£130 fines for cycling in Olympic Lanes?
In the run-up to the Olympics, cyclists have been threatened with higher-than-usual fines for riding in dedicated Olympics lanes.
As I’ve mentioned before, normally the maximum fixed penalty notice for cyclists is £30. I thought I’d check whether there is any legal basis for higher fines for riding in Games lanes.
There’s a lot of legislation in this context, and some of it is quite opaque. Below is what I’ve found so far.
The rules differ slightly as between roads inside and outside London. I’ve focussed on the position in London, on the basis that that’s probably where the most cyclists are going to encounter the most Olympic lanes.
Cycling on the Olympic Route Network
The Games lanes form part of the Olympic Route Network (ORN).
The Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) has the power to make Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) for roads on the ORN. That includes the power to regulate which vehicles can use which lanes, and to ban cyclists from particular lanes. (London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, s. 14(1); RTRA s. 6(1))
The ODA has made a series of TROs for the ORN in London, which are available on the TfL website. The TROs seem to use a standard form, and do seem to ban cyclists from Games lanes when they are operational (see for example this TRO covering the Westway, article 3).
As I’ve said before, a prohibition contained in a TRO has to be adequately indicated by signs at the roadside. Where a Games Lane is accompanied by a sign which doesn’t have a bike symbol on it, that is likely to be sufficient indication that cycling is prohibited. (LOGPG s. 14(3); RTRA Sch 9 Pt III; Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/2489) r. 18(1); James v Cavey  2 QB 676; R (Herron) v Parking Adjudicator  EWCA Civ 905, 35-37)
Where the sign adequately indicates that cycling is prohibited, breaching the terms of the TRO (by riding in the lane) will be an offence. (RTRA s. 8)
But key question is how the offence is enforced – and what kind of fines can be imposed.
Breaching a TRO is a fixed penalty offence. So a constable in uniform can issue a FPN if he or she catches you riding in a Games lane, where doing so was prohibited by one of the ODA’s TROs. (RTRA s. 8; RTOA s. 54, Sch 3)
FPNs for cyclists are generally £30. I can’t find anything which changes this, or makes the penalty higher, for Games lanes. (FPO Sch 1)
As I’ve mentioned before, if you dispute a FPN given to you by a constable in uniform, you will normally face trial for the offence, generally in the magistrates court.
If you challenge a FPN which is issued for cycling in a Games lane, be aware that there are special provisions for maximum fines – the maximum fine for cycling in a Games lane, if you are convicted in court, is £5,000. (LOGPG s. 15(1))
But, so far, the maximum on-the-spot fine for cycling in a Games lane is £30 – the normal level for a cycling FPN. So where does the threat of higher fines come from?
The legislation surrounding Games lanes also provides other mechanisms for enforcement. The first is the possibility of civil enforcement under Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.
Part 6 enables new regimes to be set up for civil fines. The ODA has power to determine how high civil fines are for infringements involving the Games lanes (although the Secretary of State’s approval is required), and the ODA has announced that civil fines will be a maximum of £130. (LOGPG ss. 15(3), 15A)
As far as I can see, though, the only civil enforcement regime which has been created under Part 6 is the regime for the enforcement of parking offences. The parking rules won’t catch cyclists who ride in Games lanes (although it could, in theory, be possible for a cyclist to commit a parking offence by leaving a bike in the wrong place). (SI 2007/3483)
I’ve looked for other civil enforcement regimes which might apply to moving traffic offences in Games lanes, but haven’t been able to find any.
So as far as I can see, civil enforcement under Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 can’t apply to cyclists who commit an offence of riding in a Games lane.
TfL Penalty Charges
Where the civil enforcement rules do not apply, there is an alternative power for TfL (or Borough Councils) to issue penalty charges for infringements involving Games lanes. (LOGPG s. 16A(1), (2)(a), (3)(a); London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003, s. 4)
Here, again, the ODA gets to determine the level of the penalty charge, with the Secretary of State’s approval. As I’ve mentioned, the charges which the ODA has laid down include a maximum penalty of £130. (LOGPG ss. 16A(5), 16B; LLATFLA, s. 4(13))
But the power to issue penalty charges in this context applies only to motor vehicles. So, as far as I can see, TfL (and the Borough Councils) don’t have the power to impose penalty charges (under this legislation) on cyclists. (LLATFLA s. 4(1))
So, to summarise, riding in a games lane during its hours of operation is likely to amount to an offence of breaching a Traffic Regulation Order.
If you commit this offence you can be given a fixed penalty notice of £30, by a constable in uniform. Alternatively, if you’re convicted in court, you can be fined up to £5,000.
But I haven’t been able to find any legal basis for any other kind of fine for a cyclist for riding in a Games lane.
That’s not a guarantee that a £130 fine for a cyclist would be unlawful. As I’ve said, the legislation in this area is very complex and quite opaque, and it may be that there’s something I haven’t found – perhaps some kind of statutory instrument that has been brought in but not publicised. It’s not particularly likely, but it is possible.
If you are given a £130 fine for cycling in a games lane, I’d be very interested to see it. But if you get a fine like this and feel like challenging it, as I’ve mentioned before it would be a good idea to get legal advice – especially in this context, where the maximum court-imposed fine is unusually high.
Photo by sludgegulper from here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sludgeulper/7578083812/
This post is for information only and is not intended as legal advice. UK Cycle Rules material is made available subject to terms which you can read here.