It’s an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended by the Road Traffic Act 1991) to ride recklessly on a road or in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner.
These offences are covered by Sections 28 to 30 of the Act and this article will consider each one in turn.
Dangerous cycling on a road is an offence under section 28 of the amended Road Traffic Act and is a more serious offence than careless and inconsiderate cycling. The amendment explains that the person is to be regarded as riding dangerously if, and only if, “(a) the way he rides falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist, and (b) it would be obvious to a competent and careful cyclist that riding in that way would be dangerous.”
The section goes on to say that in considering what is to be expected of a competent and careful cyclist in (a), the circumstances which the cyclist was, or should have been, aware of must be considered. Also, in (b), the section states that “dangerous” refers to “danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property.”
The maximum penalty for dangerous cycling is £2,500, although this is rarely issued. In November 2013, a man was caught by police cycling at high speed with his young daughter sitting on his shoulders and neither of them wearing a cycle helmet, He was fined £55.
Section 29 outlines the less serious offence of careless and inconsiderate cycling, which states that a person is guilty of such an offence if a person cycles on a road without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users. This offence is appropriate when a cyclist does not act so recklessly as to satisfy the required criteria for dangerous cycling as outlined above.
The maximum penalty for careless cycling is £1,000 although, similarly to dangerous cycling, this is rarely imposed. In July 2012, a man was found guilty of careless cycling and fined £850 after knocking over a man and causing severe brain damage.
Section 30 of the Act makes it an offence to cycle on a road or public place under the influence of drink or drugs to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle. Alcohol is the third-highest contributory factor to cyclists being killed on the roads, with 19% of cyclists who were tested for their blood-alcohol level being found to be over the drink drive limit.
It is important to note that the test is whether or not the cyclist is fit to ride rather than there being a legal limit of 35 microgrammes per 100 millilitres of breath, as there is for drivers of motor vehicles. The maximum penalty for cycling under the influence is £1,000. However, a cyclist who is guilty of cycling under the influence of drink or drugs can also be found guilty of dangerous or careless cycling under Sections 28 and 29, as explained above.
There are a few other common situations that will be briefly covered under this heading. Firstly, speeding offences apply only to motor vehicles therefore, cyclists cannot be prosecuted for breaking speed limits on public roads. However, local by-laws can impose speed restrictions on vehicles, including cycles, in public areas such as parks.
Speed can also be a factor that can cause a cyclist to be charged under Section 28 for dangerous cycling. Secondly, legislation that prohibits talking on a hand-held mobile phone only applies to drivers of motor vehicles, and not cyclists. However, similarly to speeding, if the use of a mobile phone causes a cyclist to cycle dangerously or carelessly, they could be charged under Section 28 or 29.
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