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Can you lose your driving licence for a cycling offence?

27 September 2010
by blondwig

A couple of people have asked me whether you can get penalty points on your driving licence if you jump a red light on your bike.

I’ve always thought this was an urban myth, and that no matter how bad your cycling, it won’t affect your driving licence. But it turns out that there may some truth behind it.

Penalty points

Reading through all the legislation, it looks very much like you can’t get points on your driving licence for an offence you commit on a normal bike. (RTOA Sch 2)

Or at least: I can’t find any cycling offences which can lead to penalty points. There are none in the Road Traffic Acts, and you can’t get penalty points for any offence mentioned on this blog (if you ride a normal bike).

Disqualification

That doesn’t mean that your driving licence is completely safe. A reader, John CB, has pointed out that the courts have a general power to disqualify you from driving a car for any offence, including offences committed on a bicycle. (PCCSA s. 146(1))

It’s up to the court whether to disqualify you, and it’s not necessary for the offence to be “connected with the use of a motor car. The courts do need a “sufficient reason” for the disqualification, but if you commit a traffic offence, that’s probably enough. (R v Cliff [2004] EWCA Crim 3139 §15; cf R v Zain Cornell-Gallardo [2010] EWCA Crim 3151 §13)

For a disqualification to be possible under this provision, you don’t have to hold a driving licence – you can be disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence. But you do have to be convicted in court – so if the police give you a fixed penalty notice instead of prosecuting (and you don’t challenge it in court) the power to disqualify won’t apply.

Disqualification – wanton or furious cycling

The courts also have a specific power to disqualify you from driving a car (and send you to prison for 2 years) if you’re convicted of causing bodily harm by wanton or furious cycling or racing, or by wilful misconduct or wilful neglect on a bicycle. (OAPA s. 35; RTOA Sch 2, pt. 2; Taylor v Goodwin (1878-79) LR 4 QBD 228)

You can only be convicted of this offence if you injure someone while you’re cycling in a way which is wanton or furious or shows wilful misconduct or neglect. There’s no definition of what counts as wanton or furious or wilful – it all basically depends on how a jury would judge your cycling.

Since 2008 there have been two reported prosecutions of cyclists for this offence, both involving cyclists who rode onto the pavement at speed and knocked over a pedestrian, who later died. Both were jailed, and one was disqualified from driving. (R v Lambert [2008] EWCA Crim 2019; R v Hall [2009] EWCA Crim 2236 – BBC report here)

So as a guideline, it looks like you’ll commit this offence if you break the rules badly, and cause injury. If you plough through a red light and injure a pedestrian, prosecution for this offence is a real possibility.

By the way, the only time anyone has been convicted for furious cycling simply for riding too fast on the road was in the 1879 case of Taylor v Goodwin (involving a slightly different offence). This was at the time of the Locomotive Act 1865, which set a speed limit for cars (or “self-propelled vehicles”) of 4mph, and required them (at least until 1878) to have a man walk in front of them waving a red flag. Things are a little different today, and it’s difficult to imagine that you could be convicted of furious cycling just for cycling fast on the road if you’re obeying the rules. (Taylor v Goodwin (1878-79) LR 4 QBD 228)

Electric bikes

I’ve pointed out before that the rules for “electrically assisted” bikes can be different. If you ride an e-bike, you can get penalty points on your licence and/or be disqualified from driving if you commit any of the following:

  • Driving while unfit through drink or drugs (RTA s. 4(1))
  • Being in charge while unfit through drink or drugs (RTA s. 4(2))
  • Failure to give a sample at a police station or hospital (RTA ss. 7(1), 7(2), 7(6))

See my previous post for more detail on these offences.

Also, if you ride an e-bike and are in an accident, you have to stop, and either give your name and address to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking, or report the accident. If you don’t comply, you commit an offence and can be given penalty points and/or disqualified. (RTA ss. 170(1) to (4)).

10 Comments leave one →
  1. John CB permalink
    16 April 2011 10:47

    It was recently pointed out on YACF.co.uk that you can now in theory lose your driving licence for any offence:

    http://yacf.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=39973.msg761928#msg761928

    The relevant legislation is at:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/6/section/146

    That might be worth including for your readership. Thank you for an interesting blog, btw!

    Best regards

    John

  2. 18 April 2011 11:49

    post updated on 18 April 2011 to take into account the general power to disqualify from driving. thanks to John for the spot!

  3. Chris permalink
    19 December 2012 16:43

    I suppose it’s a bit late now, but cyclists can be prosecuted for an offence under s.36 RTA, which is listed in Schedule 2 as carrying three points. It’s an obligatory endorsement for motor vehicles, but nothing seems to suggest that the endorsement doesn’t apply for cyclists.

    • blondwig permalink*
      20 December 2012 12:11

      Hi Chris

      The power to endorse (i.e. impose points) only applies where the offence is an offence “involving obligatory endorsement” – so only in the situations where Schedule 2 says that endorsement is obligatory. (RTOA ss. 28(1), 96)

      As you’ve pointed out, the entry in RTOA Schedule 2 for offences under RTA s.36 says that endorsement is only obligatory where the offence was committed in respect of a motor vehicle – so the power to endorse doesn’t apply to offences committed by cyclists.

Trackbacks

  1. Are the Met police issuing illegal fixed penalties to cyclists? « UKcyclerules
  2. Are the Met police issuing illegal fixed penalties to cyclists? « UKcyclerules
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