Home
Riding without lights? Look out for PCSOs.

If you’re silly enough to ride at night without lights, it’s not just regular police you’ll have to look out for (not that you’ll be able to see them, of course): under a bill currently before Parliament, Police Community Support Officers are to get the power to stop unlit cyclists too.

Part 11 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill would give PCSOs the power to issue fixed penalty notices to cyclists riding without lights. In fact, since the bill refers to cyclists “contravening or failing to comply with a construction or use requirement about lighting equipment or reflectors for cycles” you might even get nabbed for having taken off your pedal reflectors.

Dr Julian Huppert MP, the chair of the All-party Parliamentary Committee for Cycling spoke in support of this clause of the bill, saying that law-breaking cyclists were “one of the banes of my life.”

Dr Huppert said: “It is right to extend powers to PCSOs, allowing them to issue fixed penalty notices to cyclists riding without lights. I am a huge champion of cycling. I was delighted when the House passed a motion to get Britain cycling.

“One of the banes of my life in that context is cyclists who do not obey the rules of the road. Anything that we can do to get people to cycle safely and legally will make it easier for those of us who want to extend facilities for cyclists.

“There are sensible ways forward. In Cambridge we have been using a “lights instead of tickets” campaign to make sure that people get their lights. I welcome the new clause as a sensible step forward.”

The powers of PCSOs to issue fixed penalty notices are limited to minor offences such as pavement cycling, littering and dog fouling. They have no powers to deal with similar but far more dangerous motoring offences such as driving on the pavement. According to DfT figures, 27 pedestrians were killed on pavements in 2012. We can find no reports of pedestrian fatalities involving pavement cyclists in 2012.

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.

53 comments

Avatar
cat1commuter [1421 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Would be great if they could ticket cars parked in mandatory cycle lanes. (But then the regular police don't bother doing that.)

Avatar
therealsmallboy [166 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I'm not sure about this. I'm sure they're bringing the law in as the MP says in order to standardise cycling and make it easier for them to push through pro-cycling initiatives. Get rid of the pavement-riding, RLJing idiots. And fair enough.

All it's going to take is a trigger-happy PCSO to start pulling people without pedal reflectors though.

I commute by bike every day and am lit up like a tree. Hi-viz, reflective silver stripes, two lights on the front (one flashing), two on the rear (both flashing) and one on my helmet. I look a bit like a motorbike. Making a pro-active effort to be seen, in order to protect myself. That's all I'm really bothered about- not getting squashed. But my pedals don't have reflectors.

That makes me a perfect target for an idiot right? Like the 'you're all over the road' comments that me and my chain gang received from a Derbyshire Police officer for riding in a ten long, two wide training group.

I'm all for cutting the wheat from the chaff so that I'm not lumped in with the 'knobhead on the bike' category, but they do need to make a change to the law so that cyclists who have clearly made an effort to be visible are left well alone. Pedal reflectors or not.

Avatar
usedtobefaster [169 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Would be great if they could ticket cars parked in mandatory cycle lanes. (But then the regular police don't bother doing that.)

That's because they're "not a banes of my life" !!

I was obviously under the wrong understanding that MP's were doing the job for the benefit of the people that elected them and not for the individual !!!

I agree with the objective of the bill but I can't see how they're going to enforce it.

Avatar
Leodis [403 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I can just picture it, a power crazy PCSO stopping bikes to check "the lighting" and issuing FPN on non-conforming reflective pedals. Its bad enough they issue fines for cycling on pavements when there is no danger posed to peds and they are using said path for safety.

Still no talk in Parliament about law changes to PROTECT cyclists and changes to sentences given out to drivers.

Avatar
Carl [136 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I support this 100%, but hope they'd be flexible about my SPDs, which don't have reflectors. Like therealsmallboy I've got two front and two rear lights.

Won't be difficult to dish out fines in London, given the suicidal Sids who ride around without lights.

Avatar
Karbon Kev [688 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

This is good surely. If you ride in the dark, show those lights!

Avatar
farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Is it just PCSOs that can issue tickets?

Or are there any other fancy dress costumes you can wear to issue them?

Avatar
andyp [1444 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

'This is good surely. If you ride in the dark, show those lights!'

Precisely. What's not to like about this?

Avatar
therevokid [932 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

wonder if this will apply to rear reflectors too ???
my chromoplastics have a reflector, the Blumels do not !

Avatar
stewlax [2 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

This is good but only if it is applied correct. Same with any road/traffic law

Avatar
Bikebikebike [205 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Do they have the power to order you to stop? I thought not, so can't you just ride off?

Avatar
spatuluk [27 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Some more info on the reflector side of things would be nice.

I literally light up like a Christmas tree (red fairy lights on my bag, two rear flashers, 2 front lights), but I don't have any reflectors at all.

Avatar
700c [860 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Yeah enforcement of cyclists riding without lights is a good idea in principle. But why single it out? Because it's the 'bane of this particular MP's life'?!

Why not get them to ticket cars in bike lanes or ASL'a, as others have suggested? After all it's about cyclists safety, right?

Or is it because we are an easy target?

Avatar
mrmo [2069 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

as i understand it a bike bough before 1985 is exempt from pedal reflectors, My road er...pedal powered vehicle was a) never bought, warranty replacement, b) a frame, i believe that the duty charged on frames and bicycles is different so someone has already decided that a bike and a frame aren't quite the same thing.

Do we really think the PCSOs are going to be able to distinguish between the many stupid details of the bike lighting regs?

Remember also that most front bike lights aren't actually legal, they need to be stamped BS or euro equivalent, not many are these days.

http://www.ctc.org.uk/cyclists-library/regulations/lighting-regulations

Avatar
jollygoodvelo [1400 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Support the idea in principle: the number of times I see 'bike ninjas' around at this time or year especially is ridiculous.

However, as above - PCSOs can't compel you to stop as far as I know; they can ask, but you can politely decline. Or have they been given power of arrest without me noticing?

edit: PCSOs do not have a power of arrest but they can require a suspect to remain with then until a police officers arrives. Pffff, good luck.

Avatar
notfastenough [3673 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Great move, except for the reflectors thingy. They take up real estate on the bike that can be better used by lights.

My shoes are reflective at the back, my rucksack cover is, I've got good lights, but no reflectors on the bike. I could fit them to the bars/seatpost, but that's where my lights are.

Oh, and will my speedplays become illegal?

Avatar
Pauldmorgan [223 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The pedal reflectors requirement does seem odd: motorcyclists don't have to have reflective foot pegs... Maybe a throwback to very poor bike lights? LEDs are now very bright: I got seriously abused by a motorcyclist the other night because my (bog standard cateye) rear light was "too bright". Tough!

The law / highway code needs to be changed to reflect (do you see what I did there?) the reality of rider and bike as one "system".

e.g. if there are no pedal reflectors then reflective bands or reflectors on shoes should be allowable substitutions. Likewise for front and rear reflectors vs a gilet with loads of reflective patches and also helmet mounted lights.

The BS maybe needs updating to include Scotchlite etc garments and accessories as appropriate substitutions.

My 500 lumens front light should trump a daft plastic reflector.

Avatar
jarredscycling [456 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

A PCSO sounds a bit like a jumped up meter attendant. Why would they be allowed to ticket cyclists for certain offenses but not vehicles? The whole idea of a PCSO sounds silly

Avatar
Brooess [85 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Whilst riding in low light or darkness without lights and reflective clothing is simply stupid, is there any evidence this has led to significant death or injury?

I'd rather Parliament and the Police spent their time and resources dealing with the daily harassment and abuse cyclists receive - and start getting proper penalties when cyclists are killed and seriously injured - surely that's a bigger issue?

Avatar
toetruck [16 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The last time I checked (although that was a few years ago now) the law stated quite clearly that a rear-facing red light that's affixed to the bicycle shall be 'static' i.e. 'not flashing'. I was informed by a police officer that you could make use of dozens of flashing red lights about your person if you so desire, but a rear light affixed to your bike frame mustn't flash. I don't know if this is still correct, or how the law stands on flashing front lights, but I suppose that 'incorrect' lighting might be a more visible and obvious way than pedal reflectors for us to be knobbled by a potential jobsworth.

Avatar
freespirit1 [224 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Since approx 2009 all new motorcycles have to have a standardised mounting for the rear number plate, this also includes a rear reflector.

They also shovelled under the radar the requirement for lights to be on at all times.

Avatar
mrmo [2069 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
toetruck wrote:

The last time I checked (although that was a few years ago now) the law stated quite clearly that a rear-facing red light that's affixed to the bicycle shall be 'static' i.e. 'not flashing'.

If you read the article i quoted above, basically a light that only flashed is legal, but a light that can be used non-flashing must be BS standard (or equivalent). As almost all lights currently for sale are non-bs ( you have to be certified not just fit the criteria) and have both flashing and static modes.

Simple answer your lights are probably illegal, but not because they flash.

Avatar
classicuk [1 post] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have heard that the law has changed, you can have a flashing rear light, but are advised to have a static one as well.
I have two rear static ones, one each side of the wheel, a flashing one under the saddle and a flashing one on my helmet. I also have a fluorescent band with 4 flashing LEDs as a cycle clip on my calf and I still got forced into the kerb. On my cycle to work/home there is only 250 metres of cycle path in 2 miles.

Avatar
JonD [397 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Brooess wrote:

Whilst riding in low light or darkness without lights and reflective clothing is simply stupid, is there any evidence this has led to significant death or injury?

Aha ! - found it:
http://road.cc/content/news/12065-dft-research-reckless-riding-accounts-...

"Meanwhile, according to police reports studied as part of the research, wearing dark clothing at night was thought to be a possible cause of just 2.5% of accidents resulting in serious injury to the cyclist, with not using lights or jumping red lights each blamed in 2% of cases"

- ie the total is ~6.5% (presumably those with dark clothing had lights ?)

Avatar
Cantab [93 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
usedtobefaster wrote:

Would be great if they could ticket cars parked in mandatory cycle lanes. (But then the regular police don't bother doing that.)

That's because they're "not a banes of my life" !!

I was obviously under the wrong understanding that MP's were doing the job for the benefit of the people that elected them and not for the individual !!!

I agree with the objective of the bill but I can't see how they're going to enforce it.

Julian Huppert is not perfect but he's most certainly one of the best friends cyclists have in parliament. When he describes unlit cyclists as a bane of his life, it is probably because every time cycle safety or infrastructure comes up for debate some prat brings up the RLJs and unlit cyclists that they see 'all the time.' It may be borderline victim blaming but it certainly undermines arguments in our favour; anything that reduces that is to our benefit. I'd quite like to see the power to issue fixed penalty notices for cars in ASLs be given to PCSOs at the same time though!

Avatar
Ush [669 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Cantab wrote:

it is probably because every time cycle safety or infrastructure comes up for debate some prat brings up the RLJs and unlit cyclists that they see 'all the time.' It may be borderline victim blaming but it certainly undermines arguments in our favour; anything that reduces that is to our benefit

I see where you're coming from on this, but I suspect that even if all cyclists were to magically use lights the relentless hostility to us would just be shifted to some other issue.

To me, this is not just a waste of effort which provides busy-bodies with another set of rules to catch out someone whose batteries died on the way home, but it's a legitimitation of the general hostility by someone that's supposed to be an advocate for cyclists.

Cantab wrote:

. I'd quite like to see the power to issue fixed penalty notices for cars in ASLs be given to PCSOs at the same time though!

It's exactly this which is indicative of the barely suppressed hostility to cyclists in this bill and why Huppert should be opposing it.

(On a personal level I'd oppose even that just because I think there are too many laws enforced by too many people with too many video cameras... but that's ancillary to the main issue.)

Avatar
Ush [669 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
therealsmallboy wrote:

they do need to make a change to the law so that cyclists who have clearly made an effort to be visible are left well alone. Pedal reflectors or not.

There you go, ruining a nice debate with common sense again.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... [1178 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

cat1commuter - "Would be great if they could ticket cars parked in mandatory cycle lanes. (But then the regular police don't bother doing that.)"

Can anyone possibly clarify for me what the law actually is regarding mandatory cycle lanes? Because I see no indication that those white lines mean anything at all.

For example, there's one in Woolwich, just east of the Thames barrier, on a major cycle route, which when I used to go there was _always_ blocked by at least one parked car, sometimes up to six of them. There's one spot where a car is always parked (outside an off-licence I think). Never seen there NOT be a car parked there. Nothing is ever done about it, and I'm not even sure what the law actually is if there's no yellow line.

Or a few weeks ago I saw a driver pull up and park in a (different) mandatory cycle lane to pop into a shop, and then a policeman walked over towards it. "Ah, finally" I thought "he's going to tell them to move on". But no, the cop just walked right past it and went and instead went and confiscated some cans from some harmless street drinkers (its a no-public-drinking zone). Then he walked back past the illegally(?) parked vehicle and accosted some other pedestrian about something. He ignored the car and the driver eventually came out and drove off again.

Likewise the police never seem to pay any attention at all to pavement parking.

Anyway - having lights on bikes after dark is one of the very few areas where I sympathise with motorists and think they have a valid point. As far as I can see the current law is totally unenforced, the _majority_ of cyclists I see after dark have no lights.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... [1178 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Oh, and the other reason for thinking cyclists _should_ be obliged to have lights after dark is that it affects pedestrians also. Risking your own life with regard to cars is one thing, but pedestrians have the absolute right to be able to see you coming.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... [1178 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

A number of times I've seen cyclists with white lights on the back. Perhaps they were planning on going in for this backwards-cycling speed-record thing?

Pages