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There is a newspaper report (avoiding paywall) about a 81-year-old woman who was struck and killed by a speeding cyclist in Regent's Park. There apears to be a certain amount of uncertainty about what speed limit applies to cyclists:

[The Royal Parks] have also contacted cycling sports clubs reminding them that cyclists using any royal park are required "to observe the motor vehicle speed limits for the park".

The move comes after The Telegraph revealed how Brian Fitzgerald, a director at Credit Suisse, was involved in a fatal collision with Hilda Griffiths as he reached speeds of up to 29mph in the 20mph zone in June 2022. He was completing timed laps using a Garmin device.

An inquest heard how the police concluded the banker could not be prosecuted because speed limits do not apply to pedal bikes because they are not mechanically propelled.

Is it clear which, if any, of the maximum speed limits that are posted all over the UK transport system apply to pedal bicycles? This must be becomeing more of a live issue with the proliferation of 20 mph speed limits around the country, particularly Wales.


Certainly other laws (e.g. general safe operation laws, or reckless operation offences) or theories of civil liability may be applicable. This question is not asking about those. This question asks: which, if any, posted speed limits apply to bicycles?

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  • 1
    In years past, I researched this question and discovered a "loophole" to the interpretation that a bicycle is a vehicle and therefore subject to vehicle speed limit regulations. The loophole is that motor vehicles typically are required to have speedometers, while bicycles are not.
    – fred_dot_u
    Commented May 13 at 15:06
  • I don't see how the speed is relevant though. There will be laws/regulations for how to behave on combined foot & cycle paths. Generally bikes have to yield for pedestrians, at the responsibility of the biker. Which in turn means that the biker has to adapt their speed to their surroundings so that they can observe if pedestrians are appearing. It's hard for the biker to claim innocent in any form of accident vs a pedestrian, unless perhaps the pedestrian suddenly appeared from the side of the path and stepped straight into it carelessly. Is that what happened here?
    – Lundin
    Commented May 14 at 13:25
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    @Lundin I think the details are somewhat complex and probably worthy of their own question if you want to know.
    – User65535
    Commented May 14 at 14:13

5 Answers 5

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There are no national legal provisions for pedal cycle speed limits.

The national law creating speed limits applies to "motor vehicles" (Speed limits, Part VI Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) and certain classes of "vehicles" (Schedule 6, Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) none of which are pedal cycles.

A place could have a bye-law (a regulation made by a local authority or corporation) that sets a speed limit for pedal cycles.

The Royal Parks have speed limits for "vehicles". My understanding is that pedal cycles are "vehicles". If a pedal cycle is a "vehicle" then there is a speed limit on pedal cycles of 20mph on park roads in Regent's Park. The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997, Schedule 2, Part 2, Speeds at which a vehicle may be driven or ridden on a Park road:

  1. On a Park road in Bushy Park, The Green Park, Greenwich Park, Hyde Park (other than the Serpentine Road), St James’s Park, The Regent’s Park or Richmond Park, at a speed not exceeding 20 mph.

The linked article seems to indicate there is no law relevant to the circumstances. But some pedal cyclists have been prosecuted for wanton or furious driving.

Drivers of carriages injuring persons by furious driving, section 35 Offences against the Person Act 1861:

Whosoever, having the charge of any carriage or vehicle, shall by wanton or furious driving or racing, or other wilful misconduct, or by wilful neglect, do or cause to be done any bodily harm to any person whatsoever, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the court, to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years,

Sections 28 to 32 Road Traffic Act 1988 create offences related to cycling, including section 28 Dangerous cycling and section 29 Careless, and inconsiderate, cycling.

There is also section 31(1) Road Traffic Act 1988:

(1)A person who promotes or takes part in a race or trial of speed on a public way between cycles is guilty of an offence, unless the race or trial—

(a) is authorised, and

(b) is conducted in accordance with any conditions imposed,

by or under regulations under this section.

I don't know if section 31 pertains to "he was completing timed laps", "some cyclists exceeding the 20mph speed limit as they compete to record their fastest possible lap times", "cyclists record, share and compare speeds of specific routes" (quoting from the article linked to by the question).

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  • Going too fast is more likely to lead to a conviction for dangerous or careless or inconsiderate cycling under the Road Traffic Act 1988 if the prosecutor can show the cyclist was travelling faster than the signed speed limit for other vehicles.
    – Henry
    Commented May 24 at 11:35
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Assuming a conventional pedal-powered bicycle then no, speed limits on public roads don't apply. The relevant part of the Highway Code is Rule 124 based on law in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Sections 81, 86, 89 and with the classes of vehicles outlined in Schedule 6. It get's a little bit more complex in the case of bikes equipped with electric "booster" motors, these have their own rules where if the bike no longer provides electrical assistance above ~15mph then it is treated as pedal bike for purposes of speed limits and if it does then it is treated as a moped.

It is worth noting here that the incident you link to occurred in Regent's Park - which is literally that, a park, not a regular public road and the law that covers that is The Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997, it still doesn't mean that a cyclist exceeding this would be able to be prosecuted for speeding since there's no mention of bicycles in the section dealing vehicles and speed limits. Which is why you've got the Royal Parks asking the cycling clubs nicely to stick to the limit they've designated for motor vehicles, but it might mean there could be something put into that law to specifically restrict them. And of course with the Park being, well, a park not a road there's probably other non-legislative means the Royal Parks board could use to restrict what cyclists could do.

All of the above not withstanding there are laws governing cyclist behaviour that could have been used as a basis for prosecution here, just not speed limits.

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Yes.

What does every driver deal with every mile of their life driving? Statutory speed limit signs. This leads to a misconception that this is the essence of speed law. Nope!

There's a Basic Speed Law requiring drivers to operate their vehicles at a speed that is reasonable and prudent for conditions. (FHA)

Speed laws exist at the state level. But for consistency, states base their laws on "Model Laws" written by an interested and competent third party. Here, this is the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC), thanks to IAmTraffic.org -> CyclingSavvy.org for the hosting.

11-801 - Basic Rule.
No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions, including actual and potential hazards then existing. Consistent with the foregoing, every person shall drive at a safe and appropriate speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railroad grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching the crest of a hill, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

11-802 through 11-808 consist of rules about signage and the other stuff you deal with every day. Point being, the Basic Speed Law is right up top.

1-215-Vehicle - Every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

When you see a speed limit sign, that's only a supplemental or statutory restriction, wherein the nanny government has said "We do not leave it to your good judgment; we've decided in advance 30 MPH is the maximum possible safe speed that will ever exist here". This is important for speed enforcement - without a statutory speed limit, every speeding case would would be a judgment call as to whether that speed was prudent for conditions, and this would lead to a lot of injustice.

So by American rules, you have the facts of observers judging the bicyclists's speed to be notably high, and the fact of an accident. There would have to be some sort of evidence that the victim was grossly negligent.

And on top of that you have the "speed contest / display of speed", another favorite of state laws, among the most serious consequences of any vehicle law. While the UVC excludes bicycles, state laws' implementations of speed contest laws may not.

11-809-Racing on highways.
(a) No person shall drive any vehicle in any race, speed competition, drag race or acceleration contest, test of physical endurance, exhibition of speed or acceleration, or for the purpose of making a speed record; and no person shall in any manner participate in any such race, competition, contest, test or exhibition.

(e) This section does not apply to persons riding bicycles.

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  • For this question, I'd think the most important part of the UVC is 11-1202: Every person propelling a vehicle by human power or riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all of the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under chapters 10 and 11...except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application.
    – Mark
    Commented May 16 at 1:41
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Yes

The relevant law is the Strassenverkehrsordnung. It uses three different concepts for things it regulates: 'Fahrzeuge'= vehicles, 'Kraftfahrzeuge'=motor vehicles and 'Fußgänger'= pedestrians.

Posted speed limits apply to all vehicles. If you see a sign with a speed limit pedal bikes need to obey it.

However, the general limit of 50km/h in settlements is only valid for motorvehicles. But then, the number of spots that are within a settlement, there is no posted speed limit and it is feasible for a pedal bike to go more than 50 km/h is probably very limited.

Pedal bicycles count as vehicles (but not as motor vehicles) and hence are covered by speed limits imposed on a road. Kids bicycles and things like inline skates count as pedestrians and are only allowed on the pedestrian sidewalk.

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    I believe that is wrong - posted speed limits apply, but the general speed limit (50km/h in settlements) only applies to motor vehicles - see e.g. rechtsanwalt-verkehrsrecht-berlin.de/2014/10/….
    – sleske
    Commented May 16 at 8:27
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    @sleske Technically correct, I edited, not really relevant in practice though.
    – quarague
    Commented May 16 at 9:39
  • Is there a speed limit for cyclist on the autobahn?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented May 17 at 18:33
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    @NeilMeyer Autobahnen can only be used with Kraftfahrzeuge= motor vehicles, §18. So bicycles are not allowed to use them at all.
    – quarague
    Commented May 18 at 6:57
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Yes

Australia’s road rules are universal (mostly) but implemented by legislation in each state and territory, so I’ll quote from .

s11 of the Road Rules 2014 state that they apply to “vehicles and road users on roads and road related areas.” s17 defines a rider as a person riding a bicycle (among other things). s19 states that a reference to a driver includes a rider (ono). s20 says drivers must obey the speed limit.

So, by that long series of connections, a bicycle rider must obey the speed limit.

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