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.
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.
"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 joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.