York police in rear light fixed-penalty fever

Lightless night riders targeted

by Tom Henry   January 15, 2010  

Cateye TL-LD130 Rear Light

Police in York have been out in force to catch cyclists riding at night without lights, issuing almost 100 fixed penalty notices.

The campaign, called Operation Image, began last November. Police stopped anyone seen riding a bike after dark without lights and the cyclists were issued with either a £30 fixed penalty ticket or a suspended fixed penalty notice that gave them a fortnight to ensure working lights were fitted to their cycle.

According to the Press, during the two month operation, a total of 68 14-day fixed penalty notices were issued; eight verbal warnings were given and 19 people were handed a £30 fixed penalty ticket.

Graham Titchener, programme manager for Cycling City York, said the crackdown “significantly reduced” the number of cyclists putting their lives and the lives of others at risk on the road.

“Since the start of Operation Image, there have been a number of neighbourhood policing teams out at key locations across York during the morning and evening rush hours working hard in all weathers to enforce safer cycling,” he said.

“It’s clear that the operation has had an impact as colleagues within the partner organisations that make up Cycling City York have reported seeing far fewer cyclists out after dark without lights.”

Fiona Willey, temporary sergeant and community safety officer for the Safer York Partnership, said: “I think Operation Image has proved really successful; each week since its launch there has been a marked reduction in the number of cyclists being seen without lights.

“Sadly, we know that there are a small minority of cyclists who continue to flout the law and we would encourage them to take a more responsible approach for their own safety and that of other road users and pedestrians.

“The message is loud and clear – if you don’t light up at night you face enforcement action.”

York's Operation Image follows similar crackdowns on 'anti-social cyclists' in other towns and cities across the country. In October we reported on a similar operation in Oxford in which 84 fixed penalty notices were handed out in what has become an annual event,  Police in Cambridge, Norwich, Weston-Super-Mare have all in recent months targeted cyclists in similar operations. Police in Southend took a different approach to the problem offering cycle training to those they stopped with fixed penalties reserved for repeat offenders.

Despite temporary sergeant Wiley's assertion that only a minority of cyclists continue to flout the law - the fact that in July we reported on a similar crackdown against cyclists in York suggests otherwise. Or maybe York's cyclists might wonder whether the police have got better things to do with their valuable time. 

Lights front and rear are a legal requirement when riding a bicycle at night - a recent report for the Department for Transport found that 1 in 4 cycling casualties involving motor vehicles and cyclists were caused by motorists hitting the cyclist from behind they can save your life in other ways too as the York cyclist who got stuck in a  snow drift last week found out.

It is also worth noting when considering if such crackdowns on cyclists are a proper use of police time that the DfT report also found that in 93 per cent of casualty incidents involving cyclists the cyclists were not to blame.

15 user comments

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Just got back from taking the wife to work.

I counted 5 cyclists on the main road riding without any lights at all and of these only one with visible reflective material.

Another half-dozen had rear lights but no front lights so they wouldn't have seen the potholes that have appeared in the road over the last week or so until they'd hit them.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [628 posts]
15th January 2010 - 7:50

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Big Grin
Good on them.

Now can they also go and stop all the motorists with incorrectly working front lights, rear lights and brake lights too?

Probably not, because cyclists are easier to stop.

jobysp's picture

posted by jobysp [145 posts]
15th January 2010 - 10:16

3 Likes

I have no problem with this. There have been too many fatalities where the cyclist has been wearing dark clothing and riding without lights.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2059 posts]
15th January 2010 - 10:45

2 Likes

Simon E wrote:
I have no problem with this. There have been too many fatalities where the cyclist has been wearing dark clothing and riding without lights.

i agree. plus if we all have lights then it's one less thing for motorists to piss and moan about. and the less strings to their bow, the better.

Barry Fry-up's picture

posted by Barry Fry-up [186 posts]
15th January 2010 - 10:57

3 Likes

Spot on Barry.

When discussing lights with other cyclists I always point out that you have to bear in mind that myopic drivers could well be peering through misted-up, rain-splashed, dirty or iced-up windows.

They may be distracted by a mobile phone, a passenger, the store window they are passing or stressed after a long day.

And if he/she has someone else' bright lights in their face our little dot of red or white will be even less obvious. Like this:

We need all the help we can get!

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2059 posts]
15th January 2010 - 12:58

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Totally agree that riding without lights is daft, but think jobysp is spot-on the main reason the cops stop cyclists for this is that's it's easy. In terms of harm reduction it isn't achieving much because even unlit cyclists don't do much harm except possibly to themselves.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
15th January 2010 - 13:09

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I see your point Tony, but that line is a bit too much like speeding drivers bleating "Why don't you catch real criminals?". And since when did you last have a scary close call with a car that has a missing tail light?

It looks like victimisation or easy pickings, but it's so simple (and relatively cheap) to implement why not? They don't spend much time on it, there's a brief blitz then hopefully the publicity gets a few more cyclists that are appropriately illuminated in the dark.

I too would like it more if they could nab RLJers (all vehicle types) and similar miscreants at the same time.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2059 posts]
15th January 2010 - 14:55

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Riding without lights at night is stupid. But it is the cyclist who risks his or her own life. By comparison, cars with inadequate lighting cause a risk to other road users. I regularly see cars that are obviously defective with broken lights, flat and bald tyres and which have chassis/steering problems that cause them to crab along the road at an angle. If I can see these regularly and without even having to look, why can't the police? Perhaps the police could do better things with their time?

This sentence should also be taken into consideration.

"It is also worth noting when considering if such crackdowns on cyclists are a proper use of police time that the DfT report also found that in 93 per cent of casualty incidents involving cyclists the cyclists were not to blame."

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
15th January 2010 - 15:06

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I'm sure plenty of people run in to the back of cars with faulty tail llights - definitely faulty brake lights.

Not tail lights, but I do remember years ago reading about a motorcyclist being killed as he overtook on an unlit road by a van coming the other way with only one headlight. Cars, vans and lorries with faulty lights are not at all a rare sight on the road even now.

Don't think the speeding motorist analogy holds either - a car is two tonnes of metal capable of inflicting large amounts of damage - a bike isn't. Like it or not (and I agree with you about cycling red light jumpers) the plain fact is that rule breaking cyclists cause a tiny fraction of the harm to other people that rule breaking motorists do.

So, not on the basis that cyclists can do no wrong cos they certainly can, but on the simple basis of the greatest amount of harm reduction for the greatest amount of people stopping cyclists without lights is a waste of time and resources - it's alibi policing.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
15th January 2010 - 15:12

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OK guys, you have convinced me. Now let go of my arm! Wink

Considering the 93% DfT figure reported here last month, perhaps road.cc could invite Graham Titchener or Fiona Wiley/Willey to give us an idea of what other safety measures are being taken in York at the moment.

At the same time they could also give an idea of how many (wo)man-hours have been used pursuing Operation Image compared to those checking on uninsured or unroadworth vehicles, mobile phone use while driving, ASBOs, theft and vandalism etc etc.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2059 posts]
15th January 2010 - 16:51

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you're right Simon, we will see what we can find out

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4160 posts]
16th January 2010 - 17:56

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I fully agree with the scheme, as primarily a driver myself bikes without lights on can just come into view at the last second especially when its really dark.

Main reason ive come across this topic is after searching about people getting fined as my workmate was fined last night as follows:

He left work, turned his lights on (all where working fine) then started riding home, 5 mins later gets stopped by 2 policemen on bikes who notify him his rear light isnt working, gets asked if he has been told about the scheme before to which he answers no. They then gave him a £30 fine, then inspect the light thats not working and it starts working again, and then say 'oh its ok for you to ride home now'

Yet the fine is still in place. I fail to understand how they can fine him in this case, how can he possibly know if his light stops working? he's done all he can yet still gets fined. Ive told him basically he shouldnt pay it.

(it turned out 1 of the batteries was leaking and thats why the light would switch on and off by itself randomly)

What do you guys think on the matter?

posted by zmatt [2 posts]
27th January 2010 - 2:23

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zmatt wrote:
I fail to understand how they can fine him in this case, how can he possibly know if his light stops working? he's done all he can yet still gets fined. Ive told him basically he shouldnt pay it.

What do you guys think on the matter?


By the letter of the law I suppose they have the right to fine him - if you're in a car and your brake light stops working it's still your responsibility to sort it out, same goes for a bike. The Highway Code states that "At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit", the MUST indicating that you're breaking the law if you fail to comply. So if he doesn't pay and they drag him up before the beak, he doesn't have much of a defence.

On the other hand, if the crackdown is – as the Police claim – some sort of safety-first hand-wringing exercise, rather than, say, a quick way to drum up some funds, then there's scant point fining someone with working lights on their bike just because one of them had momentarily stopped working. A bit of common sense needed, which is sadly lacking in all aspects of bike policing and provision.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7506 posts]
27th January 2010 - 9:16

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Yea I agree, more common sense is needed, and I think that goes for most area's of the law. That would be my argument if I took it to court that the lights where at least there and to my knowledge working.

Maybe theyve just struggled to fine many people in this area and were desperate lol

posted by zmatt [2 posts]
27th January 2010 - 12:51

4 Likes

I am a motorist. Back in February I was unlucky enough to encounter a cyclist with no lights. It was not fatal - but has left me on medication for anxiety. I still can't drive at nigh. What's more - I'm being sued by said cyclist for personal injury. It was 7AM full dark - he had no lights and was wearing black cloths - why did I pull out in front of him - I DID NOT SEE HIM.
Fortunately the Police agreed that it was not my fault. They did not prossecute him - because he's POLISH. Crying

posted by bdruck [1 posts]
12th July 2010 - 12:51

3 Likes