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Given that bikes aren't required to have a speed indicator, can you be arrested or ticketed for breaking the speed limit on a bike?

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Please limit replies to non-anecdotal accounts. ("I know a guy who heard of... et cetera"). This is a potentially useful question, and I'd like to know the answer. – Neil Fein Sep 2 '10 at 15:13
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Might be worth rephrasing the question, non native english speakers may not understand that the term "be done" means to be arrested. – Kevin Sep 2 '10 at 17:03
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surely you mean "ticketed" not "arrested"? – dotjoe Sep 2 '10 at 18:23
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You need to specify a jurisdiction (at least a country, ideally a state and town) when asking if something is illegal. Otherwise how can we give the correct answer? – Peter Recore Sep 2 '10 at 19:21
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Hey, if I can a speeding ticket on a bike in a nice 60KPH zone, I will take it, pay it, and frame it! – geoffc Feb 15 '11 at 6:01

17 Answers 17

up vote 33 down vote accepted

I believe it depends upon the jurisdiction. In the UK you are not assumed to know the speed you are doing (even if you have a speedometer) and so cannot be convicted of speeding. However, you may be committing other offences. In England and Wales, a "person who rides or drives furiously any horse or carriage, or drives furiously any cattle" is committing an offence under the 1847 Town Police Clauses Act. Infamously, a cyclist was convicted of this in 1997 (for going 25 mph in what was technically though unrealistically a 30 mph area). As far as I am aware, that case is unique.

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Local bylaws can set a speed limit on cycling. For example, in Brighton the promenade has a 10mph speed limit for cycles. – Neil Trodden Sep 2 '10 at 17:15
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I've been pulled over for speeding through a school zone. No ticket but the hint was that I could get one. Check your local bylaws. – curtismchale Sep 2 '10 at 18:08
    
@Neil - you're not allowed to cycle at all on the Promenade in Brighton. The police occasionally focus their attention on the Promenade and hand out £30 fixed penalty notices. – Kevin Sep 2 '10 at 18:33
    
@Neil My recollection is that that limit was simply advice from the local council and had no legislation, even if there were attempts to imply that it was a legal limit. Currently in the UK bylaws require "enabling legislation", which doesn't exist for cycle speed limits (although it does for other speed limits). / Guess I should mention that excessive speed may be considered in assessing liablity, and I am not a lawyer. – Tom Hawtin - tackline Sep 3 '10 at 0:15
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The reason you can't normally be convicted of speeding in the UK isn't because you are assumed not to know your speed. It's simply because the act of parliament that bans speeding refers to "motor vehicles", and bicycles are not motor vehicles. legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/section/84 – bdsl Feb 29 at 13:00

In the US, ignorance of the law, statute or conditions is generally not an allowable defense for violating the law. If the speedometer in your car is broken, you can certainly still get a speeding ticket. In almost all US jurisdictions bicycles are vehicles and subject to all the same laws as cars.

That's the long answer; the short answer is YES.

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This is correct. I work for a police department, and you can be issued a citation for speeding while on your bike (we would be more likely to issue a careless/reckless driving/riding citation). Riding your bike while intoxicated can also land you with a DUI (driving while under the influence). – Jared Harley Sep 2 '10 at 18:43
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I had always assumed as much, but it's nice to hear it from a reliable source. Out of curiosity, have you (or anyone you know of in your department) ever actually issued a speeding ticket to a cyclist? – nhinkle Sep 2 '10 at 23:41
    
@nhinkle - surprisingly, no (I work on a college campus). We did issue a "reckless driving" ticket to a skateboarder who was going too fast and ran into the side of a car (dented it, even - he was dumb, but okay) as he was the one who caused the accident. And I do know of a few DUI tickets issued to bicyclists at CU Boulder. – Jared Harley Sep 3 '10 at 1:11
    
Wow... dented a car on a skateboard? Dumb indeed. Interesting to hear, thanks for sharing. – nhinkle Sep 4 '10 at 22:47
    
@nhinkle I don't know if any of these were speeding tickets, but just recently Boston starting issuing tickets for reckless riding in an area which has had several fatal and near-fatal accidents: boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2010/09/… – Brian Campbell Sep 28 '10 at 4:32

In most United States jurisdictions, a bicycle is for all intents and purposes a vehicle. The driver of a bicycle can be cited for exceeding the speed limit, running red lights and stop signs, failure to yield, unsafe driving, DUI, and so on.

Generally, you won't be arrested for a "normal" traffic infraction, but once you are stopped (in a car, on a motorcycle, or on a bicycle) by an officer, you can be arrested for outstanding warrants, failure to obey, intoxication, weapon possession, etc.

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But since you aren't required to carry a licence to cycle how do they know who you are? Are you required to carry ID in the land of the free these days? – mgb Nov 22 '10 at 17:09
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There's no law stating that we have to carry ID, however, expect to be treated like a criminal if you don't have ID. It's so unusual for a person to NOT have some form of ID that the lack of ID makes you a suspicious person. You won't get into legal trouble for it, but expect there to be some hassle if you're not carrying ID just because it's so unusual. – Brian Knoblauch Nov 24 '10 at 15:22
    
@BrianKnoblauch - This is a very late response, but I must take issue with this. If you are a licensed driver, any police officer in the US should be able to look you up by name. It happens all the time that people forget to bring their driver's license, so cops routinely do this. Lack of ID, especially on a bicycle, should not generate any suspicion at all. – Carey Gregory Jul 20 '13 at 22:58
    
You cannot get a DUI in my state for a bicycle as it is not a motor vehicle. In CA according to this also not a DUI - shouselaw.com/cycling-biking-under-influence.html – Paparazzi Feb 27 at 21:49

The speed limits of the German traffic law (Straßenverkehrsordnung) make a distinction between general rules for "Vehicles" (Fahrzeuge) and "vehicles with engines" (Kraftfahrzeuge).

i.e. §3 StVO:

  1. Wer ein Fahrzeug führt, darf nur so schnell fahren, dass das Fahrzeug ständig beherrscht wird.
  2. [...]
  3. Die zulässige Höchstgeschwindigkeit beträgt auch unter günstigsten Umständen

    1. innerhalb geschlossener Ortschaften für alle Kraftfahrzeuge 50 km/h,
    2. [...]

translation of this excerpt:

  1. The driver may only drive in such a speed that he's always in control of his vehicle.
  2. [...]
  3. The allowed maximum speed is, even under good conditions for all motorized vehicles

    1. inside of built-up areas (cities etc.) 50 km/h,
    2. [...]

So the first generic rule is for all kinds of vehicles, the second one is specific for motorized ones.

Now that's the basic rule. But as soon as there's a sign with a maximum speed things become different: The rule for Sign 274 (speed limit, red circle with max speed in the middle) says

speed limit sign Ge- oder Verbot

  1. Fahrzeugführer dürfen nicht schneller als mit der angegebenen Höchstgeschwindigkeit fahren.
  2. Sind durch das Zeichen innerhalb geschlossener Ortschaften bestimmte Geschwindigkeiten über 50 km/h zugelassen, gilt das für Fahrzeuge aller Art.
  3. Außerhalb geschlossener Ortschaften bleiben die für bestimmte Fahrzeugarten geltenden Höchstgeschwindigkeiten (§ 3 Absatz 3 Nummer 2 Buchstabe a und b und § 18 Absatz 5) unberührt, wenn durch das Zeichen eine höhere Geschwindigkeit zugelassen ist.

Again a rough translation:

speed limit sign Order or ban

  1. Drivers may not go faster than the shown speed limit
  2. If this sign allows higher speed than 50km/h in an built-up area this is valid for all kinds of vehicles.
  3. Outside of built-up areas the maximum speeds for special vehicles [note: trucks may go only 80 etc.] in place, if this sign would allow a higher speed

So, combining these two rules with my naive interpretation a cycler may go as fast as he wants within built-up areas. But as soon as there's a sign like "max 60" that's valid for bicycles, too.

From my experience cops once pulled me over in an area with a speed limit of 30 while i was going something around 35-40 and "reminded" me that there's no racing track. But didn't give me a fine or something.


A bit off topic but a continuation from the above quote which can be fun for non-Germans:

Die zulässige Höchstgeschwindigkeit beträgt außerhalb geschlossener Ortschaften für Personenkraftwagen sowie für andere Kraftfahrzeuge mit einer zulässigen Gesamtmasse bis 3,5 t 100 km/h. Diese Geschwindigkeitsbeschränkung gilt nicht auf Autobahnen [...]

translation:

The allowed maximum speed is outside of built-up areas (cities etc.) for cars and other vehicles with a maximum allowed weight up to 3.5 tons 100km/h. This limit does not cover motorways [...]

The consequence is: Ther is no general speed limit on motorways, cars can go as fast as they like - unless there are other signs (and insurance will cause trouble in case of an accident etc.)

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+1 To explain the German law - I believe a country with more people on bikes vs the US... – olee22 Jul 4 '14 at 5:03

In the UK, the relevant legislation is the Road Traffic Regulation Act.

General speed limit for restricted roads.

(1) It shall not be lawful for a person to drive a motor vehicle on a restricted road at a speed exceeding 30 miles per hour.

(2) The Ministers acting jointly may by order made by statutory instrument and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament increase or reduce the rate of speed fixed by subsection (1) above, either as originally enacted or as varied under this subsection.

Note that the offence only applies to motor vehicles, a bicycle is not a motor vehicle, so you cannot be guilty of speeding on a bicycle. You could be charged with either Dangerous Cycling or Careless And Inconsiderate Cycling.

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You certainly can in Calgary (Canada) where our pathway speed limit is mostly 20 km/h, and goes down to 10 km/h in places. Police (who are on bikes themselves) have speed traps setup on bike paths frequently in the summer -- and these are often strategically placed at the bottom of large hills.

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In the UK the answer is almost always no, but over and above other rules (e.g. dangerous or furious cycling, cycling in a no-cycling area) there are some exceptions, e.g. the Royal Parks - there is a 20mph in Richmond Park which, because it has its own Act of Parliament, is also for bikes - and people are done for it.

Although, strictly, you'd be issued with a Fixed Penalty, not arrested.

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Although there's some dispute about Richmond Park. People have argued that the law doesn't really apply to bikes, but I don't think anyone has taken that argument to a court room yet. – bdsl Feb 29 at 13:03

It's very unusual, but I do know cyclists who've been ticketed for speeding (in Canada).

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did the speed ticket come with a nice display frame? – Ian Sep 2 '10 at 15:36
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That costs extra -- contact your local authorities for pricing. – darkcanuck Sep 2 '10 at 16:07

Yes. I was ticketed in California for speeding AND running a red light (two different violations).

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There is a 15mph speed limit imposed on at least one major trail in the Seattle area - maybe more. However I do know people have been cited for speeding on the trail. I believe the speed limit is in place because there are many pedestrians on this trail as well.

I grew up in a town notorious for the bike patrol (not real cops on bikes to get to real calls faster - they were like meter maids on bikes to police the bike riders in my home town!) but the one ticket I knew they didn't write was a speeding ticket.

I would think the constabulary might be a tad cross if you're descending down a big hill and pass them doing 50+mph though... :)

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This is also the case in Indianapolis: it's also a multi-use trail and there are Speed Limit 15 MPH signs posted in different places, although not along the entire length of the trail. I haven't heard about speeding tickets being issues, but at one point they were ticketing people for using the trail after hours ... – Dave DuPlantis May 13 '11 at 16:17

In Connecticut you can be fined for breaking the speed within city limits. The laws are to protect pedestrians and a bike that cannot stop in a timely manner can cause equal outcome...

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In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Austria (haven't checked in other countries, not having had a chance to bike there), cyclists are not exempt from the respective country's traffic code; furthermore, it is the responsibility of the traffic member to observe the traffic code (and not having brought a speedometer is your own problem).

In practice, however, I have never even heard of a speeding ticket for a cyclist (whereas tickets for other violations are issued - riding under influence, running a red light, etc.), as 1) the posted speeds are usually way higher than a cyclist can realistically reach and 2) the police usually doesn't measure the cyclists' speeds (be it in person or via traffic cameras).

That said, getting actually arrested for breaking the speed limit (even in a car) is practically unheard of, unless there's some other offence you've committed; perhaps cycling on a freeway could get you there (illegal on a bike, plus a minimum speed limit of 60 kph).

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In Australia and New Zealand you can't be arrested directly for speeding (you can instead be arrested for failing to stop or not obeying police instructions etc once you attract police attention).

Australian road rules: chain it together as "20 Obeying the speed limit A driver must not drive at a speed over the speed limit ..." through "19 References to driver includes rider etc" to "17 Who is a rider (1) A rider is the person who is riding a motor bike, bicycle, animal or animal-drawn vehicle."

You can be ticketed for speeding, even though you are not required to have any means to know your speed. For example in Centennial Park in Sydney there is a 30kph limit and fairly regularly the police track and occasionally ticket cyclists there. On public roads it's much less common but does happen. Examples 56kph in 40kph zone and "Can be ticketed" article with possible mention of a fine being issued.

In NZ I've seen cyclists prosecuted for disorderly behaviour because that's a catch-all for "things we don't like" and can be applied to anyone (NZ and Australia both count skateboards etc as "toy vehicles" and people on them count as pedestrians).

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m.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/… - working link – Tymski Mar 1 at 15:26
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From that link: "Senior Constable Lance Munckton was shocked to clock a cyclist doing 56km/h through a children’s crossing outside St John’s Primary School in Scarborough during morning peak hour earlier this month. The 34-year-old cyclist from Mt Hawthorn was fined $150 and issued two demerit points – a penalty he was “very annoyed” with." (it's from the Murdocracy and the link will surely rot) – Móż Mar 1 at 20:47

The real important thing is basically don't ride like an idiot and don't go faster than you see to stop.

Realistically most Police officers aren't going to pull you over on a push bike for speeding and tbh you aren't going to be going a lot faster than the speed limit (unless you are descending like a Vincenzo Nibali or riding far to fast in a low speed limit), they are more likely to pull you over if you are riding dangerously (no lights at night, riding through a crowd, riding the bike drunk).

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As far as I know, french law doesn't mention that speed limits are applicable only to vehicles with a speed indicator.

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Do you know this for a fact, or is this simply absence of knowledge of such a provision? (Some jurisdictions have exceptions for bicycles. For example. New York State in the US allows bikes to ride on the shoulder, but NJ has no such provision that I've been able to find -- and I have looked.) – Neil Fein Sep 2 '10 at 16:01
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I am not a lawyer so I can't point to specific references. But using a bike for commuting for more than ten years and being involved in cycling and commuting communities, I would be aware of exceptions regarding speed limits and bicycles. – mouviciel Sep 2 '10 at 18:24

In Spain max speed for bikes on town is 20 km/h. Sound like a joke right ? it is not. I believe you can be actually charged for overspeed but you can get away saying you don't know how fast you where going (if you don't have a speedometer on your bike and it is not mandatory to have one). But it is really hard to imagine a police man measuring bike speed and then pursuit a bike.. in town bikes can be far faster that a car and they don't have a plate so you can't identify one. Which brings me to another point that most over speed tickets are made by automated machines or highway patrols taking a picture of your car and plate but without a plate it is far harder to prove the offense.

So in resume: Yes it is a offense and you can be charged in theory. But if you think about it in deep it becomes something from science fiction.

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Somebody told me a friend got a ticket in the UK when he overtook a police car going down hill.

This was about 20 years ago and I didn't meet the offender myself. Possibly not a very useful answer to the question, but I thought it was interesting when I heard it.

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