24 November 2009

Making light of pavement-cycling police blunders

This last week, the City Police have been clamping down on people cycling at night without lights. Offenders are fined £30. But, if they turn up to a safety demo at St Paul's on Thursday 26 with lights on their bike, they'll have the fine rescinded.

This is all fair enough and I don't have a problem with it. (Though I think there are better uses of police time; and the press release's statement that '28 cyclists were injured in collisions' in the dark, without evidence any of them were caused by lack of visibility, looks suspiciously like victim-blaming.)

I'm not quite so sure about trying to arrest people for cycling on cycle paths, though. That's what happened to a Southwark Cyclists member on Monday night shortly after he followed the sign pictured here and turned right.

He was stopped by the police for 'cycling on the pavement' - despite the fact that this 10m section of pavement is signed and marked as a cycle route (right). The markings are faded, sure, but not invisible.

(And cycling across the pedestrian crossing is perfectly legal, as it isn't a toucan crossing. [See update in comments below])

It's by Meadow Row, and is part of the Elephant and Castle by-pass - the same route which, unmodified except for a tin of blue paint, will be part of the forthcoming South Wimbledon-to-Bank Cycle Superhighway. It doesn't bode well...

Presumably the officer simply didn't see the pavement markings in the dark. Perhaps they were dazzled by the rider's lights. Honestly, some of these cyclists, swanning around floodlit with LEDs strobing everywhere like a Pink Floyd laser show. It's about time the police clamped down on them.


  1. "The markings are faded". A bit like cycle markings everywhere, then.

    A similar situation has occurred in Nottingham, where a cyclist was fined for cycling in a 'shared use' area:


  2. And there have been similar problems in Cambridge this year, as a recent article in the excellent Cambridge Cycle Campaign newsletter explains.

  3. Some modern lights are indeed a bit bright for the eye... especially if you have them and You are riding towards me in the dark... please use low settings when riding towrds other bike riders... PLEASE cause it makes me somewhat blind afterwards as my eyes adjust... and that is VERY pink Floyd Lazer Show esque.

  4. Don't our plod have something better to do, like shoot Brazilian plumbers or something?

    No, seriously, I can understand where the recent 'appeasement exercise' in targeting errant cyclists is coming from, but really we are just a drop in the ocean in the big scale of things aren't we? Why don't they go after some of the thousands upon thousands of car drivers who speed, jump red lights, text and use phones whilst driving etc etc. Or would that, as an exercise in truth and honesty, upset the voting barrel a little too much? Not that I think the Met are being used for some kind of political advantage you understand...

  5. (And cycling across the pedestrian crossing is perfectly legal, as it isn't a toucan crossing.)

    Erm, that sentence doesn't make sense to me. Can you explain?

  6. Rule 80 of the highway code states: "Toucan crossings. These are light-controlled crossings which allow cyclists and pedestrians to share crossing space and cross at the same time. They are push-button operated. Pedestrians and cyclists will see the green signal together. Cyclists are permitted to ride across."

    As for bright lights, the problem isn't the power of lights it's that they are MTB lights & give good illumination across a very wide angle. They are great for spotting a low branch when on the trails but send a lot of, wasted, light up to the eyes of other road users if used on-road.

  7. @lnr... I didn't explain myself all that clearly, did I!

    As I understand it, it's an offence to cycle across a toucan crossing if you have a red cycle sign showing. (Obviously not if it's green.)

    However, on a normal pedestrian crossing, it's never an offence to cycle across it (or, indeed, to walk across it, with or without bike) whether or not it's showing red or green. Obviously the status of the signal might count against you if had an accident, but crossing on red is not an offence per se. (And don't call me Perse, etc)

    I think that's the way it is, but if I've misunderstood, I'm sure there are better clued up people than me who can comment...??

  8. Err no. You ARE permitted to cycled across a toucan crossing. Ideally you should wait for the green cycle to illuminate, but if the road is clear and safe you can proceed without.

    It is puffin and zebra crossing that you are not permitted to cycle across. These are pedestrian only and you need to be on foot.

    With regards cycle lights being dazzling to others. I'm afraid thats just the nature of small surface areas emitting light in such a way.

    Many of the wider beam lights are very useful on the road as they let you see potholes and road defects easily at night. You can limit dazzle too by setting them up correctly.

  9. @Downfader... thanks for that. Ah, so it's the stripes across the road that's the clue? That means get off and push... whereas if there are no stripes, then it's just sideways road, and you can cycle across it crosswise, just as you could any normal bit of road?

    And, as I've wondered before, if a Pegasus Crossing is one for horses, what's the term for a crossing specially for zebras?

  10. Yes, it appears that you are not committing an offence if you cycle across a Toucan when it's showing red. However it's still against the highway code, with all that means in terms of liability.

    Note that not all cycle crossings are Toucans. If it's a "cycle-only crossing" (one with a red signal like on a normal road) then you must stop at the red signal.

    I wrote an article about this here (yes, that's me).

    As for riding across pelicans and puffins. I've never come across anything saying that this is an offence. However riding on the footway on each side is (unless it's shared-use, of course).


  11. Good work there, Nigel, aka Dr Dynamo.

    In summary: "if you find a standard red traffic light facing you then you must always stop. If you come across a red man, or illuminated symbols on the button box, then, in my [Dr Dynamo's] view - and in the Government's - you are allowed to make your own choice as to whether to stop or not."

  12. You shouldn't say 'against the Highway Code', Nigel - the HC has 'should' and 'don't' categories, and one of the problems we have is that they get lumped together as 'don't'.
    Some crossings have a red man (I mean pedestrian), and some have a red man and a red cycle. If it's only a red man, you can cycle across. In theory. Well, that's the theory I work to. And toucans only have a red man, so you had that the wrong way round, Rob - actually the clue is in the name, Two-Can, ie peds and cyclists.

  13. Should Not and Must Not, I suspect, actually.