Friday, 15 March 2013

Metropolitan Police Letter to Cyclists

A Metropolitan Police Roadsafe officer has written to me and, presumably, others with 'Advice to Cyclists' which relates to Advanced Stop Lines.  I have been asked to share it on my 'forum' and that I now do though I must confess after some hesitation.
The letter makes a point that filming a motor vehicle in an advanced stop box with the light red is not the same as filming it being driven past the first stop line at red.  It is theoretically possible, though I have to say in my many miles of commuting experience it does not happen, that a motor vehicle passes the first line at green, or at yellow when it is not safe to stop, but they do manage to stop before the second line.
A reminder of the Highway Code:


You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green. If the amber light appears you may go on only if you have already crossed the stop line or are so close to it that to stop might cause a collision.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36
Or, conceivably you were in a queue of traffic waiting to turn right and chose not to keep the cycle box clear.
Highway Code:


You MUST NOT move forward over the white line when the red light is showing. Only go forward when the traffic lights are green if there is room for you to clear the junction safely or you are taking up a position to turn right.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36


Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists,MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 36(1) & 43(2)
In fairness, in the absence of yellow cross hatchings, the instruction only to go forward on green if there is room to clear the junction safely is advice rather than mandatory so a further get out for the motorist is that he was in congested traffic and, contrary to the Highway Code but not to the criminal law, got over the first line on green but could not make it over the second due to congestion.  This will hardly wash if the traffic is light.
The vast overwhelming majority of motor vehicles waiting in cycle boxes have got there in contravention of a traffic light but I would not quibble with a police decision not to issue a ticket to such motorists because of the possibility that they might challenge the ticket and a Court is then persuaded that there is reasonable doubt whether they have broken the law.  However a letter of advice if, as I believe, that is the most draconian step that the police would consider anyway would be justified in those circumstances where there is a reasonable suspicion of a breach of the law.
So what the police want, I suppose, is something like this, filmed last night but there are plenty of examples on every one of my commutes:

So the car on the left has clearly committed an offence and the one on the right even more clearly.  I cut the film where I did so that you can speculate on whether I stopped at the first line.  The police have taken the trouble to remind me that I would be committing an offence if I cross the first line at red other than through a lead in cycle lane (or 'cycle entry').  If there is such a lead in lane (or entry) at all it is in the gutter a quite hopeless approach to the Hammersmith gyratory if, like me, you are going all the way around to continue west on King Street.
So I have to tell you I am not going to waste my time sending this footage and others like it to Roadsafe.  I do not believe there is a ghost of a chance that they would prosecute.  They might send a letter to the registered keeper reasoning that education is all that is required.  However motorists do not breach ASLs when there is a police car behind them which indicates to me that they understand the law only too well.  Getting a letter reinforces the quite accurate perception that it is a breach of the law they can get away with.  Another reason not to send in such material is that the APPCG enquiry was told by the Metropolitan Police that they had assigned one officer to viewing these videos with a view to prosecution.  After one initial response when that officer was first appointed I have heard nothing in respect of the various films I have sent in where I have been endangered by incontrovertibly bad driving.  Enforcing ASLs is one thing the police could very easily do without any assistance from me and I will not depart from my practice which is to send them only the really bad (would clearly sustain a prosecution for careless driving) stuff.
Raising the issue of cyclists' contravention of the law in the way in which I have described is clearly a stock answer.  It is the one I was given when I spent a morning with the Cycle Task Force.  It is a revealing reflection of how trivial the police consider ASL offences by motorists that they intermingle it with the issue of cyclists crossing a first solid line.  Perhaps they think the absence of a feeder lane for cyclists means that no offence can be proved against the motorist but this would obviously not be so since the motorist is still crossing the line at red.  Perhaps this is the "it would not be fair to crack down on motorists unless we crack down even harder on cyclists" mentality.

In frustration,  I am resorting with increasing frequency to dismounting and pushing my bike over white lines in order to stay within the law but that is only an option if you know that the lights are not about to turn green.
So I shall not be acting on the police letter but I draw it to your attention so that you can do as you see fit.
Two very obvious improvements in the law though would be:
(a) Cyclists may pass the first stop line regardless of the colour of the light;
(b) It is illegal for a motorist to enter a cycle box unless his/her exit is clear (i.e. treat them as yellow boxes and without the right turn exception).

One from Tescos


  1. "The police have taken the trouble to remind me that I would be committing an offence if I cross the first line at red other than through a lead in cycle lane. If there is such a lead in lane at all it"

    Quite. The lane is also often blocked by cars / motorbikes, and restricting entry to a lane often on the left of the box often unhelpful if you want to turn right. What do the police say about the frequent boxes without any entry lane? Surely they are rendered completely pointless.

  2. Lead in lanes are not required. The latest amendment to the TSRGD allows a cycle entry to be used rather than a feeder lane, but it is still daft as the entry is even more likely to be blocked than a feeder.

    1. These "no entry at all" arrangements seem quite common:

      What's a cyclist legally supposed to do there?

      and here's an interesting one:

      which if the box were full of bikes would prevent cars from filtering left. Cyclists obstructing the flow of traffic perhaps?


  3. there's an obvious answer, which is to fill most of the ASL with a yellow box. ie, if you have a 6m deep asl, fill 3m of it with a yellow box, and leave the 3m in front clear for bikes (but not allowing enough space for a car). that way, any vehicles entering the asl will be forced to stop partially in the yellow box. then put a yellow box camera to ensure fines. problem solved.

  4. On the Governments red-tape scheme a year or so ago I raised the issue of entering ASLs for cyclists and asked that this law be changed (along with pedal reflectors).

    I have been told that the lane that leads into the ASL is a "filter lane" and not a "cycle lane" as the former is for entry and the later for travel. This is a point I attempted to calm a driver with here: (note - he swerved in towards me before the lane started)



  6. I would disagree that cars being in the ASL area because of screeching to a halt as the lights change is only a theoretical possibility, I've seen it fairly frequently at certain junctions, particularly in more congested parts of the West End. I've seen cars halted with just their rear wheels in the ASL area with some frequency too. Certainly much less common than driving over deliberately, but not merely a theoretical possibility.

  7. In congested areas it is certainly not unusual for cars to pass into ASL area when their path across the junction is not clear so they get stuck there when the lights change. Not criminal, save as potentially driving without due consideration, but in breach of the Highway Code. Happens even to the police.

  8. I (quite rightly) failed my first driving test for precisely this.

    I was three cars back on a steep hill and with a traffic light that had a very short green. By the time I'd got up the hill the light showed amber and I stopped. My front wheels were in the ASL and I was failed for that alone.

  9. I stopped quickly as a light changed to amber on Thursday while driving a van. Ended up a few feet into the ASL which was a tad embarrasing given that my usual means of transport was in the back of the van. Fortunately no cyclists wanted to use it.

  10. ... There may be changes afoot
    "Removing the need for a lead-in lane/gate at ASLs – cyclists can cross 1st stop line anywhere"
    If the law has changed, I think it won't apply to historic incidents, but if they have re-interpreted the existing law in a way that now makes more sense, then that might apply retrospectively !

    Not sure if TSRGD 2015 is in force yet - I just see drafts,consultation etc.

    Re: dismounting to cross lines
    using a pedestrian phase - ok ?
    Scooting = cycling - not ok ?

  11. Some more background on ASLs

  12. I don't see the changes in TSRGD 2016!
    Still a legal problem ?

    1. Ah - it's not an 'advance' stop line.

      It's a "second stop line".