Police in Oxford crack down on lightless cyclists

Over 100 riders issued with fines in three hour period

by Mark Appleton   November 3, 2010  


Lights. They can be one way of distinguishing “cyclists” from people who ride bikes without aligning themselves with the wider social, environmental and health-related benefits of cycling.

Here at road.cc we naturally enough encourage all cyclists to use lights, preferably of decent quality, in the interests of both their own self-preservation and the wider perception of cyclists as responsible road users.

However, police crackdowns on lightless cyclists like the one mounted in Oxford on Monday, can raise the ire of members of the cycling community who feel that while there is a place for enforcing such regulations, cyclists are ultimately the vulnerable party in any vehicle/bike collision.

As such, the arguments goes, police time would be better served in stopping irresponsible motorists who endanger more vulnerable road users by using mobile phones while behind the wheel, driving with defective lights and tyres, and through drink-driving.

The Oxford city centre checkpoint hit offenders with £30 fines which could be waived if they produced a receipt for a set of lights within seven days.

Officers manning the control issued fines to 106 cyclists in a period of just three hours. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police told road.cc: “This is a seasonal, high-profile operation to reinforce the message that as the nights draw in, cyclists need to have lights to avoid harm coming to themselves and also to help ensure they don’t collide with pedestrians.”

The spokesman defended the use of police time and resources on the operation, saying that Oxford has a higher than average proportion of cyclists on its streets, given the presence of its 38,000 students, most of whom own a bike.

“We do also carry out stop-check operations on motorists all year round to catch people driving without MOT certificates, tax and insurance or committing other offences,” he added.

20 user comments

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Fair play I say.

To many idiots scooting about with no lights.

posted by gazzaputt [183 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 15:22

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Coming down the canal at around 5pm last night. Very dark bar my nice bright front lights lighting the path in front and I nearly smack into a cyclist riding in the dark with black clothes on and no lights whatsoever!

As you say gazzaput - too many people riding round without lights.

jobysp's picture

posted by jobysp [145 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 16:02

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Would be even better if they had some people from a bike shop there to fit lights straight away.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1360 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 16:39

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Good on the police. If cyclists take care to be visible then careless car drivers have fewer excuses if they hit them.

But I can't remember whether I had lights when I cycled around Oxford all those years ago...

posted by 0liver [76 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 16:45

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That's not the point though is it, cycling without lights is stupid, but who is going to get hurt - if anyone it's going to be the lightless cyclist. So is it a good use of police resources when there is so much more dangerous illegality on Britain's roads?

In terms of harm reduction surely not - now, police stopping motorists with dodgy lights, or setting up checkpoints outside pub car parks, or nabbing more people chattering on their mobiles while driving - that would reduce the amount of death and injury on our roads. Putting more of a presence in known trouble spots that would clamp down on far more harmful anti-social behaviour. So why don't the police do that instead? Natural selection will take care of the numpty cyclists without lights.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4151 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 17:04

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At first sight, fining cyclists for not using lights might seem fair. But when you consider the dangers that cyclists face on the road every day, and the aggressive and irresponsible behaviour from motorists, pedestrians and others, this is not fair.

During my time cycling, I have been spat at, had stuff thrown at me, had a taxi driver nearly drive into me in a cycle lane and faced all sorts of other anti-social behaviour. Perhaps Oxfordshire police might look at these other types of incidents before they start throwing the book at cyclists.

Cyclists without lights are a soft target. It may be unlawful but it's hardly murder. Most cyclists with no lights are more of a danger to themselves rather than other road users. Perhaps Oxfordshire police might like to look at the figures in their county for cyclists killed or seriously injured on the road.

Every week I read about a cyclist who has been killed on the road. All too often, the police say they do not have enough evidence to charge the driver or the CPS say there is no realistic chance of a conviction.

Yes, cycling without lights is slightly irresponsible but there are far, far worse events taking place on the road.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 17:04

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Fair play indeed.Good for local bike shops too Smile . However, it would be great to remind car drivers too. All too often I am surprised by drivers ignoring the fact that to be seen is very different from to see. Cars with no lights on are obviously far bigger danger than unseen bicycle. Does anybody know why don't we have compulsory lights on all winter like many countries on the continent? And does anybody tell drivers to turn the lights on at dawn, dusk or heavy rain anymore?

posted by londonbrick [25 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 18:29

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who is going to get hurt - if anyone it's going to be the lightless cyclist

What about responsible motorists (yes, they do exist) who have to live with the consequences of hitting a cyclist without lights?

posted by E11a [69 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 18:33

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@ tony_farrelly & londonplayer

Whilst I agree with some of the sentiments, I think in this case you are both wrong.

For one thing, 106 lightless cyclists in only 3 hours is just crazy.

Secondly, it costs a huge amount to investigate any road death, no matter what the cause. Is that a good and unavoidable use of public money?

Lastly, and most importantly, how would you feel if you killed an unlit cyclist that you genuinely didn't see?


posted by don_don [149 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 18:40

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So, police checks for unlit pedestrians then to save motorists' feelings? Yes, and I know it would be terrible but how many unlit cyclists are involved in accidents or are killed? According to the DfT's own figures… hardly any.


While some anti social and illegal behaviour that costs lives and causes plenty of misery is on the rise and seemingly unchecked by the police too


Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4151 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 21:07

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Not a bad idea but then on my commute to Kent from london I see large numbers of cars with flat tyres and missing lights and some far worse problems such as obviously twisted chassis. I've never seen the cops crack down on vehicles in poor condition, anywhere in the UK.


posted by OldRidgeback [2250 posts]
3rd November 2010 - 22:19

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I have no problem with these checks but it would be nice if the Police also did old style checks on cars (by puling them over rather than relying on CCTV/ANPR) for vehicle faults (as there are plenty I see).
The cars not having their lights on seem to be an early morning thing in London.

posted by thereverent [311 posts]
4th November 2010 - 13:56

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Have no issue with the police stopping unlit cyclists - but would a warning not be a better idea?? I take it that the revenue generated from this exercise will go towards cycling initiatives in Oxford Thinking I think not - it will most likely be added to the pot for repairing the roads that the cyclist has NOT damaged and already paid for through council tax and income tax Angry

I only hope that the police will be hovering at junctions with ASL's to fine the motorist who has sneaked over the line or at side streets to catch the driver turning in off the main road and not giving way to pedestrians already crossing the side street - again I think not Surprise

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posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
4th November 2010 - 14:51

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OldRidgeback wrote:
Not a bad idea but then on my commute to Kent from london I see large numbers of cars with flat tyres and missing lights and some far worse problems such as obviously twisted chassis. I've never seen the cops crack down on vehicles in poor condition, anywhere in the UK.

Report them then? Police do carry out much more checks on cars than they do on cyclists, so this is just redressing the balance slightly, especially since cyclists without lights is an obvious problem.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [418 posts]
4th November 2010 - 16:06

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Totally agree with this. If we want to be treated like vehicles we should at least act like them (in-law).


posted by JohnInStockie [3 posts]
5th November 2010 - 14:06

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I don't have a problem with this. However observant a car driver you are, however bike-aware, some people on bikes are their own worst enemy and not using lights is just plain stupid and inconsiderate of all other road users, including pedestrians and it gives motorists another reason to hate us. The local scrotes where I live wear dark clothes (to evade the police) and ride with no lights, (sometimes on the wrong side of the road) making them almost impossible to see. Like Jobysp I have almost collided with blacked-out cyclists on cycle paths, despite having good lights myself.


posted by freya [4 posts]
5th November 2010 - 15:00

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saying that, I was nearly flattened last night.

5pm, rush hour, busy roundabout - slow traffic. I waited at the lights, when they went green I went forward (primary position for you bikeability peeps) and as I was doing so a car came at a hell of a pace from my right, missed me by a matter of inches as it sped off down the road to my left.

Why dont the police crack down on imbisiles like that?

I was hi-viz'd and lit up like a christmas tree.


PzychotropicMac's picture

posted by PzychotropicMac [82 posts]
5th November 2010 - 15:30

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Am finding this autumn worse than previous ones. Three instances this evening despite being well lit and hi-viz clothes!!! It seems that being visible turns you into a target!! The sooner the DfT builds into driving tuition and tests road awareness of vunerable road users the better! I would even go as far as to say that you cannot sit the test until you have completed a module on this area the better!!

Am hoping that. The winter does noty bringout even more shoddy drivers!!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1059 posts]
5th November 2010 - 18:12

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Great!! Wish they'd do that round London too!! Might wake the morons who insist on riding without lights up a bit!!

posted by keith_newnham [59 posts]
5th November 2010 - 21:15

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I almost hit a cyclist the other day. It was a busy road packed with rush-hour traffic and I was in the cycle lane (on a bike!) when a kid all in black and with no lights shot across the road right under my wheel. I gave him a right earful and got the standard teenage response "f*** off". If I'd hit him we'd both have had bruises and grazes but what if he did that in front of a truck?

Natural selection may take care of idiots, but I would not want to be the one who caused an accident or death whatever I was riding or driving, even if it was not my fault.

posted by RuthF28 [92 posts]
6th November 2010 - 11:41

1 Like