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When can you be given a fixed penalty notice?

10 September 2010

The Guardian’s bike blog recently featured this article on the rules about bike brakes. It pointed out that bikes generally need a braking system on both wheels. If you’re riding a fixed gear bike, you need a front brake. (PCCUR, reg. 7(1)(b))

There’s an interesting bit towards the end, when it talks about what might happen if you’re caught. The article quotes the Met police as saying that anyone found to be breaking this particular law wouldn’t get a fixed penalty notice – they’d be prosecuted in the courts. What the article doesn’t fully spell out is that, when it comes to brake requirements, the police don’t have the power to issue a fixed penalty notice.

The article then tells us that the Met weren’t aware of any cases where someone had been prosecuted in the courts for not having the right brakes. It seems that if the police can’t issue a fixed penalty notice, then enforcement will be a whole lot less likely. I thought I would look at what else you can and can’t be given a fixed penalty for.


A fixed penalty notice is a penalty issued on the spot, generally by a constable in uniform. Amounts can differ, but fixed penalties for offences committed by cyclists are generally £30. (RTOA s. 53; FPO Sch 1)

You will be given a period of at least 21 days to pay the penalty. If you don’t pay (and don’t challenge the penalty) within the time stated, the penalty will normally go up to £45, and will be enforced in the courts as a fine. (RTOA ss. 52(3)(a) and 55(3))

You can only be given a fixed penalty notice for a fixed penalty offence – in other words, for an offence listed in Schedule 3 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act. (RTOA s. 51(1), Sch 3)

What you can get a fixed penalty for

The list of fixed penalty offences includes (note that this isn’t a full list, just some interesting bits):

  • Cycling on a footpath (HA 1835 s.72)
  • Disobeying traffic lights and signs (RTA s. 36)
  • Disobeying directions from police or traffic officers (including directions to stop) (RTA ss. 35, 163(2))
  • Carrying more than one person on a bike on a road (unless the bike is specially adapted for the purpose). Giving “lifts” in this way is an offence for both the person riding and the person being carried, and it seems that both can be given a fixed penalty notice. (RTA s. 24)
  • Breach of the rules relating to pedestrian crossings (for examples, see my previous post). (RTRA s. 25(5))
  • Breach of the rules about lights and reflectors (RTA s.42; RVLR r. 18(1), Sch 1 table 3)
  • Leaving your bike in a dangerous position on the road (RTA s. 22)

What you can’t get a fixed penalty for

The list of fixed penalty offences doesn’t include (so if the police want to enforce these rules, they have to prosecute you in the courts):

  • Dangerous cycling or careless or inconsiderate cycling (RTA ss. 28, 29).
  • Cycling while unfit to do so because of drink or drugs (RTA s. 30)
  • Being pulled along – i.e. holding onto a motor vehicle or trailer, while in motion on the road, “for the purpose of being drawn” (RTA s. 26(2))

Other consequences

Where you have to be prosecuted, generally this means you get a summons in the post to appear at the magistrates’ court. It’s more hassle for the police, which may mean that enforcement is less likely.

But prosecutions do happen, and especially where a failure to comply with the rules causes an accident. Most of the reported cases on zebra crossings, for example (see my previous post), went to court because the driver hit a pedestrian. If you injure someone badly because you didn’t have the necessary brakes, for example, you may well be prosecuted.

The Guardian’s article also points out that failing to comply with the rules can have other consequences. It can affect your insurance, if you have it. It’s also quite likely that the courts would find you negligent if (for example) you didn’t have the brakes (or lights) required by law. If you were sued by someone else for causing an accident, this might make it more likely that you’d be found liable. Alternatively if you were injured in an accident and sued someone else, it might mean that any damages the courts awarded you would be reduced.

  1. 17 September 2010 11:53

    what about ignoring no left (or right) turn signs?

    you mention a constable in uniform – so if you’re stopped by police in an unmarked car (as you mentioned in your previous post), and they’re not in uniform, they can’t give a FPN, right? so could they call for someone else to issue one, or flag down a passing vehicle?

    • 17 September 2010 13:29

      hi els76uk

      a quick reaction (not fully researched):

      re your point about FPNs: it does have to be a constable in uniform, and he has to have reason to believe that a person he finds has committed a fixed penalty offence. so i think there might be problems with a plainclothes officer flagging someone down to issue the notice. but, like a lot of law, it doesn’t look like a clear cut thing.

      re signs – that’s a whole other blog post 😉

  2. 21 September 2010 10:22

    updated on 20/9/10 to make clear that offences which aren’t fixed penalty offences can still be enforced – it’s just necessary for the police to prosecute you in the courts.

  3. 4 November 2010 14:54

    updated 04/11/10 – turns out you can be given a fixed penalty for not having lights at night. this is because of RTA s.41(4)(b), which i hadn’t spotted before. apologies.


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  5. Met Police Cycle Officer in suspected criminal offence « UKcyclerules
  6. Can you lose your driving licence for a cycling offence? « UKcyclerules
  7. The rules of bike brakes « UKcyclerules

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