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Do cyclists have to stick to the speed limit?

Do you have to adhere to speed limits when cycling? Can you be fined? Here's everything you need to know

You might have seen the topic of cyclists and speed limits is back in the news this week. That's after a group ride in Dartmoor was stopped by the police for descending at 39mph into a village with a 30mph speed limit. But what does the law say about speed limits for cyclists? Can you be fined? Do you have to stick to them?

Devon and Cornwall's Roads Policing Team explained to road.cc how they "offered appropriate words of advice" to the cyclists they saw riding above the 30mph limit, but crucially, "legislation does not require cyclists to adhere to the speed limit". That's the crux of the matter — cyclists do not share the same legal obligation as motorists to stick to speed limits in the United Kingdom.

> Police stop cyclists riding at 39mph in 30mph zone despite speed limits not applying to bicycle riders

Rule 124 of the Highway Code outlines a table for vehicles' maximum legal speed on different roads, from built-up areas through to motorways, but does not mention cyclists. Furthermore, while the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act outlines the law regarding speed limits, again cyclists are not mentioned.

Now-retired traffic police officer and recent road.cc Podcast guest Mark Hodson, who pioneered close pass operations with West Midlands Police, told us: "It's common knowledge that speed limits only apply to motor vehicles so the offence of 'excess speed' where a cyclist is concerned simply can't happen.

"You could commit the offences of 'cycling without due care' or 'wanton and furious cycling' but you would have to hit a high threshold of possible endangerment that would normally only occur in shared spaces where other vulnerable road users are present.

30mph sign (licensed CC BY 2.0 on Flickr by Michael Coghlan)

"It really does baffle me as someone who has spent the best years of my life trying to reduce road danger and demand at source as to why some people, and officers, get so entangled in cyclist behaviours. 

"After all, evidentially it's obvious that to do so is a waste of time and resources, and anyone with even a bit of intelligence realises that the inherent sense of vulnerability that accompanies cycling prevents many of the endangering behaviours we see exhibited by drivers.

"If they are exhibited by cyclists, the relative amounts of kinetic energy involved and the tiny impact they currently induce on society means that to even concern oneself with them in a climate of increasing driver-induced demand and reduced resources is simply somewhere between incompetent and foolish."

But what about bylaws?

The only exception is where a local bylaw has been enforced. These will be away from public roads, often in areas such as parks or seafront promenades.

For example, Hampstead Heath in north west London has a bylaw in place stating that: "No person shall in any open space drive any vehicle, bicycle or tricycle or ride any animal at a rate exceeding twelve miles an hour or so as to endanger the public."

Breaching a bylaw can result in an on-the-spot fine.

Where do cyclists have to adhere to speed limits?

While the United Kingdom shares its stance that speed limits do not apply to cyclists with one of the world's most cycling-friendly nations, the Netherlands, there are plenty of destinations around the world where you will be expected to stick to the same speed limit that motorists are obliged to follow, such as in Spain.

In Australia and the United States too cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motorists, although exact details and fines may vary depending on the state.

In Queensland, for example, cyclists can be fined A$287 (£146) for exceeding the speed limit by 11km/h.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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112 comments

Avatar
quiff | 8 months ago
1 like

What about minimum speed signs? Do cyclists have to comply with them? Or do they only exist in places that cycling is prohibited?

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OnYerBike replied to quiff | 8 months ago
1 like

As far as I can tell from snooping around the legislation, yes in theory a minimum speed limit sign could apply to cyclists, but in practice I'm not aware of any locations where one is in force and cycling is permitted. Obligatory note that I'm no lawyer and this is just my interpretation from what I have read in a spare few minutes. 

Schedule 1 of the TSRGD 2016 defines "Speed Limits" (including minimums) and sets out the relevant legislation that may be used to impose a speed limit. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/362/made

The most commonly used orders to set speed limits are those made under Part IV of the RTRA 1984 - i.e. the ones referred to in this article, which only apply to motor vehicles. Notably, however, those Sections only make reference to prohibtions on exceeding a speed limit - i.e. setting a maximum speed limit. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/part/VI

However, Schedule 1 of the TSRGD 2016 also states that speed limits (as defined) can made by orders under S17 of the RTRA 1984 - Traffic regulation on Special Roads. S17 allows pretty broad scope of power to "regulate the manner in which and the conditions subject to which special roads may be used by traffic". I presume the power to set a minimum speed limit normally falls under this power (note that "traffic" includes all vehicles, motorised or otherwise, and pedestrians). It is also made explicit (by virtue of being exercisable by the Scottish/Welsh Ministers rather than other Authorities in Scotland/Wales) than this does include "provision for regulating the speed of vehicles on special roads" -  note that this specifies "vehicles" and not just "motor vehicles", and also "regulating the speed" which could include a minimum. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/section/17  

Looking at how Special Roads are used, it would appear unlikely that any Authority would go through the hassle of creating a Special Road and both permitting cyclists and also setting a minimum speed limit. Most Special Roads are motorways, dual carriageways, bridges/tunnels etc., from which cyclists are prohibited See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_road But as far as I can tell, the legislation wouldn't preclude this possibility, and if it were to happen then the minimum speed limit would apply to cyclists too. 

Finally, Schedule 1 of the TSRGD 2016 also states there is the option for speed limits to be made by a local Act, which presumably could, in theory, apply minimum speed limits to cyclists. Again, seems unlikely that this would actually happen though. 

Avatar
chrisonabike | 8 months ago
2 likes

All this talk of Speedos on a warm day is making me think of going for a dip.

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GMBasix replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
3 likes

And speedos for pedestrians

(they're the thin end of the wedgie)

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quiff replied to GMBasix | 8 months ago
2 likes

GMBasix wrote:

And speedos for pedestrians

(they're the thin end of the wedgie)

Ouch

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David9694 replied to quiff | 8 months ago
1 like

Just be glad he doesn't show "Everton" off all the time

Man arrested for cycling naked along the Wales Coast Path

Naturist Stuart Gilmour, 44, was wearing nothing but a pair of trainers and said his lifestyle is about body positivity and has "nothing to do with sexuality".

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/man-arrested-cycling-naked...

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chrisonabike replied to David9694 | 8 months ago
1 like

David9694 wrote:

Naturist Stuart Gilmour, 44, was wearing nothing but a pair of trainers and said his lifestyle is about body positivity and has "nothing to do with sexuality".

Surely the correct response is "well I can clearly see you're nuts"?

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David9694 replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
1 like

All I know is "Naturism appears to be on the rise in north Wales, according to Stuart, with a new group having just been formed in Flintshire, which is why he was recently in the region. He added his recent arrest has not put him off and he will be returning to North Wales in the coming weeks for another outing."

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chrisonabike replied to David9694 | 8 months ago
1 like

David9694 wrote:

All I know is "Naturism appears to be on the rise in north Wales, according to Stuart, with a new group having just been formed in Flintshire, which is why he was recently in the region. He added his recent arrest has not put him off and he will be returning to North Wales in the coming weeks for another outing."

Seems they found a good source here - country boy reveals all!

Perhaps it's Flintshire Lad?

I guess we'll be seeing more of the naturists in the future, then?

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David9694 replied to chrisonabike | 8 months ago
2 likes

and for old times' sake: "a police spokesman told us 'we do get some naked or naturist cyclists in the summer months, but it tends to drop off in the winter' "

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Rich_cb | 8 months ago
4 likes

Driving at under he speed limit does not automatically render your driving safe.

There was a recent case where a driver was found to be driving at an unsafe speed despite being under the speed limit on a 30 road.

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/bmw-lawyers-buckinghamshire-oxford...

As cyclists we might not be subject to the speed limit but should an accident occur and you could be shown to have been travelling far in excess of the posted vehicular limit then you'd be in a difficult spot legally.

If there's a reasonable likelihood of pedestrians on the road, as other posters have stated, then 39mph is far too fast IMO, even more so in a group.

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David9694 replied to Rich_cb | 8 months ago
2 likes

Rich_cb wrote:

Driving at under he speed limit does not automatically render your driving safe. There was a recent case where a driver was found to be driving at an unsafe speed despite being under the speed limit on a 30 road. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/bmw-lawyers-buckinghamshire-oxford...

As cyclists we might not be subject to the speed limit but should an accident occur and you could be shown to have been travelling far in excess of the posted vehicular limit then you'd be in a difficult spot legally. If there's a reasonable likelihood of pedestrians on the road, as other posters have stated, then 39mph is far too fast IMO, even more so in a group.

I get that in the event of an accident, the prosecutor is going to highlight that a cyclist was clocked going over the posted speed limit - the subtleties legally will be lost at that moment. 

Speed limits aren't just about safety - they can also be to protect residents' amenities more broadly, so cycling doesn't have any impact there - unless it's certain cyclist hating villages who think that a the occasional noisome peloton is worthy of making a fuss about.

 

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grOg | 8 months ago
2 likes

'In Australia ....cyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motorists, although exact details and fines may vary depending on the state.

In Queensland, for example, cyclists can be fined A$287 (£146) for exceeding the speed limit by 11km/h.'

Cyclists in most states in Australia are not required to adhere to speed limits set for motor vehicles and the example given for Queensland would not be enforceable, as bicycles are not required to be equipped with a speedometer, in other words, the offence is laughable and there would be few Queensland cops dumb enough to give a speeding ticket to a cyclist; that said, I believe that electric bicycles and electric personal mobility devices should be required to have speedometers and have rules specific to them, differentiating them from pedal only bicycles.

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titaniumbloke | 8 months ago
9 likes

The median age in the village in question is 52, and 40% of the inhabitants are over 60. I know this because I live there. Many of them cross that road on foot, bicycle, horseback or by car at all hours. Doing 39 on a bike down it is asking for trouble irrespective of what the law says.

It's a horrible road to cycle on anyway, a single carriage way carrying all North Devon to Plymouth traffic including lorries. If they had looked at a map they could have looped off at Sourton or Lydford and had a much nicer ride.

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manonbike replied to titaniumbloke | 8 months ago
0 likes

There's also a distinction to be made between the danger posed by 1 cyclist and the danger posed by 10 or 20. Some old dear tottering across the road isn't going to expect 800kg of cyclists to be travelling at that speed, virtually silent, in a 30 limit. Only those at the front have any kind of view, so I'm not sure the rest could stop if granny stepped out. I'm sure many here have suffered "brown chamois" moments in the middle of the pack after the lead bikes swerve or slam on! I'd like to see some stats on how quickly a peleton can do an emergency stop!?

I think the police did the right thing here. A proportionate response.

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hawkinspeter replied to manonbike | 8 months ago
1 like

manonbike wrote:

There's also a distinction to be made between the danger posed by 1 cyclist and the danger posed by 10 or 20. Some old dear tottering across the road isn't going to expect 800kg of cyclists to be travelling at that speed, virtually silent, in a 30 limit. Only those at the front have any kind of view, so I'm not sure the rest could stop if granny stepped out. I'm sure many here have suffered "brown chamois" moments in the middle of the pack after the lead bikes swerve or slam on! I'd like to see some stats on how quickly a peleton can do an emergency stop!? I think the police did the right thing here. A proportionate response.

Are there any instances where a peloton crashed into someone (not during a race)?

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hawkinspeter replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
1 like

hawkinspeter wrote:

Are there any instances where a peloton crashed into someone (not during a race)?

I just had a quick search and the only thing I could find was deaths caused by Peloton treadmills.

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Aberdeencyclist replied to hawkinspeter | 4 months ago
0 likes

Well I've been in a training peleton that crashed in to a parked car ( not all of us but a few) , so just luck no human around . Anyhoo my alternative thought is - when arriving at a speed restricted zone it's for a reason which is
increased hazard. More side streets per
distance travelled, crossings, parking traffic,
pedestrians and probably more potholes.
Though legal to do 39 on a bike , might it not
be prudent to take a clue from the non cycling
speed restriction and rein it in accordingly ?
Obviously those with computers are the only
ones who could guide them and I'm against legislation but it's a fair suggestion

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wtjs | 8 months ago
4 likes

Let's kill this one off! There aren't going to be speed limits for cyclists. Speedos are very accurate if you want them to be, but Count the Revolutions Speedos are very easily recalibrated to tyre circumference so you can simply lie to them, and very simply change them back. GPS Speedos linked to a camera would reliably link speed to location, and if they weren't working would not give a speed value. However, the police have backed themselves into a corner by declaring that no bicycle speedometers are acceptable. Hence, no cyclist speeding prosecution in the absence of a collision

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muppetkeeper | 8 months ago
1 like

I don't have a speedo on my bike, if I follow cars in a 30 zone I assume I'll be doing 35mph or so?

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Aberdeencyclist replied to muppetkeeper | 4 months ago
0 likes

You can assume Ineos will sign you

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Northumber_lad | 8 months ago
14 likes

I'm a serving officer and also a cyclist ( I hide no bias here). I completely and utterly agree with the comments by the former traffic officer in the story. If you watch that video of Dartmoor and imagine there is no speed on the bottom corner, there is clearly no dangerous or wanton cycling whatsoever, leaving us only with speed.  The advice given over speed to the group is simply that- advice over their own safety. 
If anyone came to me to try and prosecute them, not only would I not allow the prosecution itself, I believe no court in the land would ever convict based on that evidence. 
Its a nothing story that has just stirred up the usual hatred of cyclists by the usual suspects. 
 

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titaniumbloke replied to Northumber_lad | 8 months ago
0 likes

But we are happy to legislate people into doing things for their own safety (seat belts). You get an oldie pulling out onto that road, poor eyesight, not expecting 40 MPH traffic, not good at judging bicycle speed, and you have no ABS, no airbag, no seatbelt, no crumple zones. You could very easily kill a whole peloton.

I'm a cyclist, not a cycle hater.

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SimoninSpalding replied to titaniumbloke | 8 months ago
2 likes

If they have poor eyesight they shouldn't be driving

If they have poor reaction times they shouldn't be driving

If cyclists travel at nigh on 40mph there i find it hard to believe all cars go slower, so if they can't anticipate speeding traffic, they shouldn't be driving.

Having said that, I do think cyclists should be considering pedestrians and their own safety, and on the evidence of the video, I would have been going much slower.

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Sriracha | 8 months ago
1 like
Quote:

while the 1984 Road Traffic Regulation Act outlines the law regarding speed limits, again cyclists are not mentioned.

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, Section 14 paragraph 4a, does allow for speed limits to be imposed in certain circumstances (eg, road or adjacent works), which apply to "vehicles", which includes bicycles.
https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/section/14

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Northumber_lad replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
5 likes

No, it doesn't.  They are not vehicles in UK law for the purpose of road traffic legislation. 

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Sriracha replied to Northumber_lad | 8 months ago
0 likes
Northumber_lad wrote:

No, it doesn't.  They are not vehicles in UK law for the purpose of road traffic legislation. 

Uk Road traffic legislation, definition of a driver:
“driver”
(a)
in relation to a vehicle which is a motor cycle or pedal cycle, the person riding the vehicle who is, or is purporting to be, in control of it; ...
...

https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2016/362/schedule/1/made

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Northumber_lad replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
5 likes

In fact your own link tells you that:

"The traffic authority for a road may at any time by notice restrict or prohibit temporarily the use of the road, or of any part of it, by vehicles, or vehicles of any class, or by pedestrians..."

 

no cycles ever mentioned because they are not vehicles under UK road traffic law  

 

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Sriracha replied to Northumber_lad | 8 months ago
1 like

I see in another post you say that you are a serving officer, so perhaps the following will persuade you:
https://police.community/topic/290072-pc-stout-vs-cyclist/?do=findCommen...

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grOg replied to Sriracha | 8 months ago
2 likes

I'm a former LEO in Australia and generally, bicycles worldwide are classed as vehicles, so any laws relating to vehicles apply to bicycles, although some laws specify motor vehicles which do not apply to pedal bicycles; speeding laws applied to pedal bicycles however, would and should fail in court, if a policeman chose to fine a cyclist for speeding; there is no legal requirement for a bicycle speedometer, so speed laws are simply not enforceable against cyclists.

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