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Met Police Cycle Officer in suspected criminal offence

17 February 2011

A few days ago, I rode past two members of the Met police’s cycle unit who had stopped a motorist for some reason. I sneakily took some pictures.

The pictures show two things.

First, I’ll never be a professional photographer (sorry).

But more importantly, there appeared to be something untoward going on. This close-up provides further evidence:

This officer’s bike didn’t have pedal reflectors. I’ve noticed this a lot with the police – about half the police bikes I see have sturdy metal pedals with no reflectors on them.

I’ve posted before about the rules on bike lights and reflectors. The requirements for bikes include two pedal reflectors on each pedal – one facing the front and one facing the rear – which have to be “amber” (i.e. orange). You’re exempt if your bicycle was manufactured before 1 October 1985 – but looking at the photos, it seems fairly likely that this officer’s bike is newer than that. (RVLR r. 18(1); Sch 1 table 3; Sch 20 pt. 1 paras. 1-6)

The requirements only apply after sunset – so this particular officer wasn’t committing an offence at the time. But if he stayed out on the bike past sunset, he’d be committing an offence. His colleagues could give him a fixed penalty notice (if they were in uniform at the time), or could prosecute him, in which case he’d be liable to a fine of up to £1000. (RVLR r. 4(3)(c); RTA s.41(1), 41(4)(b), 42; RTOA ss. 51, 54, Sch 2, 3)

I suppose it’s also possible that a member of the public could bring a private prosecution, although there would be a risk that the Director of Public Prosecutions might stop it. (POA, ss. 6, 23)

Of course it may be that the Met Police don’t let their cycle units out after dark. Or it may be that every evening there’s an I am Legend-style dash to the station before the last shards of sunlight disappear over the horizon. 

Either way, this highlights a bit of a conundrum when it comes to rules like this: why do we have laws which aren’t enforced? The pedal reflector rule is a particularly good example, since so many people ride around with ‘clip-in’-style pedals which lock to their shoes and are too small to have visible reflectors in them. If the rule was enforced, you’d get a fixed penalty for using clip-in pedals after dark. As far as I’m aware, this never happens.

Wouldn’t the road rules make more sense if this rule was repealed?


Photos by UKcyclerules. Licensed cc by-nc-nd.

  1. MikeonaBike permalink
    17 February 2011 13:04

    Just one of hundreds of laws not enforced, and possibly even more that specifically don’t appear to apply to the police (eg using phones/radios while driving; eating/drinking while driving to name but two).
    And they expect us to respect them!

    • Bryony permalink
      17 February 2011 13:43

      A friend took two armed police to task the other day in our local Starbucks because they routinely park on the double yellows outside so they can get their coffee. They were unrepentant: ‘we have to stay with our car’ (to which her reply was ‘why doesn’t one of you buy both coffees then, and why not park legitimately if one of you is staying with the vehicle?’) but she did get them to admit, in public, with witnesses, that there was one rule for the public and one rule for the police…

      • 18 February 2011 22:48

        I hope she took their badge numbers and reported then to their station.

  2. 17 February 2011 14:47

    So how does the law apply to people such as myself that have built their own bicycle?

    • 19 February 2011 18:53

      hi ben

      tough question. as a quick response (not fully researched) i suspect that if you build your bike yourself you have to comply with the pedal reflectors rule, unless (perhaps) all the parts are pre-85.

      like i said, though, this isn’t a full response – another day!

      • 19 February 2011 19:07

        I for one, don’t have any pedal reflectors. I have LOOK pedals which don’t have any way of fixing such reflectors. Are you suggesting that all road racing bikes should be taken off the road?
        Maybe you should do a post asking for responses from people who have been prosecuted for not having reflectors on their pedals. I doubt very much if you get any responses at all. Police have better things to do.

  3. 17 February 2011 16:14

    The reflectors on the newish pedals on my bike fell off after about two weeks of riding. Would I have a case that they weren’t of merchantable quality if they fell into an illegal state so quickly?

    • 19 February 2011 18:54

      hi sheridan

      thanks for posting – but that’s a whole other topic! i intend to look at buying bikes in future weeks – please check back!

  4. 17 February 2011 23:35

    Lets be honest, the vast majority of the roads are un-policed. Road users get away with murder (literally) on the roads.
    It’s down to the fact that you hardly see a traffic car and you hardly get pulled over. Because people can feel that they can safely break the law, they do it every day.
    Hence why we have issues with bad drivers and they get away with it for years if not decades.

    We need more police who are strict on the laws and hand out fines to everyone that breaks road laws!

    Although lets delete this law about pedal reflectors 😛

  5. 18 February 2011 19:57

    When I first read your post, I was hoping that this was a tongue in cheek piece but obviously, after reading the comments by MikeonaBike and Bryony, you are quite serious about your accusations.
    Are you telling me that, all three of you have always complied with the Highway Code? Every single aspect of it, whether relating to bicycles or cars? If you answer NO, then that makes you a hypocrite, and if you answer YES, that makes you a liar and a hypocrite.

    • 19 February 2011 18:58

      Hi TdF

      The post was meant to be tongue in cheek – apologies if this didn’t come across! I shall have to work on my comic writing 😉

      • 19 February 2011 19:11

        I do accept that your post was meant to be tongue in cheek but it was the 2 first responses who seemed to take all this rather too seriously.
        In my view, Police and cyclists have a bad name and I feel obliged to defend them. That’s not to say that no matter what, they should all be defended!!!

  6. 19 February 2011 18:53

    There is a rule in the Republic of Ireland that I believe also exists in the UK, which is that a cyclist must have a working bell. This also would be repealed in an ideal world. Few people have them, but I’m not aware of any prosecutions, in Ireland at least.

    I’m not saying that a bell can’t be useful at times, but pedal reflectors are also useful. Just not so useful that they should be the subject of a law that will never be enforced.

  7. 21 February 2011 16:54

    Dermot – In the UK a bicycle only has to have a bell at the point of sale. it’s fine to remove it afterwards.

    • 21 February 2011 17:52

      thanks dave

      as far as i’m aware that’s right – but i’m hoping to cover buying bikes in more detail in a few weeks’ time

    • 21 February 2011 23:29

      Ah! That seems a more sensible law.

  8. Stevie permalink
    5 April 2011 01:58

    Seems to me the reflector rule comes from a different age – of Pifco lamps and dim dynamos. These days my road bike has LED lamps that are as every bit as good as a motor scooter and much more effective than when these laws were forumulated. The best we can hope for is it is laws that are based on evidence and really intended to help.

    Here in Aussie we have a totally mad compulsory helmet law which is used by police to hassle cyclists routinely. The result is kids riding with a useless helmet dangling from the handlebars and fewer cyclists on the road. As someone who has trouble finding a helmet to fit (but who always wears one) I find this a PITA.

  9. don_don permalink
    5 April 2011 12:26

    If I could pick up on Stevie’s point; it is only since I bought a good LED front light that I realised just how effective pedal reflectors actually are.

    With my light now reaching that much further ahead (as much as a car’s dipped lights) I can make out the unmistakeable up/down amber reflection that immediately marks out a cyclist, even if they are poorly lit. I was so impressed that it prompted me to buy some flat pedals with reflectors, for commuting to work.

    I agree that enforcement seems to be a very low priority, but I totally disagree that pedal reflectors belong to some earlier era of cycling.

  10. 7 April 2011 10:57

    My clip in pedals don’t have reflectors, but the clip in shoes that I use do.

    I suspect there are more important things for the police to be doing other than enforcing petty laws like this one… such as buying coffee and doughnuts?

  11. 11 April 2011 10:54


    You’ve made the point that I was going to. Similarly, I have just started using Look clipless pedals. There is no reflector on them obviously but the back of my Sidi shoes has a very bright reflective heel.

    My learned friend, a question for you. My understanding is that all flashing bike lights are unlawful. All bike lights should just be a constant light rather than blinking LED’s as is so commonly used. Do you know what the statute law says on this?

    • 11 April 2011 11:58

      Hi tom

      re flashing lights, see this post and the comments.

      re reflectors in shoes: i haven’t looked in detail, but my initial reaction would be that reflectors which aren’t on the pedals themselves don’t comply with the legal requirements. but i agree with ed that it’s got to be unlikely you’d ever be pulled up for this…

  12. 11 April 2011 12:47

    Interesting, thanks. I stand corrected and am happy to be so, as all my bike lights flash.

  13. Brian_of_Bozeat permalink
    21 April 2011 14:19

    I have snap band style reflectors round my ankles that I wear when I use my clip in peddles in dark conditions. I would argue that the 360° reflectors that are moving up/down/round are a big improvement upon peddle only reflectors that might be hidden by shoes/clothing.


  1. Bike lights and reflectors – the basics « UK Cycle Rules – information on cycling law in England and Wales

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