Cycling offences

Below are links to quick guides to some of the most common cycling offences:

1. Dangerous cycling

Dangerous cycling is an offence committed by any person riding a bicycle on a road in a manner that falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist and would be obviously dangerous to a competent and careful cyclist. 'Danger' refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property. 

The maximum penalty for dangerous cycling is £2,500.

Dangerous cycling is an offence under section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1988(link is external).

2. Careless cycling

Careless cycling is an offence committed by anyone cycling on a road without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration of others. 

The maximum penalty for careless cycling is £1,000. 

Careless cycling is an offence under section 29 of the Road Traffic Act 1988(link is external)

3. Cycling the wrong way down one-way streets

One-way streets can often make cycle journeys longer and potentially more dangerous as detours can mean there may be more junctions or bigger roads to negotiate.

There have been proposals to introduce arrangements to allow cyclists to ride in both directions down one way streets. However, at present, cyclists can only ride the wrong way down one-way streets if there are signs stating it is permitted.

The penalty for cycling the wrong way down a one-way street that does not permit cycling is a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). Click here for information about FPNs and how to challenge them.

4. Jumping red lights and advanced stop lines

Information from the Highway Code specifically for cyclists:

Highway Code Rule 178 states that you MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic.

If cyclists are caught jumping red lights they may be given a £50 Fixed Penalty Notice.

Information for all road users:

When there is an advanced stop line at a junction motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If a vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, it MUST stop at the second white line, even if the vehicle is in the marked area (Rule 178).

You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision (Rule 175).

You MUST NOT move forward over the white line when the red light is showing. Only go forward when the traffic lights are green if there is room for you to clear the junction safely or you are taking up a position to turn right. If the traffic lights are not working, treat the situation as you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care (Rule 176). Green filter arrow - This indicates a filter lane only. Do not enter that lane unless you want to go in the direction of the arrow. You may proceed in the direction of the green arrow when it, or the full green light shows (Rule 177).

5. Riding on the pavement

Riding on the pavement is an offence under section 72 of the Highways Act 1835 and Section 129.5 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984. Both these laws apply equally to drivers and cyclists and prohibit the 'driving or riding of a carriage on the part of the highway set apart for traffic on foot' (the footway).

For cyclists, this is set out in Rule 64 of the Highway Code, which states that 'you MUST NOT cycle on the pavement.' This also applies to children, although as those under 10 years old are below the age of criminal responsibility, they cannot be prosecuted.

However, Ministers have issued guidance to the police to use discretion when issuing fines or fixed penalty notices (FPN) for riding on the pavement. When the FPN was introduced for pavement cycling in 1999, the then Home Office Minister issued the following statement: “The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of traffic and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required.”

In 2014, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, reiterated this view in a letter to a cycling campaigner saying "I agree that the police should be using discretion in enforcing this law and would support Paul Boateng’s original guidance."

If you have been given a FPN for riding on the pavement but believe the police should have exercised discretion because you were considerate to others and felt compelled to do so to protect yourself, please get in touch with CDF to see if we can assist you in contesting the fine.

Note in 1888 the bicycle was recognised as a carriage for the purpose of enforcing highway laws, and in 1903 the motor car was defined as a carriage in the Motor Car Act 1903.

6. Cycling under the influence

Cyclists do not have to adhere to the same drink drive limit as motorists. The test for cyclists is whether or not they are 'fit to ride'. Both the legal limit and the breath tests the police use for motorists do not apply.

Section 30 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states: A person who, when riding a cycle on a road or other public place, is unfit to ride through drink or drugs (that is to say, is under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle) is guilty of an offence.

You cannot get points on a UK driving licence for a 'drink cycling' offence. However, according to Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000(link is external) the courts can disqualify a cyclist from driving a car for any offence: "The court by or before which a person is convicted of an offence committed after 31st December 1997 may, instead of or in addition to dealing with him in any other way, order him to be disqualified, for such period as it thinks fit, for holding or obtaining a driving licence."

The maximum punishment for this offence is a £1000 fine.

For more information, read CTC, the national cycling charity’s briefing‘Cycling under the influence of drink or drugs.’

7. Cycling furiously Cyclists cannot be booked for speeding, but under the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act(link is external), they can be fined for 'cycling furiously'. Under the Offences Against the Person Act 186(link is external)1, cyclists can be convicted and imprisoned for up to two years if found guilty of “wanton and furious driving,” which causes injury to someone other than themselves. Under Section 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1988(link is external) it is an offence for cyclists to ride recklessly or in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner. Dangerous cycling, defined as riding “far below what would be expected of a competent and careful cyclist” is a more serious offence than careless and inconsiderate cycling. The maximum penalty for dangerous cycling is a £2,500 fine. You may also want to consult our guide to Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs).

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