Speed Limits

Do speed limits apply to bicycles?

Short Answer

Mostly no, though bye-laws could impose speed limits on cyclists.

Long Answer

Normal Roads

On 'normal' public highways, the general speed limits (whatever they are) do not apply to bicycles.

Note that the Highway Code rule 124 states speed limits are in the table, but the table has no row that applies to bicycles. There is a bit of a fault in that a footnote to the table does indeed state that "The 30 mph limit usually applies to all traffic" (my emphasis), but that appears to be a wrong statement (there are a few such careless statements in the Highway Code).

The Highway code references RTRA, which is the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, sections 81, 86, 89 & schedule 6. In fact, these sections all fall within Part VI of the act, which is entirely about speed limits.

The first thing to note is that the Highway Code blanket statement is wrong - section 81 is quite explicit that "It shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a restricted road at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour" (my emphasis).

Further reading reveals that throughout this act, the speed limits discussed apply to motor vehicles and their drivers, not to cyclists. Note, for example section 89: "A person who drives a motor vehicle on a road at a speed exceeding a limit imposed by or under any enactment to which this section applies shall be guilty of an offence."

Theoretical possibilities

It should be noted that it seems there is a theoretical possibility for a speed limit to be imposed on cyclists. Although the 'standard' way for speed limits is via the RTRA noted above, TSRGD 2002, The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 allows for speed limits to be imposed by local acts (here).

In principle, a local act might create a speed limit that applied to cyclists. However, it's very unlikely, and I've never seen a reference to one that does. Further, the act would have to define the offence and penalty - it could not simply refer back to the RTRA, because the offence created in that act (section 89, quoted above) explicitly applies to the drivers of motor vehicles. So, it would be possible for a road to have a speed limit created by local act that applied to cyclists, but it's very unlikely, and even if it did, it is further unlikely that there would be an offence committed in breaking the speed limit.

Official Advice

Another interesting snippet arises from a Department for Transport consultation document that never turned into anything other than a consultation. The 2004 Local Transport Notes on Walking and Cycling document had an annex D Code of Conduct Notice for Cyclists which recommends "As a general rule, if you want to cycle quickly, say in excess of 18 mph/30 kph, then you should be riding on the road."

But...

However, despite the fact that speed limits do not apply to bicycles, you can be prosecuted simply for cycling too fast - under the charge of 'cycling furiously'. You can also be prosecuted for riding dangerously o carelessly.

Special Cases

It is possible for locations to have bye-laws that impose speed limits on bicycles.

It used to be the case that speed limits in royal parks applied to bicycles, because the relevant SIs, The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 amended by the Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) Regulations 2004 stated that speed limits in the parks applied to vehicles (not motor vehicles).

However, The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces (Amendment) etc. Regulations 2010 include a definition of vehicle that applies only to motor vehicles, here, suggesting that everything which applied to all vehicles in the royal parks SIs now only applies to motor vehicles. Thus, speed limits would not apply to bicycles in royal parks, just as they do not in general elsewhere.


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