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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...

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The definition you refer to was revoked by  The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) (No.2) etc.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 pinged in the park, get in touch.

Update: I subsequently submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police asking for the legal advice they had received when they decided to start fining cyclists for speeding. They were unable to locate any such advice.

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.

60 comments

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davidtcycle [76 posts] 3 years ago
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Good work

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Tom Amos [236 posts] 3 years ago
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Where is Martin Porter when you need him?

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Angelfishsolo [134 posts] 3 years ago
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Surely one thing that should be taken into account is that bicycles are not sold with speedometers. As such it is not reasonable to expect a cyclist to know how fast they are going.

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Carlton Reid [132 posts] 3 years ago
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Much of this is covered in the Bike Hub article on 'cycling and the law.' http://www.bikehub.co.uk/featured-articles/cycling-and-the-law/

Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1888 extended the definition of “carriage” to include “bicycles, tricycles, velocipedes and other similar machines.”

SPEED LIMITS DO NOT APPLY TO CYCLISTS
Possessing and propelling a vehicle equipped with an engine confers more responsibilities in law but not any greater rights. Many commenters to newspapers and online forums complain that cyclists travel too slowly and impede the progress of motorists. These commenters may be surprised to learn that cyclists share no legal obligation to adhere to speed limits. Speed limits on motor vehicles were introduced in 1903 in order to protect members of the public from the harm that can be done by excessive speed made possible by engines. The speed limit in 1903 was set at 20mph; this limit was routinely breached by early motorists. In 1934 the speed limit in towns was set at 30mph.

Not then and not since have any laws been enacted to make cyclists adhere to the speeding regulations brought in for motorised vehicles.

Rule 124 of the currently in force Highway Code states speed limits on a tabulated panel, but there is no row that applies to bicycles.

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 states:

“It shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a restricted road at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour.” (RTRA 81.1)

And

“A person who drives a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a limit imposed by or under any enactment to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence.” (RTRA 89.1)

The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 allows for speed limits to be imposed by local acts, but has never been used to impose speed limits on cyclists.

The speed limits in Royal Parks are also intended for motor vehicles only. According to The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) etc. Regulations 2010 “vehicle” means a mechanically propelled vehicle intended or adapted for use on a road.

While, technically, cyclists do not have to adhere to speed limits, in practice it is most sensible and safe to do so. Cyclists who breach the speed limit may not be prosecuted for a speeding offence but, as stated above, can be prosecuted for “cycling furiously” or “wanton and furious driving.”

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Goldfever4 [225 posts] 3 years ago
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Angelfishsolo wrote:

Surely one thing that should be taken into account is that bicycles are not sold with speedometers. As such it is not reasonable to expect a cyclist to know how fast they are going.

Exactly!

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mrmo [2093 posts] 3 years ago
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reading those comments, if you want to speed do it on the cycle paths and not the road... That will go down well with the pedestrians

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AyBee [85 posts] 3 years ago
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Was in the park on Saturday evening and there was a 4x4 just driving around - absolute waste of time. Had to trail him at 18.5mph which was a pain. One of the guys decided to risk an overtake and got told he was "exceeding the speed limit", but no ticket was given.

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oozaveared [945 posts] 3 years ago
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Absolutely and what is more I would be interested to know what the technicalities are behind using a radar gun on a cyclist rather than on a vehicle which is what they are designed for. The systems are almost certainly calibrated for a bigger target at higher speeds. OK the 30mph one maybe not, but 15mph is not likely to have been in the range that the radar gun was designed for. Can it actually decide with any accuracy that it has a correct reading. I know for example that speed camera prosecutions usually add 10% before they prosecute. ie more than 33mph recorded in a 30 zone. The purpose is to avoid any claim that the equipment was inaccurate/not recently calibrated. 10% gives that defence short shrift. Likewise the calibration of car speedos is set optimistically. The car manufacturer does not want to be fending off claims that they installed a speedo that gave a pessimistic reading so that an innocent motorist believeing the speedo said 29mph was nabbed at 34mph. Between the two of them it leaves a speeding motorist relatively safe for being done for being just over the limit.

The LTI 20.20.gun is seriously flawed. According to the Daily Mail "In our tests, it wrongly recorded a wall as travelling at 44mph, an empty road scored 33mph, a parked car was clocked as doing 22mph and a bicycle (in reality being ridden at 5mph) rocketed along at an impossible 66mph."

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crazy-legs [811 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

The LTI 20.20.gun is seriously flawed. According to the Daily Mail "In our tests, it wrongly recorded a wall as travelling at 44mph, an empty road scored 33mph, a parked car was clocked as doing 22mph and a bicycle (in reality being ridden at 5mph) rocketed along at an impossible 66mph."

You lose points for quoting the Daily Wail though - makes me less likely to believe any of it!

Carlton: I was under the impression that the Royal Parks had specific legislation although as I said in a previous comment on this story (maybe the one about the guy being nabbed) I found it impossible to find anything definitive either for or against that (and the above article would seem to agree with your assertion too). And I'm just as guilty, I've recorded a couple of >20mph average laps of Richmond Park and I'm far from the top of the Strava leaderboards...  3

Good work road.cc, well done on the report.

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Carlton Reid [132 posts] 3 years ago
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The Royal Parks legislation is mentioned in the main story and in my comment above.

Definition of bicycle as a carriage in law is well established. It might be arcane and some might think it's some sort of "vehicular cycling" nonsense but it was legislation that was campaigned for by C19th cyclists because of an 1878 case of a cyclist knocking down a pedestrian.

http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com/1835highwayact/

"bicycles, for the first time, had a legal status. Described as carriages, they had full legal rights to pass and repass along highways (and highways are not just ‘roads’, they’re carriageways, footpaths, bridleways, everything)."

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arfa [802 posts] 3 years ago
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just a minor point, speedometers are irrelevant if fitted/working or not as it is a statutory offence - i.e. you can't argue your speedo wasn't working as a defence.
the key point is what constitutes a vehicle as stated above.

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Carl [138 posts] 3 years ago
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It sounds like a test case is needed to establish clear guidance for both the police and cyclists (just as the Advance Stop Line case will do).

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Gkam84 [9092 posts] 3 years ago
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If Road.cc really wants to see what would happen, I'm quite happy to come down, cycle around all day until I pick up a fine and then we can test it....  105

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oozaveared [945 posts] 3 years ago
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crazy-legs wrote:
Quote:

The LTI 20.20.gun is seriously flawed. According to the Daily Mail "In our tests, it wrongly recorded a wall as travelling at 44mph, an empty road scored 33mph, a parked car was clocked as doing 22mph and a bicycle (in reality being ridden at 5mph) rocketed along at an impossible 66mph."

You lose points for quoting the Daily Wail though - makes me less likely to believe any of it!

Oh don't be like that. They might not be my political cup of tea but that was googled up and they were the ones that had done some tests. Even liars aren't always lying you know!

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PsiMonk [29 posts] 3 years ago
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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?

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monty dog [460 posts] 3 years ago
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I've easily exceeded the speed limit in RP on roller-blades coming down Broomfield Hill - not difficult to achieve at all , the hard bit is getting around the corners whilst staying on the tarmac! If there was no-one else around, then the argument I was an endangerment to others doesn't stand and I'm technically not a vehicle or carriage....it doesn't take much to shoot holes in the argument.

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Al__S [1081 posts] 3 years ago
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between this and the opposition to cycleways across the central london parks I move we abolish the Royal parks. But then I've got a Republic membership card, so i would say that...

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northstar [1108 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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JonD [420 posts] 3 years ago
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oozaveared wrote:

The LTI 20.20.gun is seriously flawed. According to the Daily Mail "In our tests, it wrongly recorded a wall as travelling at 44mph, an empty road scored 33mph, a parked car was clocked as doing 22mph and a bicycle (in reality being ridden at 5mph) rocketed along at an impossible 66mph."

I'm not *absolutely* sure that it was the same gun that was concerned, but that rings a bell. An ex-colleague encountered various issues in trying to fight a speeding conviction some years ago. I'd normally be a bit dismissive of this kind of stuff, but he was convinced he was doing 30 or under, having just checked his speedo, and was clocked at 40+, and had a theory at to why...

a) he had two photos, with the cross-hairs/reference point at different points on the car, and from some simple calculations (we're both engineers) he could establish that this would account for the difference between his speedo reading and that of the gun

b) however, that's not enough for a court, they're only capable of legal argument - therefore you need an expert witness to provide a statement accordingly

c) as it transpired, his expert witness would only provide such by having the user or design documentation for the gun - which the Police wouldn't provide.

d) there are usage guidelines - and gun didn't appear to be used in accordance with these (ie the reference point needs to main consistent over the measurement period eg not a moving point across a sloping bonnet, correct useage when measuring on hills) - however, somewhere in the legalese, not being used in accordance does not make the measurement invalid. Go figure !

So as far as any possible measurement error or deployment error is concerned, they are effectively viewed as infallible  24

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thereverent [432 posts] 3 years ago
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Good research.
Sounds like whoever wrote up the 2010 amendment was a bit lazy and assumed vehicle would cover cycles (or just didn't think about cyclists at all).
So a challenge for sppeding on a cycle would have a decent chance of succeeding, but would probably just lead to another amendment including cycles as well.

The Police only ever seem to be in their car doing speed checks near the Ham Gate junction and at the bottom of Sawyers hill. I live nearby so tend to use the park out of peak times when the traffic can be a bit busy so I may have missed other checks.
It tends to be on the flat in other areas that cars speed in there.

Enforcement in the park can be very variable as on one of the May bankholidays earlier this year car were parked illegally on most verges in the park with no-one seeming to stop them.

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northstar [1108 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

The bit in bold is a bit confusing as it's all public highway from Kingston Gate to Home Park Golf Club unless there is some "secretly" owned private road / route no one knows about.

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thereverent [432 posts] 3 years ago
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northstar wrote:

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.

The bit in bold is a bit confusing as it's all public highway from Kingston Gate to Home Park Golf Club unless there is some "secretly" owned private road / route no one knows about.

Good spot!
I think where it refers to is the private road in Hampton Court Park from near Kingston bridge to the Golf Club (Home Park Terrace). But really not clear.

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JonD [420 posts] 3 years ago
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northstar wrote:

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.

The bit in bold is a bit confusing as it's all public highway from Kingston Gate to Home Park Golf Club unless there is some "secretly" owned private road / route no one knows about.

I think that by 'Park road' it can only mean within the park(s), but it's a funny way to describe it.

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dafyddp [401 posts] 3 years ago
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the '10 mph on a park Road' is particularly daft - if you're going to fine cyclists at that speed, logically, you should also target 6 minute/mile runners...

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Leviathan [2266 posts] 3 years ago
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What a load of parochial nonsense.

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andycoventry [110 posts] 3 years ago
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thereverent wrote:

So a challenge for sppeding on a cycle would have a decent chance of succeeding, but would probably just lead to another amendment including cycles as well.

Is this not a good thing. A further ammendment to the Regulations would require a period of consultation in which we could object.

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John Stevenson [255 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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MrGear [87 posts] 3 years ago
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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.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 3 years ago
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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????

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Docroddy [31 posts] 3 years ago
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My head hurts...

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