Cycling in London parks
I’ve written before about cycling on footpaths and pavements. As I said then, if the pavement is by the side of a road, the rules are clear – unless there’s a designated cycle lane, or a ‘shared use’ sign, cycling is prohibited. If you’re caught riding on one of these pavements, a constable in uniform (or a PCSO) can give you a fixed penalty of £30.
On other footpaths, away from the road, things are less straightforward. The basic offence of pavement cycling doesn’t apply, but there might be local byelaws prohibiting cycling (and it may count as trespassing).
There’s one big exception – the rules on cycling in certain London parks. Within the relevant parks there are specific regulations governing when and how you can cycle. Technically these aren’t byelaws, but a separate system of rules and offences.
Some of the rules are surprisingly strict. Others are just plain surprising.
The special regulations apply to areas including the Royal Parks, Primrose Hill and Hampton Court. The full list of affected areas is here, (although Parliament Square Gardens and Trafalgar Square have since been removed from the list). (Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/1639), Sch 1; SI 2004/1308, r. 2(1), (4))
So not all London parks are affected by the special regulations. Places like London Fields and Victoria Park in Hackney, for example, aren’t included in the list, so aren’t governed by the special regulations. But, as with other parks and public spaces, that doesn’t mean that cycling in them is automatically ok – it might be prohibited by byelaws (which should normally be indicated on signs in the parks).
Bans on cycling
In the parks which are governed by the special regulations, you’re only allowed to cycle:
- on a park road – i.e. a road “open to vehicular traffic” – in other words, a road in the park where cars can go; or
- in an area designated and marked as for cyclists. This seems to mean the footpaths that have signs allowing cycling. Take Hyde Park, for example – as I recall, it’s fairly clearly marked on the ground which routes are open to cyclists and which are not.
There are exceptions for children aged 10 or less. But if you’re over 10 and you ride a bike anywhere else in the relevant parks (for example on paths which are marked no cycling) you’ll commit an offence carrying a fine of up to £200 (RPR rr. 1(2), 3(4), amended by SI 2004/1308, r. 2(1), (2)(a); see below for full references)
As far as I can see, though, you can’t be given a fixed penalty for this offence. More on this below.
There’s another important rule which is worth being aware of: when you’re cycling on a road in one of the relevant parks, you’re not allowed to exceed the speed limit. This is quite special – normally speed limits don’t apply to cyclists. But on the Park roads, the speed limits apply to cyclists too. (RPR r. 4(28))
The basic speed limit on the park roads is 10mph. There are some exceptions – for example on the Serpentine Road in Hyde Park, the speed limit is 15mph; in Bushy Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park the limit is 20mph. (RPR r. 4(28), Sch 2 pt 2. The speed restrictions have been amended by SI 2010/1194, r. 2(7) – the full list at the time of writing is here)
It’s not an excuse that you didn’t have a speedometer on your bike so you couldn’t know how fast you were going. If the police catch you exceeding the limit on one of the Park roads on your bike, you’ll commit an offence. For this offence you can be given a fixed penalty (as far as I can see, the maximum is £30). (RPR r. 4(28); references below; RTOA Sch 3; FPO Sch 1)
The speed limits apply to cyclists on the park roads. But, as mentioned above, you’re also allowed to cycle in the relevant parks in other areas designated as for cyclists. It’s not entirely clear, but it seems that the speed limits don’t apply in the other designated areas within the parks (where cycling is allowed but cars are not).
So if you’re crossing Hyde Park on the (cycle-allowed) footpaths, there seems to be a good argument that the default 10mph speed limit won’t apply.
But, in this situation, you can’t necessarily go as fast as you want. You have to make sure that you don’t recklessly interfere with the safety of other park users. And you also have to comply with any direction given on a notice for the regulation or control of pedal cycles – so if there’s a notice which states another speed limit for cyclists on the paths (or an obligation to give way to pedestrians, for example) and you disobey the notice, you’ll commit another offence. But (unlike the offence of speeding on a park road) these offences aren’t fixed penalty offences – so enforcement can only be by prosecution. (RPR r. 3(1); 3(9); RTOA Sch 3)
This is all, admittedly, a little bit confusing. And, for a minute, it’s going to get worse. Bear with me.
But (this is the confusing bit) if you ride in one of the parks after sunset without lights, you won’t actually be contravening the normal lights and reflectors rules – the normal rules, which I’ve described in a previous post, only apply to cycling on normal roads. (RTA ss. 41(1), (4), 42)
Instead, if you break the rules on lights and reflectors in one of the relevant parks, you’ll be committing an offence of contravening the parks regulations. If you do this you can be fined up to £200 – but as far as I can see you can’t be given a fixed penalty notice.
Finally, a few other things to be aware of. I’ve mentioned above that you have to comply with directions about cycling which are given on a notice in the relevant parks. You also need to comply with directions about cycling given by a constable. So, even if you’re cycling where cycling is permitted in one of the parks, it seems that a police officer can order you to dismount – and you’ll commit an offence if you refuse. (RPR r. 3(9); references below)
Similarly, you have to give your name and address to constable if they have reasonable grounds for believing you’ve broken the rules. Again, it’s an offence to refuse. (RPR r. 5)
If you contravene any of the parks regulations, you’ll commit an offence and can be fined up to £200. (Parks Regulation (Amendment) Act 1926, s. 2(1); Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 s. 162(2); SI 2005/1521 r. 3(1)(z); Royal Parks (Regulation of Specified Parks) Order 2005 (SI 2005/1522) art. 2)
As I’ve said above, if you’re caught speeding on a park road, you can be given a fixed penalty of £30. (RTOA s. 51(1); Sch 3; FPO Sch 1)
But as far as I can see, you can’t be given a fixed penalty for any of the other offences against the parks regulations mentioned above. So a police officer won’t have power to issue a fixed penalty if you’re caught riding on a path in the parks where cycling is prohibited, or riding in the parks after sunset without lights.
This means that, except for the speeding offence, the police can only impose a fine for an offence against the parks regulations by bringing a prosecution. As I’ve said before, a prosecution will be more hassle for the police than giving out a fixed penalty, and that might make it more unlikely.
Bear in mind though that a constable has a power to give directions about the use of your bike in the relevant parks, so if you’re caught disobeying the parks regulations you could just be ordered to get off your bike. Disobeying is an offence, for which a prosecution is perhaps more likely.
Update: from 1 July 2012, it looks like the police will have the power to issue on the spot penalties for disorderly behaviour to anyone who cycles in one of the parks mentioned above in an area where cycling isn’t allowed. (Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (Amendment) Order 2012/1430, art. 1, 2; Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, sections 1(1), 2(1))
As far as I can see, it’s only the offence of cycling where you’re not allowed to cycle (within the parks) which will attract the new on-the-spot fines; penalties for the other offences mentioned above are unchanged.
On-the-spot penalties under this particular Act seem to work similarly to normal cycling FPNs. Amounts are slightly higher though – the penalty will be £50 if you’re over 16 years of age (or £30 if you’re under 16). (Penalties for Disorderly Behaviour (Amount of Penalty) Order 2002, Schedule part II; SI 2004/3371, art. 3(3), (5); SI 2012/1431, article 2)
Photo by Alex_Pink from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_foz/4923641680/
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