Updated: Court hears crowd-funded fixed-penalty appeal

Case may set precedent for treatment of riders breaking law to protect themselves

by John Stevenson   October 17, 2013  

Alex Paxton Lavender Hill Mags Crt Oct 16th

Alex Paxton, a London cyclist who is fighting a fixed penalty notice imposed after he was unable to safely use an advanced stop box, yesterday pleaded not guilty at Lavender Hill Magistrates Court. A trial date was set for December 5.

Earlier this week, his barrister Puneet Rai filed a letter with the CPS asking them to review whether a prosecution would be in the public interest. The judge has  given the CPS until 6 November to respond.

Alex is being supported by the Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF), a charity set up by the CTC to fund precedent-setting cases involving cycling and the law. The £2000 needed for his case was raised through crowd-funding.

If the case goes ahead, CDF will help Alex and his barrister prepare his case. 

Police imposed the fixed penalty notice on Alex in August, when he rode past the line of an advanced stop box because it was occupied.

Not wanting to cross three lanes of moving traffic in order to turn right, Alex positioned himself ahead of the  vehicle in the ‘cycle box’, which technically meant he ran a red light even though he remained at the junction.

A police officer who saw Alex radioed a colleague stationed along the road he turned down. That officer issued Alex with the fixed penalty notice. Alex argues that as the officer who issued the fine had not witnessed the offence, he was not able to assess the greater danger Alex would have been in had he complied with the law.

Alex received advice from CDF on how to contest the fine and was given assurance that CDF would assist with funding the legal challenge. He will contest the fixed penalty notice at Lavender Hill Magistrate’s Court, Battersea, on at 2pm this afternoon.  The case is likely to conclude the same day.
 
Alex said recently: “My resolve probably would have faltered taking this to court had there not been such overwhelming support from fellow cyclists to back my case.”

When fixed penalty notices for footway or pavement cycling were first introduced, the Government assured cycling organisations that the penalty would be applied fairly and only when a cyclist’s actions endangered pedestrians, not, for example, when a cyclist uses the pavement to avoid a dangerous road.

CDF’s coordinator, Rhia Weston, said: “The same discretion that the police are expected to use when issuing fixed penalty notices for pavement cycling should also be applied when issuing fixed penalty notices to cyclists who fail to stop at advanced stop lines.

“Advanced stop lines are there for a good reason: around 70% of cyclists’ collisions occur at or near junctions. They are by no means perfect, but when used properly they have the potential to save lives. We understand that the Department for Transport is planning to update regulation around ASLs to overcome the considerable problems with their access, which does give us some hope that they will also clarify what a cyclist should do if an ASL is illegally occupied by a vehicle.”

55 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

What really gets me about this, is that the police officer obviously ignored the car illegally occupying the ASL box.

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

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
16th October 2013 - 22:14

18 Likes

tiger13 wrote:
farrell wrote:
mikeprytherch wrote:
Bottom line is he broke the law so should get done, its harsh but nobody should be above the law.

mikeprytherch wrote:
now I don't know the law, is it illegal for a car to use this ?

It's good to have your expert analysis on the situation...

Oh and your certainly the font of all knowledge judging by some of the idiotic replies you leave. Rolling On The Floor

You've been a member for a week and you've already noticed a trend of idiocy with my replies? That's slightly stalkerish but I'm going to take it as a compliment anyway. It's nice to be noticed.

And as for being a font of knowledge, I know enough to know you meant you're rather than your. You can have that one for free.

posted by farrell [1612 posts]
17th October 2013 - 9:18

18 Likes

Going to trail on 5th Dec, but they have to make up their mind by 6th Nov if its in the public's interest.

:edit, I see that's in the updated version.

I hope it does go to trial, so that the issue is raised in the national media

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9085 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:33

20 Likes

eurotrash wrote:
..., if I can't see the box and I filter up there and it's full, what am I supposed to do? I can't just stay there beside the traffic. I'll pull in behind if I can, sometimes there will be a bit of space in the "gutter", but if not then I'll position myself ahead of the vehicle and thus outside the box, to ensure I am seen. Booking anyone for doing so in that circumstance is taking the piss.

I would suggest riding on the outside of the lane of the traffic rather than the "gutter" where you are more visible and may be able to see further ahead to note whether an ASL is already blocked. Drivers are more likely to expect to be overtaken on the outside and will check this side more regularly, and you are less at risk of being sideswiped by drivers turning into side roads across your path or pedestrians stepping out.

If the ASL is clear and you have time to get to it before the lights change then enter it from the outside. If you think it is blocked or you don't think you can get to it before the lights change then wait in line. You can usually find a space just in front and on the outside of the driver behind you. Look back at them and make sure you have eye contact with them so they know you are there. Make sure you have set the pedal ready to go. When the lights change set off. Chances are the driver will be a little bit slower in setting off (they'll need to put the vehicle in gear and take the handbrake off) and you can drop into the gap in front of them.

If you don't feel confident doing this then I would suggest sitting in the line of traffic, in the eyeline of the roaduser behind you, again looking back at them - it's amazing what eye contact can do. Nowhere in the Highway Code does it say cyclists must get to the front of the line of traffic Smile If there are only two or three vehicles in front of me at the lights I will stay where I am. The driver behind me can see me and, as mentioned above, he or she will take a little bit longer to get going than me. Once we are through the lights I will check to see if there is somewhere safe for me to allow the driver to pass.

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:36

20 Likes

Was the police car the one in the ASL?

posted by Actium [42 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:40

26 Likes

very unfortunate situation, did what he thought was right I guess ...

posted by Karbon Kev [682 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:42

21 Likes

Ahem...

Entering an ASL when the lights are at red via any other route than the filter (in the gutter) is an offence.

(Sorry and all that - but I have no discretion sir)

posted by lakeland bimbler [15 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:44

19 Likes

'You can have that one for free.'...used whilst in pedant mode - hilarious.

posted by andyp [1205 posts]
17th October 2013 - 10:45

21 Likes

mikeprytherch wrote:
Bottom line is he broke the law so should get done, its harsh but nobody should be above the law.

There can be though mitigating circumstances, what the article doesn't say is what blocked the advance stop box, now I don't know the law, is it illegal for a car to use this ? if so, if it was blocked by a car, was the car driver prosecuted, if it was full of cyclists then I'm afraid it's tough and he should be prosecuted because we simple cannot say... oh well if there is a queue and its full simple ignore the law.

We have to be sensible, we simply cannot make our own laws because "we believe" its our right to not adhere to them for whatever reason.

But saying all of this... the police officer really should have something better to do !

Actually, he may not have broken the law as there are situations where it is entirely permissable to go through a red light. For example, to clear the way for an ambulance. It's not black and white my friend...that's why there is a case to discuss at court. That's why we have courts. Has he broken the law? (altogether now in a Big Brother voice)...you decide!

posted by brackley88 [84 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:08

19 Likes

A few years ago, I cycled up the middle of the road to overtake rather than undertake cars to get to an ASL box. A kind Foxtons estate agent decided she didnt want to wait in the traffic and performed a u-turn without looking/indicating. She managed to drive over my front wheel, bent my frame and sent me flying into the path of oncoming traffic. Fortunately I didn't break anything.

My point is that riding up to traffic junctions during rush hour is inherently dangerous. Car drivers and cyclists are both often in a rush and want to get to the front/get away promptly.

Having been knocked off I would rather be infront of traffic where they can see me, and not tucked inbetween vehicles in blind spots or in places where drivers are not expecting to see you.

As for this case - it's nonsense. Stopping infront of a white line on the road, but still not going over a junction should not be an offence. At almost every set of lights I stop at when cycling or driving, there is someone who has over shot the line for one reason or another. This smells of semantics and over zealous police officers who were out to make an example of a cyclist that day.

posted by NDD [8 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:10

20 Likes

'Stopping infront of a white line on the road, but still not going over a junction should not be an offence'

So why not apply the same to cars? Just get rid of ASLs, right?

posted by andyp [1205 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:14

18 Likes

NDD wrote:
A few years ago, I cycled up the middle of the road to overtake rather than undertake cars to get to an ASL box. A kind Foxtons estate agent decided she didnt want to wait in the traffic and performed a u-turn without looking/indicating. She managed to drive over my front wheel, bent my frame and sent me flying into the path of oncoming traffic. Fortunately I didn't break anything.

My point is that riding up to traffic junctions during rush hour is inherently dangerous. Car drivers and cyclists are both often in a rush and want to get to the front/get away promptly.

Having been knocked off I would rather be infront of traffic where they can see me, and not tucked inbetween vehicles in blind spots or in places where drivers are not expecting to see you.

As for this case - it's nonsense. Stopping infront of a white line on the road, but still not going over a junction should not be an offence. At almost every set of lights I stop at when cycling or driving, there is someone who has over shot the line for one reason or another. This smells of semantics and over zealous police officers who were out to make an example of a cyclist that day.

But how do you get to the front of the traffic to be in that space in the first place? If you sit in the line of traffic then you are visible to the most important person to you on the road, which is the driver immediately behind you. Putting yourself at the front of the traffic may work in the same way but you've still got to get yourself there.

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:20

22 Likes

Car shouldn't have been in the box. But he didn't have to ride to the front. Could have waited behind at a safe place.

I don't like having to do that, but sometimes do, if there's no safe/spare room in the box.

andyspaceman's picture

posted by andyspaceman [236 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:32

18 Likes

brackley88 wrote:

Actually, he may not have broken the law as there are situations where it is entirely permissable to go through a red light. For example, to clear the way for an ambulance. It's not black and white my friend...that's why there is a case to discuss at court. That's why we have courts. Has he broken the law? (altogether now in a Big Brother voice)...you decide!

Thing is, this is actually an offence, you aren't allowed to cross a red light regardless of reason. Yes it is stupid but rules are rules!!!

Maybe the rules are stupid and need looking at...

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1502 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:33

18 Likes

Gkam84 wrote:
He broke the law, no matter if it was for safety or not. As I said in the other article that brought this to everyone's attention.

Filtering can be done when safe, but some cyclists see it as a "I must get to the front" http://road.cc/content/news/94166-londoner-challenge-red-light-fixed-pen...

I don't know what I want the outcome to be, I want to see sense prevail, but I also want him to be made an example of. You cannot just do things because you think its right.

In my eye's, the worst place you can put yourself, is right in front of a queue of traffic. They will all be eager to get past you in most places. So to be, that's dangerous. At traffic lights, I act like a car, take my place in line and play it safe.

And your eyes are wrong. Certainly in London, the safest place to be is in front of a queue because it's the most visible. In traffic, you won't be seen, you get swamped, and you're more at the mercy of larger vehicles where visibility is severley limited.

If it does go to court, I'm pleased you won't be the judge.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:38

17 Likes

brackley88 wrote:
Actually, he may not have broken the law as there are situations where it is entirely permissable to go through a red light. For example, to clear the way for an ambulance.

Wrong - you *are* still commiting on offence by crossing the stop line - but this may be treated according to circumstances:
http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/faq-answer?id=Q699

The ambulance driver may treat the red as a give-way, but they're still liable if involved in an incident by doing so.

edit - ah, missed mrmo's post.

posted by JonD [229 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:45

21 Likes

Must suck for the ticketing officer taking all the heat. You bet they didn't know all the details and simply trusted the colleague

[custom] '12 Cannondale CAAD10 - Rival

badkneestom's picture

posted by badkneestom [129 posts]
17th October 2013 - 11:54

15 Likes

the junction design itself is fundamentally flawed, cyclists are encouraged to approach on the extreme left and can only legally access the advance box from the left.

If turning right as in this case you then need to turn perpendicular to the traffic direction to cycle across 3 lanes and position yourself within the box to turn right. at no time do you know when the lights are about to change and the cars start to move forward.

I would say that if I were turning right at this junction I would want to be in the right hand lane on approach, but since there is then no legal access to the Advance Stop Box there is no point in filtering through the traffic. A cycle lane between Lanes 2 and 3 allowing safe access to the Advance box would possibly help.

posted by EK Spinner [33 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:02

18 Likes

The case may be a 'nonsense', but by bringing it to court hopefully there is going to be some clarity on how you should act in this situation. Or at least, pressure on the government to quickly change the law about behaviour which is to protect oneself even though it is technically illegal, as I understand they are planning to do anyway..

As for cycling up to the right of traffic, it puts you in a tricky position when they set off , plus you cannot enter the ASL that way.. Not to mention the danger from drivers who will not expect you to be there (@NND's experience) and the numptys who will berate you for not using the cycle lane..

posted by 700c [605 posts]
17th October 2013 - 12:10

19 Likes

CotterPin-
"I would suggest riding on the outside of the lane of the traffic rather than the "gutter" where you are more visible and may be able to see further ahead to note whether an ASL is already blocked. "

As Lakeland Bimbler already said (though I wanted to point it out as well!) the flaw in this suggestion is its illegal to enter the ASL other than in the "gutter"! You are suggesting breaking the law, so if you are going to do that you might as well cross the stop lane anyway!

I reckon ASL's and the laws concerning them, are an ill-thought-through mess and need to be either scrapped or reworked.

For starters the fact that cars can drive into them if the light is just about to go red makes it impossible to enforce them. Perhaps the rules should be rejigged so that motorists can't enter them on amber? That would surely mean that any car in them when the light is at red can be assumed to have broken the rules?

The fact you can only legally enter them on the left makes them problematic if you want to turn right, and also creates potential hazards from motorists turning left.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [803 posts]
17th October 2013 - 13:03

19 Likes

FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
CotterPin-
"I would suggest riding on the outside of the lane of the traffic rather than the "gutter" where you are more visible and may be able to see further ahead to note whether an ASL is already blocked. "

As Lakeland Bimbler already said (though I wanted to point it out as well!) the flaw in this suggestion is its illegal to enter the ASL other than in the "gutter"! You are suggesting breaking the law, so if you are going to do that you might as well cross the stop lane anyway!

I reckon ASL's and the laws concerning them, are an ill-thought-through mess and need to be either scrapped or reworked.

For starters the fact that cars can drive into them if the light is just about to go red makes it impossible to enforce them. Perhaps the rules should be rejigged so that motorists can't enter them on amber? That would surely mean that any car in them when the light is at red can be assumed to have broken the rules?

The fact you can only legally enter them on the left makes them problematic if you want to turn right, and also creates potential hazards from motorists turning left.

You're absolutely right and I would love to see a case being brought against a cyclist entering the ASL other than through the approach cycle lane and "gate" on the left hand side, especially in the light of the fact that there are some ASLs which don't have any "gate" and effectively NOBODY should enter them when the lights are red! ASLs are a pointless device, bordering on dangerous, in my opinion.

Having said that, my main concern was with cyclists who feel they need to get to the front of the traffic whether this is in an ASL or beyond the stop line. The cyclist may feel that they have made themselves more visible by doing so but what about the actual act of moving through the traffic to get to the front? Too often I see cyclists who feel they have to move to the front of the queue, unwittingly putting themselves at risk, and when they get there they often continue to put themselves at risk by stopping at the left, out of the eye line of the driver behind them.

So I would personally agree with GKam and just sit in the lane of traffic, making sure that I am in the eye line of the driver behind me. That way I am visible to the most important person to me at the moment. Of course, if there is a long queue of motor traffic then I might choose to filter, usually down the outside, rather than the inside. I would then either stop in the line of traffic, using the technique I mentioned above, or continue into the ASL, even if I am breaking the law!

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
17th October 2013 - 14:14

25 Likes

brackley88 wrote:
[

Actually, he may not have broken the law as there are situations where it is entirely permissable to go through a red light. For example, to clear the way for an ambulance. It's not black and white my friend...that's why there is a case to discuss at court. That's why we have courts. Has he broken the law? (altogether now in a Big Brother voice)...you decide!

You are 100% wrong on this one my friend, there are plenty of cases when drivers have been caught on red light cameras moving up through a red lights to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle, the highway code states that you only move out of the way if its safe to do so, moving through a red light is not safe and drivers have challenged this ruling and failed.

posted by mikeprytherch [219 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:01

18 Likes

CotterPin wrote:

So I would personally agree with GKam and just sit in the lane of traffic, making sure that I am in the eye line of the driver behind me. That way I am visible to the most important person to me at the moment. Of course, if there is a long queue of motor traffic then I might choose to filter, usually down the outside, rather than the inside. I would then either stop in the line of traffic, using the technique I mentioned above, or continue into the ASL, even if I am breaking the law!

Two reasons why I filter:

I get quite irritated at being hugely delayed because of all the drivers who chose to drive a ridiculously oversized vehicle (and cars do seem to be getting bigger and bigger!) thus clogging up the road ahead of me. Not helped by the frequency with which one reads hypocritical and illogical complaints by motorists at cyclists 'causing congestion'.

And, also, if I wait in the queue what happens repeatedly is the drivers in front of me seem to fall asleep (or start texting) and so take an age to start moving once the lights change. But of course I have less acceleration than they do once the queue actually does start to move. So almost invariably the driver just in front of me will get to the junction just in time to whizz across on amber (or even after the light has gone red) while I'll end up having to stop and wait for the _next_ phase, as unlike drivers I don't jump reds (partly because its riskier for a cyclist to do so). (And while I'm waiting too often a whacking great lorry will draw up beside me!)

But as I say, much of the time I just give up, dismount, and walk along the pavement, as that is often quicker than waiting for the traffic to move (and safer than filtering).

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [803 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:04

19 Likes

mrmo wrote:
Noelieboy wrote:

It would be interesting to see the junction that he was caught at, surely he could've just waited behind the 1st car in the queue & moved off when everyone else did...???

Knowing no facts makes this hard, but, in my experience, the second car will be close behind the first, the third likewise. You either sit at the back of the queue, so what is the point of the ASL? or you go to the front and try and find somewhere safe? If you used the filter to go to the ASL where do you go????

As finding a gap between two cars is unlikely, you could sit beside the car, but that imo is the least safe option, and if your beside a truck you may as well be holding a gun to your head!

That leaves what he did, move to the front, cross the ASL and place yourself in a visable position. Yes your breaking the law, but you won't get hit by a car turning across you.

What is the law regarding cars crossing the Solid white line of the cycle lane? surely this would've come into play for this instance.

I would be tempted to knock on the police car & ask for their advice in this situation. Could be quite interesting especially if they are in queue waiting as well.

Noelieboy's picture

posted by Noelieboy [92 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:06

18 Likes

Oh and while I'm in full 'pedant' mode:

"Case may set precedent for treatment of riders breaking law to protect themselves"

If I remember my law studies correctly magistrates can't establish precedent so unless this ends up in the crown court it is unlikely to have any bearing on the future .

posted by lakeland bimbler [15 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:08

17 Likes

almost every vehicle I see stopped in an advance stop line box I see roll slowly in to it... very rare to see see a vehicle stop in one legitamtely, invariably if they're across they're own line they'll gun it rather than stop.

posted by Al__S [710 posts]
17th October 2013 - 15:24

18 Likes

farrell wrote:
tiger13 wrote:
farrell wrote:
mikeprytherch wrote:
Bottom line is he broke the law so should get done, its harsh but nobody should be above the law.

mikeprytherch wrote:
now I don't know the law, is it illegal for a car to use this ?

It's good to have your expert analysis on the situation...

Oh and your certainly the font of all knowledge judging by some of the idiotic replies you leave. Rolling On The Floor

You've been a member for a week and you've already noticed a trend of idiocy with my replies? That's slightly stalkerish but I'm going to take it as a compliment anyway. It's nice to be noticed.

And as for being a font of knowledge, I know enough to know you meant you're rather than your. You can have that one for free.

I may have been a member for only a week but i have read comments on various articles on the forum for quite some time and decided to join. I find most of your comments insulting, sarcastic and sometimes downright rude. As for stalking you have obviously been hunting through my personal information to find out i have only been a member for a week so who may i ask is stalking who.

Please feel free to reply with another crude attempt at humour rather than comment on the actual article. Smile

tiger13's picture

posted by tiger13 [3 posts]
17th October 2013 - 18:23

15 Likes

tiger13 wrote:
I may have been a member for only a week but i have read comments on various articles on the forum for quite some time and decided to join. I find most of your comments insulting, sarcastic and sometimes downright rude. As for stalking you have obviously been hunting through my personal information to find out i have only been a member for a week so who may i ask is stalking who.

Please feel free to reply with another crude attempt at humour rather than comment on the actual article. Smile

Hunting through your personal information? Hardly, I clicked on your name and got your profile page. It wasn't even deliberate, I just clicked that instead of quote or reply.

A lot of what I say isn't really intended to be all that serious, but to paraphrase Mr Hicks I don't mean to sound insulting, sarcastic or downright rude, but I am, so it does.

You are also correct, I haven't commented on the actual article on this thread, but in case you haven't noticed, neither have you, you've only commented on me. As I mentioned earlier, it's nice to be noticed...

posted by farrell [1612 posts]
17th October 2013 - 21:33

18 Likes

lakeland bimbler wrote:

If I remember my law studies correctly magistrates can't establish precedent so unless this ends up in the crown court it is unlikely to have any bearing on the future

Correct. Even in the Crown Court, it isn't necessarily binding either.

posted by dp24 [196 posts]
18th October 2013 - 10:49

18 Likes

update: the case has been dropped, and Alan has been cleared:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/02/case-against-london-c...

posted by clayfit [40 posts]
2nd December 2013 - 13:49

9 Likes