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Southwark backs down on 20mph cycling limit

London borough accepts that law doesn't allow speed limits for bikes...

The London borough of Southwark has this afternoon announced it will not attempt to impose speed limits on cyclists as part of its adoption of a 20 mph limit across the borough.

While lower speed limits are to be welcomed as reducing road danger for vulnerable road users such as cyclists, there was concern that attempting to apply the limit to cyclists was beyond the council’s legal powers, and would provide police with another excuse to harass cyclists in light of the Met’s disproportionate attention to cyclists in Operation Safeway.

Cycle campaign charity CTC pointed out that the Road Traffic Regulations Act gives local authorities the power to impose new speed limits only on motor vehicles, not cyclists.

Following road.cc’s stories on this issue yesterday and this morning, Southwark Council issued the following statement.

Councillor Mark Williams, cabinet member for transport: "The council sees the establishment of a 20 mph borough as significant step forward in ensuring the safety of all road users not least cyclists and pedestrians. To achieve this we feel that all vehicles should limit their speed to 20 mph.

"The report published on the 18 July to determine the statutory objections relating to a borough-wide 20mph speed limit makes it clear that orders made under Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 can apply to motor vehicles only and as such any prosecution by the police for breaches of the speed limit under that Act would be limited to motorised vehicles only. Accordingly the traffic order will be amended to make reference to "motorised vehicles" only.

"The council does not have powers to prosecute cyclists who travel in excess of 20 mph and recognises that dangerous cycling is a matter for the police alone. Nor are we seeking to " target" cyclists for enforcement, rather to reflect the concerns raised by pedestrians about the problems caused by a small minority of cyclists whose speed endangers other road users."

In addition, the council’s head of public realm, Des Waters said in an email: “We have been looking again at our whole approach to cycling, with people from Denmark and the Netherlands and we are planning on bringing forward a new approach to increase cycling in Southwark later this year.”

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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