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Do Cyclists Have to Obey Speed Limits?

Let’s start a revolution. Let’s move the story and the narrative away from speed. We don’t need to go quickly to commute from the train station to the office. We shouldn’t need to shower when we arrive at the office, unless we’re building that commute into our preparation for a race.

Our infrastructure is improving. Let’s enjoy it and slow the pace down.

Is There a Bicycle Speed Limit?

Cycling speed limits were introduced at the beginning of the 20th century, and were set at 20 miles per hour. Once this limit became the subject of frequent breaches, it was increased to 30 miles per hour. Since that date there have been no changes to make cyclists stick to the same regulations.

Guides and codes do not classify bicycles in the same mould as motor vehicles. The Highway Code in the UK has national speed limits for cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans, and dual-purpose vehicles, whatever they are.

Motorhomes or caravans slow things down further, along with buses, coaches, and minibuses. Goods vehicles, sometimes quite literally, bring up the rear. These are the only vehicles which qualify for national speed limits. Bicycles are not included in this group.

Do Cyclists Have to Obey Speed Limits?

Cyclists do not have to obey national road speed limits. Byelaws which include cycles need to be followed; don’t think that it’s cool to zip along a promenade or park, weaving in and out of cars which are limited to 15 miles per hour. The limit might apply to you, too.

Strictly speaking, there is no speed limit for cyclists. But in using the roads for transportation or leisure, regulations, codes, and laws should be adhered to. Common sense should apply.

Is it Illegal to Cycle Over the Speed Limit?

You cannot be ‘done’ for speeding in its defined sense, except in the case of byelaws. Richmond Park in London lays down these laws. So, yes, on a downhill you could set off a speed camera and not receive a ticket.

It might be tricky to apply to the local police force for any image for your social media accounts.

There is guidance about speed, but not laws, when cycling on designated cycle-paths and bike lanes.

If you’re planning to cycle more than 18 miles per hour, guidance says you should be riding on the road. That will be music to the ears of some!

Recent changes to the Highway Code now gives cyclists a position in the hierarchy of road users with accountability attached. In the wet, if you’re travelling at 30 miles per hour, or riding side by side and need to brake quickly, good luck. 

SOURCE: Unsplash.com

Can a Cyclist Be Charged with Speeding?

A cyclist exceeding the speed limit would not be prosecuted for that specific act. Although doing so could be a factor in being charged with dangerous and careless cycling in the UK under Sections 28 and 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The ability to slow down will be a factor in keeping the bicycle under control.

Given the state of many roads in the UK and the cries for all for surfaces to be improved permanently and not just temporarily, through the correct application of taxation and care, you’d be very brave, nay foolhardy, to consider exceeding national road speed limits when you might need to make a split-second calculation.

Has a Cyclist Ever Been Fined for Speeding?

Under byelaws, which limit speeds in certain areas, yes they have. A teenager was fined for travelling at 37 miles per hour in Richmond Park. And despite his pleas that officers were hiding behind trees, a 40-year-old man was ordered to pay more than £600 on the Sawyers Hill section of the same park.

Closer to the centre of the capital, the speed limit in Hyde Park, another of the Royal Parks, gets down to as low as five miles per hour in some spots. 

In February 2021, Victoria Police in Melbourne launched a crackdown in their parks and fines of up to AUS$1,652 (£920) were threatened, for exceeding the six miles per hour speed limit.

Kevin Glenton


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Kevin Glenton

Kevin is a NCTJ qualified sports journalist. He cycles on towpaths, defunct railway lines, national cycle routes and minor roads in order to explore. His home is Manchester, shoehorned in by the Peak District and Pennines. A love for their steep roads remains unrequited. You can read more from Kevin here

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