's speed. Police trials confirm this. They think that a motor vehicle is traveling faster than it actually is.
As a former parish councillor when a parishioner has suggested (at a meeting of the PC) that the 20mph limit is too slow I have offered them my bike and suggested they cycle at 20mph. None has taken up my offer.

Whether pedestrians are quite happy to share their space with 1.5 ton noisy metal boxes doing 30mph because they hear them coming (and see them) is debatable. I don't think they are happy. In many towns it is difficult for pedestrians to even cross the road. Eventually, the council build a traffic island, technically a pedestrian refuge, (at a cost of £15,000 or more)

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Sit at the back... [17 posts] 2 years ago
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100 years or so ago, when I did my police motorcycle training, I learn that the safest speed to travel at ( on a road - regardless of whether you have an engine or not) is the same speed that everyone else is doing. If you are interested in staying safe please bear that in mind.
I've never been knocked off a motorcycle or push bike (touch a large lump of wood). There are a lot of cyclists who seem to ride "aggressively" and expect everyone else to take care of their safety. Don't do this - ride like everyone else on the road is trying to kill you and expect the worst. Live long and prosper.

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poddack [1 post] 2 years ago
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We had a police clampdown on cyclists going through red lights at the Zetland Road, Gloucester Road junction a while ago (jesus, they were busy). Some cycling group leader appeared on the news to tell us they were being victimised by the police. There is such a thing called a highway code which applies to ALL road users! As both a cyclist, motorist and pedestrian, if you magically appear from the side after going through a red I might not be able to avoid your trip across my bonnet even at 10mph, when I'm on my bike I'll pretend you can't see me, put lights on and wear hi-viz. And when I'm on the pavement and you try to force me out of the way of your path, I won't move for you.

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sw1sst [11 posts] 1 year ago
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..

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johndonnelly [81 posts] 1 year ago
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poddack wrote:

We had a police clampdown on cyclists going through red lights at the Zetland Road, Gloucester Road junction a while ago (jesus, they were busy).

Some cycling group leader appeared on the news to tell us they were being victimised by the police. There is such a thing called a highway code which applies to ALL road users!

When that universal highway code is selectively enforced on only one group of road users, isn't that victimization?

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dazwan [321 posts] 1 year ago
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Sit at the back and be quiet wrote:

100 years or so ago, when I did my police motorcycle training, I learn that the safest speed to travel at ( on a road - regardless of whether you have an engine or not) is the same speed that everyone else is doing. If you are interested in staying safe please bear that in mind.

I'll remember that next time I'm cycling uphill near my house, a 30 zone with cars bombing past at 60mph (I'm 100% certain that cars travel along this road at that speed regularly, I shan't say how I know this, but it's not an estimate  3 ).