So, speed limits then

Battery-powered bicycles are being modified to travel at almost 30mph – twice the speed permitted in public places – putting owners and pedestrians at risk.
Cyclists fit devices that override a speed sensor on the bikes that cuts the motor at the legal limit of 15.5mph.
Others are being sold bikes with motors that exceed the 250-watt power limit permitted on roads.

Something I have no clue about at all.

What are the speed limits for cyclists? Because 15.5 mph is easy enough to beat. I assume this limit is just for these electric bikes.

And has a cyclist ever been given a speeding ticket? I can imagine serious riders out barreling through a 20 mph limit easily enough….

Finally, why in buggery 15.5 mph for these things? What bureaucrat thought that up? Ah, it’s 25 kph, isn’t it?

34 thoughts on “So, speed limits then”

  1. I believe the offence is “wanton and furious riding” rather than speeding per se. Or at least it was a while back.

  2. A friend of mine built his own, which could do a steady 60. He let a bunch of folk have a go one beery afternoon. Bent wheels and skin-grafts ensued.

    It looked fun though. From where I was.. steadfastly not having a go.

  3. It’s a limit for the type of powered vehicle rather than for cyclists. Faster than that and it is no longer a bike – instead will meet some kind of motorised vehicle classification, with the attendant operator liability, requirement for licensing, etc.

  4. The motor vehicle speed limits don’t apply to cyclists, although byelaws can impose limits, for example on shared cycle paths you might find a 5mph speed limit for cyclists to avoid pedestrians getting twatted (which is where Jeremy Vine got done for doing 16mph – see https://www.unlockthelaw.co.uk/News/jeremy-vine-caught-speeding-on-bike.html ). The source of the 15.5 mph limit for electrically assisted pedal cycles is EU Regulation 168/2013 ( http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2013:060:0052:0128:EN:PDF ), which is referenced in our own legislation ( https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/482015/electrically-assisted-pedal-cycles.pdf ).

    You can be issued a fine for cycling “furiously,” dangerously or recklessly.

    Also, battery-powered bicycles being modified to travel at almost 30mph or with motors over the 250-watt power limit are still permitted on roads – they just need to pay vehicle excise duty and pass CBT. It’s nothing to do with whether owners or pedestrians are put at risk. They’re still perfectly legal as long as you pay the tax on it. No different to a moped then, is there?

  5. On the precision of the limit, there was a similar issue with motorcyclists tests. Part of the requirement was to drive at 50 km/h for some distance. That of course is 31 mph and thus illegal on most British roads.

    So instead of either getting the European legislation amended (before introduction), or just setting the UK rule at 30 mph (it’s highly unlikely Brussels would have cared about the tiny discrepancy), enormous expense was committed to test centres around the country where motorcyclists could legally drive at exactly 50 km/h as part of their test, tests which used to be performed quite adequately on public roads.

  6. I went past a copper with a speed gun (on the flat downwind) at 34mph in a 30mph limit a year or so ago.

    Good sport though – he laughed and gave me a thumbs up.

  7. Competitors in the Tour de France are allegedly rigging their bikes with hidden motors (in the hub). Electric bicycle technology is yet another area where the law is slow to catch up with technology.

    Rob: you don’t have to pay for insurance on an e-bike. That’s a considerable saving.

  8. Andrew M: You do if it has electrical assistance past 15.5 mph or a motor capable of providing more than 250W – that was the point I was getting at.

    Tour de France competitors have their bikes scanned using thermal imaging cameras now so they can’t cheat any more. There’s a suggestion that’s what Lance Armstrong was doing alongside the doping. He’s probably actually a crap cyclist.

  9. @Rob

    I’ve got a Kalkhoff Agattu which is ‘pedal-assisted’, i.e. it won’t go without the rider pedalling too. It enables me to go further than I can on either of my conventional bikes and is good for carrying loads. It cost £2000, though, and has done less than 2000 miles, putting the depreciation at more than £1 per mile so far, which is nuts. Cost to recharge (full battery will yield about 45 miles of assistance on maximum power) is about 10p. Servicing is expensive and complicated, and I would not buy another.

    My Norco single-speed, however, runs on porridge (or whatever else I eat), weighs a third as much, is more fun to ride, and provides better exercise. It also goes faster than the Kalkhoff: when you reach 15.5 mph on that thing, the assistance stops. It’s so heavy, however, that on a long downhill stretch it can easily exceed 30 mph!

  10. @Rob

    There’s an old lady I pass on my commute who has an ebike. She says it enabled her to keep cycling when she might have had to give up. She can pedal unassisted on the flat and then the assist kicks in on the hills. It means she can go out without worrying about getting tired or finding a hill she can’t get up.

  11. If I ever get done for “wanton and furious riding” I am going to be very chuffed since I will have been going some.

    Going past 20mph under your own steam is pretty easy but I’ve not yet manged 30mph on the flat. Downhill, yes… ditto 40mph. 🙂

  12. On the Tour of Britain stage 1 the winner averaged just over 25mph over the 100 mile distance.
    Burst speeds downhill will be > 50mph

    I used to cruise about on the flat at about 25mph over distances not more than 5 miles and was warned by the plod a couple of times for doing > 40mph on a long straight gentle downhill section near where I lived that had a 30 limit.

    The speed limit for e-bikes is 15.5 mph but as the (anecdotal) rule for speed cameras for cars is +10% +2mph then theoretically you shouldn’t generally get nicked unless you are doing 19mph or more on E-power alone.

    There is nothing to stop you pedaling furiously (but not wantonly) to go faster but you notice the wind resistance once you get over 20mph, each extra mph takes a massive extra effort due to the inverse square law.

    The other problem is weight, a good general racer will weigh in around 20lb (9kg), an e-bike will be at least treble that and you will be having to pedal that lot uphill when your batteries go flat.

  13. As abacab writes, AIUI you can only be done for “furious riding” on a pedal cycle – you can’t be done for speeding as such since there is no requirement for any speed indicating device to be fitted. It does seem a rare bit of joined up thinking for the law to not apply speed limits to vehicles not required to know what speed they are doing !
    I vaguely recall it also applies to some other classes of vehicle (such as steam traction engine) which also aren’t required to have a speedo – not that I’d like to be doing 30MPH on one of those even if it were capable 😯
    As to the subject of the article, as pointed out, it’s not that the cycle is limited to 25kph, just that it’s required to not provide power assistance above that speed. Thus doing 30mph is legal – but you will (or should) be providing all the power yourself.

  14. > Finally, why in buggery 15.5 mph for these things? What bureaucrat thought that up? Ah, it’s 25 kph, isn’t it?

    That’s part and parcel of having a single market. If you want to order an e-bike online from Germany, either the manufacturer needs to produce a UK-specific variant, or you just set a common standard across the continent.

    You could fudge it like we did with the electricity supply: UK uses 240V, the rest of the continent uses 220V, so the EU rules say 230V +/- 10%.

  15. Rob, time marches and old age will catch up with you one day as well.When that day comes you will be so pleased that e-bikes exist.

    If you read reviews from e-bike users, guys that lost limbs, knee and hip replacements, and comments about the e-bikes afford them the joy of cycling, feeling the wind in the face and on the cheeks with hair blowing in the wind.you might change your mind and appreciate how blessed you are to still be young and fit.

    I have an e-bike that I use around the village. It is one of the best investments I made. To experience the joy of cycling even at an advanced age is fantastic. Or do want old people to clog up the road with the bloody wheelchairs and buggies?

  16. TJGM

    feeling the wind in the face and on the cheeks with hair blowing in the wind

    Or just jump in the car, get up to a decent speed and open all the windows?

  17. At university a friend got a ticket for speeding downhill and he laughed as he didn’t have a driving licence When he applied for his provisional later that year there were his three points. The bastards never forgive nor forget!

  18. “There’s an old lady I pass on my commute who has an ebike. She says it enabled her to keep cycling when she might have had to give up. She can pedal unassisted on the flat and then the assist kicks in on the hills. It means she can go out without worrying about getting tired or finding a hill she can’t get up”

    Ok, it was half tongue in cheek.

    As for professionals, I remember one was done last year for a hidden motor in the frame, don’t think it was in the Tour but an earlier race (not sure). It added about 10-20 watts, I think. Not a lot, but enough. They now scan for this with some sort of device.

  19. @ Rob

    Electric bike – what’s the fucking point of that?

    Precisely. There isn’t a bike which can’t be improved with the addition of an internal combustion engine. Preferably a V-twin with about 650ccs.

    The other advantage with motorcycles is that shaving your gonads and wearing skin-tight lycra isn’t compulsory. Fancy that!

  20. E-bikes have been really popular here since the government banned motorcycles and scooters in the city. They are a fucking menace. You don’t hear them coming and people ride them with complete disregard to anyone else. They’ve made three wheeler ones with trailers on the back, I was hit by one once when crossing the road and the dumb nong driving it had come around a corner so fast he was on the wrong side. Lucky for me I saw him a split second before he hit me so I braced and ended up headbutting him right in the nose as he collided with me. Left him screaming in the road as I jumped in a taxi and fucked off before I, as a foreigner, would have had to pay for his injuries.

  21. Thanks Rob Moss. That link was very interesting, although I knew about the lubricating properties of hair.

    It’s why Vaz has a hairy arse, innit.

  22. I got stopped by a copper with a speed gun once when riding a bike (downhill) – at 34 mph.

    I suppose it was technically a verbal warning for going too fast, but it was mostly admiration for being able to ride that quick!

    I did once come off at that speed, and the shattered helmet saved me from anything worse than a bit of roadrash.

    Competitive cyclists (on closed roads) get to terrifying speeds. There are speeds exceeding 90 mph on the Alps in the Tour de France. Generally not the leading riders, though (heavier riders descend faster, but they lose more time going up than they gain on the way down).

  23. Rob

    “Electric bike – what’s the fucking point of that?”

    Lib Dump/Green status symbol. Also, for some oldies, allegedly.

  24. ” each extra mph takes a massive extra effort due to the inverse square law.”
    Actually, the power required to overcome air resistance is proportional to the cube of the speed.
    /pendantry

  25. @Bloke in Germany, September 5, 2016 at 8:54 am

    “On the precision of the limit, there was a similar issue with motorcyclists tests…
    …enormous expense was committed to test centres around the country where motorcyclists could legally drive at exactly 50 km/h as part of their test, tests which used to be performed quite adequately on public roads.”

    I remember that, sheer lunacy. imho CBT is another nanny state lunacy. If CBT really is necessary, why does it not apply to drivers of >1 Ton metal boxes which have the ability to inflict more damage, death and injury that a 16 year old on a moped.

    @Clarissa, September 5, 2016 at 10:11 am
    “If I ever get done for “wanton and furious riding” I am going to be very chuffed since I will have been going some.

    Going past 20mph under your own steam is pretty easy but I’ve not yet manged 30mph on the flat. Downhill, yes… ditto 40mph.”

    +1 iirc 47mph downhill is highest I’ve achieved – needed a higher gear as unable to pedal faster.

    As for DM and cyclists will DIE – comes down to personal choice. De-restrict if you want as you know the risks – if you don’t, Darwin award is deserved.

  26. Hmm, I know I’ve done just on 100 Kmph on a bike, good long (smooth, open, and mostly car-free) hill and all that. I raced once in a duathlon which had a notoriously long steep downhill, and there was a special prize for the best top speed recorded by a cycle computer. I was too scared to go flat out; it was won at a touch over 110 kmph.

    However the suggestion that Lance Armstrong cheated with electric power would be extremely unlikely, back when he was racing there weren’t batteries available that would give enough extra advantage to overcome their weight.

    Once the next generation of batteries is available I’ll probably want an electric assisted cycle myself, I’m not able to race at the same speeds any more, and a bit of help will probably become necessary !

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