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

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.”

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.

56 comments

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Noelieboy [88 posts] 4 years ago
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What an absolute joke, the police were obviously having a slow day or p!ssed off at something previous to them stopping Alex, I feel very sorry for him.
Nearly every ride I go on I see cars parked in the stop box, sometimes even the police themselves, it's an impossible law to uphold.
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...???

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mrmo [2096 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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Bigfoz [143 posts] 4 years ago
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Did they book the motorist who was in the ASL as well?

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Sudor [189 posts] 4 years ago
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Good luck

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notfastenough [3728 posts] 4 years ago
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I have to admit to doing this regularly, just to give myself a bit of space between me and the first car in the queue.

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 4 years ago
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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 !

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farrell [1946 posts] 4 years ago
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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...

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Jimbonic [136 posts] 4 years ago
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mikeprytherch wrote:

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

It seems to suggest "yes" in the article ("...if an ASL is illegally occupied by a vehicle.")

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Old Man Miller [11 posts] 4 years ago
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I suspect this may be an 'absolute offence' - if the law is broken it doesn't matter if there was no intention or good reason for doing so - it is broken. It may be that the magistrates have no option but to find this poor chap guilty. Without knowing the facts it's difficult to comment accurately although he may be spared if once committed he had no option perhaps. Given the budget cuts you would have thought the officers concerned may have had better things to do - particularly as force numbers are being cut and front line policing is being grossly affected (don't let the govt pull the wool over your eyes!). Old Man

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Carl [142 posts] 4 years ago
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He went over the line and stopped. The police need to focus on the RLJers who blithely cycle up to a red light, think 'the law doesn't apply to me' and carry on across. They're the arrogant pricks who piss everyone off - motorists, law-abiding cyclists and pedestrians alike.

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skivandal [11 posts] 4 years ago
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Sounds unlucky that these two fine officers were not otherwise occupied making handguns appear or colluding to stitch up members of the public. Oh wait no that is actually what they were doing.

In all seriousness I believe that kind hearted officers have even sought prosecutions against vehicle drivers who move through a red light to enable an emergency service vehicle to proceed.

Anyway for these two officers hope the both wrote up the incidence, that would be two cycle lawlessness offence in the books, and maybe they can get together done the old Masonic hall and make sure that Alex called them some pretty unpleasant names too.

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thereverent [450 posts] 4 years ago
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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 !

From what I have read about the incident:
The car driver was illegally blocking the ASL but didn't get a ticket.
The cyclist moved in front of the ASL (in the right tuen lane) to be in a safer position rather then being in the the second lane which was going straight on.

The junction of Putney Bridge and New Kings Road is difficult to turn right on anyway. TfL have tried to squeeze three lanes on and the traffic is always in a rush to get through the lights.
Here is the junction: https://www.google.co.uk/maps?q=Putney+bridge&hl=en&ll=51.469127,-0.2022...

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FluffyKittenofT... [1882 posts] 4 years ago
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Old Man Miller wrote:

I suspect this may be an 'absolute offence' - if the law is broken it doesn't matter if there was no intention or good reason for doing so - it is broken. It may be that the magistrates have no option but to find this poor chap guilty. Without knowing the facts it's difficult to comment accurately although he may be spared if once committed he had no option perhaps. Given the budget cuts you would have thought the officers concerned may have had better things to do - particularly as force numbers are being cut and front line policing is being grossly affected (don't let the govt pull the wool over your eyes!). Old Man

I find it hard to believe these kinds of offences can be 'absolute' - because if that were the case cops would constantly be fining themselves for entering ASLs when the lights were red. I've witnessed cop vehicles do that right in front of me, and it seems the cops exercise 'discretion' when it comes to their own behaviour, so clearly they _can_ chose to ignore it and it therefore can't be an 'absolute offence'/

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02curtisb [63 posts] 4 years ago
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Its always hard to judge without knowing all the details. Perhaps there was a reason for the car being in the ASL? Its my understanding that if the lights change as a car is in the ASL they are allowed/advised to use the ASL rather than, but thats just one of many possibilities.

What would be nice is a bit of advice from all the official sides (police and CDF) on how to approach ASL's. For instance, what to do if you know there is one but cannot see to the front of the queue? Or when to and when not to filter through traffic to get to an ASL.

There are so many similar stories at the moment but "we" (all road users) dont seem to actually get anything from them, ide rather have some good safety advice first and worry about the fine print later, when im safe!

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Old Man Miller [11 posts] 4 years ago
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A lot of traffic offences are 'absolute' in that they don't require any intent. If you've no insurance, you've no insurance. Even if you thought you did have! Just because some officers do the same doesn't affect the law - it just means they're breaking it! Guess that's why traffic officers have such a fine reputation when they fine you for speeding one minute and fly past you unlawfully the next.

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tiger13 [3 posts] 4 years ago
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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.  24

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Metjas [362 posts] 4 years ago
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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 !

I find it hard to believe I'm reading this from a fellow cyclist. Thanks a bunch, I know I'll be able to count on you when it matters.

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thx1138 [67 posts] 4 years ago
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Looks like a date of 5th Dec has been set for the trial - http://www.ctc.org.uk/news/trial-date-set-for-cyclists-fixed-penalty-not...

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mrmo [2096 posts] 4 years ago
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The talk of absolute offences, it is illegal to ride on the pavement, but if you read the Home office guidance no one should be prosecuted unless they are acting in a way that threatens others safety.

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Gkam84 [9111 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 4 years ago
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it costs 2,000 pounds to make an appeal of a ticket???

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eurotrash [88 posts] 4 years ago
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So anyway, a vehicle in the advanced stop box is not "illegal", as the vehicle might have already been there when the lights changed, and that's perfectly legitimate. What they're not allowed to do is enter when the light's already red. So we don't know the motorist did anything wrong.

And yeah I do this sometimes, 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.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1882 posts] 4 years ago
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"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."

Hmmm. Maybe. Have to say I often resort to dismounting and walking on the pavement and crossing as a pedestrian when the ASL is clogged up (or when I decide a junction just looks too nasty)

But do you have the acceleration required to 'act like a car' when the lights change? Because you _aren't_ a car, which is kind of the basic problem here.

And surely there are _still_ going to be cars behind you eager to get past you, so are you really that much better off doing it your way? Especially as the lights will likely change back to red just as you finally get to the front so you'll end up in the very position you said was 'the worst place to put yourself'.

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Overweightrider [6 posts] 4 years ago
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This case is ridiculous. If a car stopped illegally in the ASL, then the driver should have been given a ticket instead of the cyclist who try to find somewhere safe to stop. Lets hope someone recorded the incident on video.

Also, doesn't the ASL basically marked out the blind spot of a HGV. If I get a HGV stopping behind me at the light, I'd want to move forward out of the ASL and out of the danger zone. If that is illegal, then the law needs changing

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Northernbike [229 posts] 4 years ago
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'At traffic lights, I act like a car, take my place in line and play it safe'

If you acted like the car in this case then wouldn't you use the bike ASL box?

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LondonCalling [151 posts] 4 years ago
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What really gets me about this, is that the police officer obviously ignored the car illegally occupying the ASL box.

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farrell [1946 posts] 4 years ago
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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.  24

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.

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Gkam84 [9111 posts] 4 years ago
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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

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CotterPin [62 posts] 4 years ago
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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  1 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.

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Actium [38 posts] 4 years ago
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Was the police car the one in the ASL?

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