Are police fining 'speeding' cyclists in Richmond Park exceeding their authority?

How come London's Royal Parks are the only places in the UK you can be booked for speeding on a bike? We find out.

by John Stevenson   October 24, 2013  

Cyclists probably breaking the speed limit in Richmond Park (CC licensed by adambowie:Flickr)

After a young cyclist was recently fined for speeding while descending a hill in Richmond Park, we wondered on what basis the Royal Parks apply their speed limits to bicycles. So we decided to find out and... well, it’s complicated, but it turns out parks police might well be exceeding a reasonable interpretation of the law in fining cycists.

Speed limits on public roads apply only to motor vehicles, which are defined in law as “mechanically propelled vehicles, intended or adapted for use on roads.”

Bikes don’t count because their source of propulsion is a person, and not an engine or motor.

The situation in Richmond Park and a few other Royal Parks is therefore very unusual. Armed with a few references to the regulations and statutory instruments amending the regulations, we asked the Metropolitan Police on what basis they nab cyclists in Richmond Park.

The Met put us on to parks police and Ben Edwin emailled us to say:

The Regulations are under The Royal Parks and Open Spaces regulations 1997

The 20MPH limit was brought in by the amendment below and of course a bicycle is a vehicle for the purpose of Royal Park Regulations

The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) etc. Regulations 2010

Speeds at which a vehicle may be driven or ridden on a Park road

1.  On a Park road in The Green Park, Hyde Park (other than the Serpentine Road), St James's Park or The Regent's Park, at a speed not exceeding 30 mph.

2.  On a Park road in Bushy Park, Greenwich Park or Richmond Park, at a speed not exceeding 20 mph.

3.  On the Serpentine Road in Hyde Park, and on the Park road from Kingston Gate leading to the Home Park Golf Club in Hampton Court Park, at a speed not exceeding 15 mph.

4.  On a Park road (other than one mentioned in paragraphs 1, 2 or 3), at a speed not exceeding 10 mph.".

Well, that casual ‘of course’ was a red rag. Hang on, we said, doesn’t that same amendment also say this:

" "vehicle” means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road."

Surely, we said, that’s the exact definition of a motor vehicle so the speed limits brought in by that amendment can’t apply to bikes?

But no, said Ben, because there’s another amendment.

The definition you refer to was revoked by  The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) (No.2) etc. Regulations 2010, which stated the following:

2.  Regulations 1(2) and 5 to 8 of The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) etc Regulations 2010(1) are revoked

As a result, where the Royal Parks  regulations refer to a vehicle the defined legal interpretation includes bicycles.

Yes, it's an amendment to an amendment, but that's the way the law works, with newer bits replacing older bits and the whole creaking edifice keeping lawyers in jobs.

That seemed to be that. The speed limit in Richmond Park was changed from 30mph to 20mph in 2010, and parking charges were brought in. Then, when the parking charges were revoked, the definition of 'vehicle'  that went with them, and that would have excluded bikes, went too, perhaps accidentally, perhaps not.

SInce then, parks police have decided, apparently on their own, that 'vehicle' includes a bike and they can bust cyclists for speeding, which must feel very nice, as they're the only force in the country that can actually issue a ticket to someone who goes a bit fast down a hill without putting themselves or anyone else in danger.

A bit miffed by all this, we went and had a deeper dig through the original 1997 regulations, which turns out to contain rules like this:

Acts prohibited in a Park

3.  Subject to the provisions of regulation 6, no person using a Park shall—

...

(10) (a) ride any animal,
(b) drive or ride any vehicle, or
(c) use any pedal cycle, roller skate, roller blade, skate board or other foot-propelled device
in any manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any person;

and this:

(11) (a) use a pedal cycle (other than when it is parked), or

(b) drive or ride a vehicle
between sunset and sunrise, or in seriously reduced visibility between sunrise and sunset, unless it is lit in accordance with the Road Vehicles (Lighting) Regulations 1989(1)...

What's interesting there is that the regulations draw a clear distinction between 'vehicle' and 'pedal cycle' even when applying the same rule to them both. Surely, we thought, if the framers of this legislation - which included speed limits for 'vehicles in its 1997 form - had intended the speed limits to apply to bikes, the rule Ben cited in his first reply would explicitly say so.

We pointed this out to Ben, and asked "On what basis, then, are bicycles assumed to be vehicles for the purposes of speed limits, when they are clearly differentiated elsewhere in the regulations?"

By this point, we think Ben was getting a bit fed up of us. He responded:

The regulations refer to vehicles NOT Motor Vehicles. A Cycle is a vehicle
The Oxford English Dictionary provides a general definition of vehicle:

VEHICLE means:
- a conveyance, usually with wheels, for transporting people, goods, etc

If you have any further queries on this subject I would suggest you seek legal advice. I am not in a position to go any further into this subject.

We asked Ben what legal advice parks police themselves sought in deciding to use these regulations against cyclists, but we didn't get a reply.

Since Parks police wouldn’t tell us if they’d talked to a lawyer about this, we thought we’d better ask one ourselves.

Top British time trialist Michael ‘Dr Hutch’ Hutchinson is best known for going very fast and writing amusingly about it in Cycling Weekly, but he actually is a doctor and his PhD is in law.

We asked Hutch if it was reasonable to argue that the 1997 regulations constantly differentiate between vehicle and bicycle so unless a bike is specifically included regulations that use the word 'vehicle' don't apply to bikes?

He told us:

Using the differentiation made in the 1997 regulations is a valid technique for interpreting legislation, but it's working off first principals. Clearly if there is a distinction between two groups, it's reasonable to conclude that when a subsequent reference is made to only one group that it is not intended to include the other one. But if there is an authority that interprets it otherwise, then that would take precedence. A dictionary definition is irrelevant.

Hutch then went and did some digging for us, reading the regulations with a Proper Lawyer’s eye, and not the dim understanding of someone who did a law subsidiary 30 years ago.

Here’s what he told us:

As a matter of legislative interpretation, the 1997 regulations seem to me to clearly and consistently distinguish between vehicles and pedal cycles.  S3(11) is especially clear.

Section 3(12), for example, makes provision for driving or riding vehicles off the park roads, but makes no provision for a pedal cycle using a bike path -- and there are certainly at least some bike paths that are not park roads. So if 'vehicle' includes 'pedal-cycle' then it becomes an offence to ride a bicycle anywhere you can't drive a car. The use of pedal cycles on paths etc is entirely separately regulated (S3(3)).

On the other hand, the Road Traffic Regulation Act of 1984 is what specifies speed limits on national roads. In that instance the limits are applied to 'motor vehicles' only, which is what means limits don't apply to bikes on the open highway. You could argue that 'vehicles' in the Park Regs is distinguished from 'motor vehicles', and that they therefore mean different things. However, to my mind that still doesn't really address the very clear distinction between 'vehicles' and 'pedal cycles' in the Park Regs.

Incidentally, as far as I can see the limits only apply on Park Roads, so they don't apply on bike paths...

But bear in mind it is bloody years since I was in practice, and even when I was this wasn't what I did. If there is an authority establishing that 'vehicle' includes 'pedal cycle', then all bets are off (though we still have the s3(12) anomaly). I haven't actually gone to a library to do this 'properly' -- I'm just working off the internet, where I don't have access to the legal indices. It is possible that there is something out there that I just don't know about -- but it seems to me that if there were, the police would be only too delighted to tell you what it is.

I suspect there isn't a simple answer to this -- 'vehicle'  without 'motor' or some other qualifier on it is a term that seems to be rare in the general legislation, and I can't find a legislative definition of it. My guess is that the limits being applied to cyclists in the park is on, at best, a very shaky basis.

It certainly seems to us, therefore, that there's grounds to fight a cycling speeding fine in Richmond Park. A cycling barrister we spoke to has offered to work pro bono (that's legalese for 'for free') if anyone wants to take on Parks police on this, so if you get pnged in the park, get in touch.

56 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Carlton Reid wrote:
The Royal Parks legislation is mentioned in the main story and in my comment above.

Pity you haven't bothered to read the main story though, because if you had you'd know that the amendment you cite that defines a vehicle as a motor vehicle was itself later nullified, leaving things in the current mess that allows parks police to believe they can fine 'speeding' cyclists.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [828 posts]
24th October 2013 - 15:18

like this
Like (28)

Bike Magazine (motorbikes) tested handheld radar guns on motorcycles travelling at "normal" speeds and they failed to record accurately, especially when aimed at tyres, wheels and flapping clothing.

posted by MrGear [77 posts]
24th October 2013 - 15:32

like this
Like (19)

How exactly do the police reliably service a ticket to a cyclist? I mean I don't carry my license when riding so how can they reasonably verify my identity to issue a summons? I mean I could just as easily claim I am my neighbor who would then receive the summons and the corresponding arrest warrant for failure to appear????

posted by jarredscycling [436 posts]
24th October 2013 - 15:48

like this
Like (13)

My head hurts...

posted by Docroddy [18 posts]
24th October 2013 - 16:05

like this
Like (13)

After seeing someone get pulled over I don't know if I'm in favour or not. In defence of the Parks Police in Richmond Park Autumn is the right time to enforce the speed limit in Richmond Park -

1) They seem to be doing it at dusk (not sure if this is because it's rush hour or if it's the much better reason of that being when it's most dangerous to be on the road),
2) It's rutting season in a park full of deer and you do get herds moving around without taking any interest in the road or what's in it.
3) The guy I saw pulled over was doing way over 30, in the near dark while there were deer either side of the road. I don't think that was unreasonable.
4) Give it a month and it will be dark enough that people will slow down anyway as for most of us bike lights aren't good enough to go at much over 20. Can't imagine Parks Police will be doing this for all that long.

I'm still trying to set that against the problem that any kind of traffic enforcement in London these days only seems to apply to cyclists (thanks the Daily Mail!). Today was the first time I've seen a Police officer educating people about ASL's (officer on a bike of course, got to help drive that wedge between classes of road users) and I see cars running red lights daily.

Anyone ever seen a car done for speeding in Richmond Park? Sadly I expect the answer to be no.

posted by racingcondor [106 posts]
24th October 2013 - 16:08

like this
Like (12)

It doesn't matter whether a bike is a vehicle, a bike or a chocolate muffin. The Royal Parks are royal - which means they can have their own rules. It would make sense to refuse to pay the fine and argue in court that the Royal Parks cannot alter the Highway Code to suit themselves.

On the subject of speeding bikes I actually side with the parks. They can either spend money putting up disclaimer signs or stop people cycling too fast. If you want to go fast - get a number on your back.

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [933 posts]
24th October 2013 - 17:11

like this
Like (11)

MercuryOne wrote:
If you want to go fast - get a number on your back.

So you never freewheel downhill at more than the (motor vehicle) speed limit? What a dull existence.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [828 posts]
24th October 2013 - 17:45

like this
Like (18)

the article wrote:
Speed limits on public roads apply only to motor vehicles, which are defined in law as “mechanically propelled vehicles, intended or adapted for use on roads.”

So this is why drivers of off-road vehicles seem to think the law doesn't apply to them - technically they're right!

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
24th October 2013 - 17:54

like this
Like (11)

northstar wrote:
PsiMonk wrote:
Surely the key point here is why is the parks authority wasting time and resources on such an idiotic practice? Might be worth challenging them to say:

a) Haven't you got better things to do with your time than fine someone riding without endangering others?

b) Is the park putting a suitably/ proportionately larger amount of resources into fining motorists?

c) Is this action not likely to deter cyclists in general from riding in the park? Is that what you really want?

Well a) if you are riding "fast" in Richmond or Bushy Parks, it's very possible you could hit a deer (especially in the dark) as they congregate on the roads at night and the only "loser" when hitting a deer is likely to the be the bicycle rider.

b) they do, seen them many times speed checking motorists at the usual places.

c) The more you ride, the more you get a feel for how fast you are going, unless you are doing some excessive speed they'd probably just warn you.

Very well put Applause

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2432 posts]
24th October 2013 - 18:09

like this
Like (12)

Does anyone know where we can watch 'that' Dave Millar video?

It was on the BBC before it got taken down, I emailed them asking for a copy but they said No Way, and I can't find it on Youtube... Thinking

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1725 posts]
24th October 2013 - 18:27

like this
Like (15)

MrGear wrote:
Bike Magazine (motorbikes) tested handheld radar guns on motorcycles travelling at "normal" speeds and they failed to record accurately, especially when aimed at tyres, wheels and flapping clothing.

If the radar reflection is from the spokes of the wheel then it's possible the speed detector will measure up to 2x the actual speed of the motorcycle and this applies equally to bicycles. With a car, the speed measurement is on the front area of the vehicle so the reading is more accurate.

But since bicycles are not required by law to have speed monitoring equipment fitted and those that do have it are not legally calibrated, then it does beg the question as to how cyclists are supposed to know how fast they are travelling anyway. Is it easy to tell the different between 19mph and 21mph?

Anyway, I generally ride my mountain bike on the off-road sections at Richmond Park with my sons, which is more fun anyway.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
24th October 2013 - 18:50

like this
Like (17)

What a load of nonsense! They are obviously bored and have nothing better to do.

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
24th October 2013 - 20:04

like this
Like (15)

If they fined this kid for exceeding the 20mph, did the Royal Parks make any formal temporary concessions for the Olympics or Ride London Pro event? I'm betting not and is this something that could be checked up under a Freedom of Information request?

posted by mattyb95 [28 posts]
24th October 2013 - 21:13

like this
Like (15)

Blimey John. I did read it but there's a lot of legalese in there, so not the easiest of things to digest first time round.

I will read again.

The question Dr. Hutch raised - or I thought he raised - was about the definition of vehicle. I gave the standard material on that.

Regs such as these often rely on other bits of legislation which lawyers can refer to.

Carlton Reid's picture

posted by Carlton Reid [108 posts]
24th October 2013 - 22:11

like this
Like (15)

I note that the regs specifically mention bicycles. Any fast men want to borrow my racing trike for some parks police baiting?

posted by TimD [11 posts]
24th October 2013 - 23:32

like this
Like (16)

If Plod stops you and asks "do you know how fast you were going?" You could legitimately say "No. My bicycle does not have a speedometer, nor is one required, so I have no way of knowing."

I think that could be the basis for a defence.

posted by trisc [6 posts]
25th October 2013 - 8:05

like this
Like (16)

Carlton - yeah it's complicated. Parks police consider that the framing of the regulations means 'vehicle' encompasses bikes, because it doesn't specify 'motor vehicle'. The standard definition that applies on regular roads talks about 'motor vehicles' and the omission of 'motor' from the parks regs gives the police an excuse to go after cyclists.

What I suspect, and Hutch agrees, is that the way the regs differentiate between 'vehicle' and 'bicycle' is grounds for a defence. That the framers use 'vehicle' to mean 'motor vehicle' and then extend the clause to bicycles strongly indicates they did not intend vehicle-only regs to apply to bikes.

Now we just need someone to get pinged so we can unleash our tame barrister on the situation.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [828 posts]
25th October 2013 - 10:03

like this
Like (11)

Yawn. Frequently John - but not in a busy royal park. But as we're in agreement over the legal status of the Royal Parks having their own interpretations of the law I'll refer you to my footer on all other topics.

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [933 posts]
25th October 2013 - 10:42

like this
Like (10)

I find the cars generally get in the way anyway. Perhaps I should get up and cycle earlier. I haven't been to Richmond for a long while now since moving across town.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [977 posts]
25th October 2013 - 11:50

like this
Like (9)

trisc wrote:
If Plod stops you and asks "do you know how fast you were going?" You could legitimately say "No. My bicycle does not have a speedometer, nor is one required, so I have no way of knowing."

I think that could be the basis for a defence.

Its no more a defence than not having a breathalyser in your car is a defence for drink driving.

posted by Tony [65 posts]
25th October 2013 - 19:59

like this
Like (9)

As others commented a bicycle is not legally required to be fitted with a speedometer for use on public highway? Considering my bike computer has indicated 88mph whilst pushing my bike across our bike shop's floor whilst leaving the building I suspect its not at all accurate. How can the police prosecute me for speeding when I have either: no speedo, or one that is wildly inaccurate...

posted by hampstead_bandit [96 posts]
25th October 2013 - 20:02

like this
Like (12)

10mph is quite slow for a bike on level ground, never mind downhill. My fully loaded cruise is around 12 or 13. Until recently accurate speedos weren't readily available to cyclists. I wonder how many have them now, and whether not having one is a defence. Cycle speeds are harder to read than car ones which makes speedo watching more dangerous.

posted by m0rjc [35 posts]
25th October 2013 - 21:06

like this
Like (9)

I, too, have always understood 'vehicle' to mean 'motor vehicle' and speed limits apply to them for one main reason they have speedometers, which are meant to be, within a few percent of error, spot on the reading they give you. A 10% error is usually accepted as the norm so the Police will not prosecute for doing 32 in a 30 but probably would at 34 and above. The reason is that in court an accused person could argue they were driving by their speedo and it just happened to be a few percent out. Not sure if there is precedence set at Crown Court level but I expect there is. As the accuracy of the speedo is out of the control of the driver and isn't even part of an MOT some leeway is reasonable.

Bicycles do not have speedos, hence the difficulty in prosecuting someone who has no idea what speed they are doing at any given time, though I do wonder if an over-zealous Royal Parks cop might suggest my cycle computor is equivalent to a cars speedo. I would argue otherwise and suggest it is only a guide unlike a car speedo, which is engineered with a specific vehicle in mind and therefore more accurate. Also, and most importantly, is the fact that cycles are very light weight bits of kit and even if there was a collision with something or someone it is highly unlikely anyone will receive anything more than minor injuries, unlike motor vehicles, which tend to maim and kill people on a regular basis.

As far as speed guns are concerned is there any data on whether they are tested on pedestrians, cyclists or anything else, other than the motor vehicles they were designed to be aimed at? I doubt it. So how realiable are they when they are used on cyclists? Aren't cyclists regarded as closer to pedestrians than motor vehicles? Maybe that should be clarified.

I ride in Richmond Park & Bushy Park regularly and at times my computer indicates speeds in excess of 20mph only to have cars overtake me and zoom off ahead. Indeed, even down the few hills in Richmond Park, cars overtake cyclists and as they are clearly not breaking the speed limit I assume my speed is always less than the limits too. Finally, all the road signs specifying speed limits are the same as the ones on normal roads, which I understand have always been aimed at motor vehicles.

The problem with the Royal Parks is they are getting a bee in their royal bonnets about cyclists in general as cycling for fitness becomes more popular and especially with those of us using the Parks as relative safe havens on which to exercise. The local amateur cycling club, the London Dynamos, are for ever being targetted for riding too fast for their own good. Frankly, it is simply an example of nimbyism and the sooner someone challenges it the better.

posted by BigBear63 [59 posts]
27th October 2013 - 0:05

like this
Like (11)

Tony wrote:
trisc wrote:
If Plod stops you and asks "do you know how fast you were going?" You could legitimately say "No. My bicycle does not have a speedometer, nor is one required, so I have no way of knowing."

I think that could be the basis for a defence.

Its no more a defence than not having a breathalyser in your car is a defence for drink driving.

Of course it's a defence, why on earth do you think motor vehicles that can do more than 17mph all have to have speedos fitted? I'll let you into a secret it has bugger all to do with the driving experience and all to do with allowing the driver to accurately stay within the speed limits and to aid successful prosecutions if they fail to do so. If speedos were fitted to cars simply to enhance the driving experience, and merely a coincindence that they helped drivers stick to the speed limit, F1 cars and MotoGP bikes would have them fitted too, and guess what, they don't.

posted by BigBear63 [59 posts]
27th October 2013 - 0:26

like this
Like (8)

"The problem with the Royal Parks"

The problem with the Royal Parks is that motor vehicles are allowed in there at all.

posted by northstar [937 posts]
27th October 2013 - 2:53

like this
Like (12)

I think you will find that not withstanding all the, possibly confusing, details concerning vehicle definitions, their does exist another legitimate possible defence.
This is that, because a bicycle has no way to reliably or accurately determine the speed it is travelling at, it cannot be prosecuted for it.
This works on the basis that, if one takes the trouble to know, and try to stay within the law, but one has no reasonably practical method available to a normal citizen to determine wether one is doing so or not, then one cannot be prosecuted for it. I think this is known as "Habeas Corpus"(?).
Perhaps Dr Hutchinson might like to comment on this?
I think this is the main reason that speed limits are not applicable to cyclists on normal roads (but "furious riding" is!).

posted by Giles Pargiter [36 posts]
30th October 2013 - 4:08

like this
Like (7)

BigBear63 wrote:
Tony wrote:

Its no more a defence than not having a breathalyser in your car is a defence for drink driving.

Of course it's a defence, why on earth do you think motor vehicles that can do more than 17mph all have to have speedos fitted? I'll let you into a secret it has bugger all to do with the driving experience and all to do with allowing the driver to accurately stay within the speed limits and to aid successful prosecutions if they fail to do so. If speedos were fitted to cars simply to enhance the driving experience, and merely a coincindence that they helped drivers stick to the speed limit, F1 cars and MotoGP bikes would have them fitted too, and guess what, they don't.

So are you saying not having a breathalyser is a defence for drink driving because you have no way of knowing what your blood alcohol level is without one?

posted by Tony [65 posts]
16th November 2013 - 21:37

like this
Like (7)

Giles Pargiter wrote:

This works on the basis that, if one takes the trouble to know, and try to stay within the law, but one has no reasonably practical method available to a normal citizen to determine wether one is doing so or not, then one cannot be prosecuted for it. I think this is known as "Habeas Corpus"(?).

Habeas Corpus is something completely different. Its the right to not be illegally detained. And you will find the law does not accept not knowing about the law or not being able to assess whether you were breaking it as a defence. I think you may be thinking of the fact that having an honest belief that something would be permitted within the law is sometimes an allowable defence e.g. in criminal damage. But that would not work as you are suggesting with speed limits.

posted by Tony [65 posts]
16th November 2013 - 22:03

like this
Like (8)

I have used Richmond Park for over 10 years for cycling, but certainly find it increasingly congested with, walkers, runners, cars and other cyclists. For me its best to go to the Park early or head out for some miles into the Surrey Hills and beyond.

evo111's picture

posted by evo111 [19 posts]
16th November 2013 - 22:25

like this
Like (4)

That is true, but the explanatory note that goes with the nullification says the purpose is ....

2.1 To revoke those provisions of The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces
(Amendment) etc. Regulations 2010 which relate to the introduction of car parking
charges in Bushy Park and Richmond Park with the effect that no such charges will
apply.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2010/2695/pdfs/uksiem_20102695_en.pdf

It doesn't say that it's so that cycles should be included in the legal definition of vehicles.

posted by BigglesMeister [9 posts]
11th March 2014 - 9:38

like this
Like (0)